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Three way tie at Open Championship but Tiger lurking

Woods seen here at the 18th tee today might yet produce somehting very special (Photo: Getty Images / Andrew Redington )
Americans dominate the top of the leaderboard through 54 holes of the Open Championship, eight of the leading twelve players including the three leaders all from the other side of the Atlantic.

Several of Europe’s best are also in the mix however as the event heads into what promises to be a challenging final day in more ways than one.

Nineteen players are within five shots of the lead and given the expected strong winds on day four then all will feel their chances of taking the title are still, at least, alive.

Jordan Spieth, Kevin Kisner and Xander Schauffele are tied in the lead at the top of that list, two ahead of Kevin Chappell but just another shot back is in-form Francesco Molinari and one further back is a list of some of the current game’s great players.

Amongst that group at 5 under and four from the lead is Tiger Woods who kept his hopes of a 15th major title alive with a round of 66 to move within three of the lead when he walked from the 18th green.

Rory McIlroy disappointingly dropped two shots late in his round, is tied with Woods and could yet be a factor, last year’s runner-up Matt Kuchar has gone steadily about his business, Tommy Fleetwood fought back late to remain a genuine chance with a low one tomorrow and Alex Noren could well fulfill many predictions of a first major for him.

The final round has therefore all the ingredients to make this one of the great final days of recent times, the predicted weather adding the element of unknown in what promises to be a day of elation for one and disappointment for many.

Spieth arrived at Carnoustie with a less than impressive lead-in record but his game and constitution are perfectly suited to situations such as these and today, after starting three behind the lead, he threw out early signals when he drove the green at the first and then holed out for eagle from 12 feet or so to move within one of the lead of Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner.

Spieth would go on to produce an almost faultless no bogey round of 65 to lead in the clubhouse when he finished his round.

“I watched the scores this morning,” said Spieth soon after his round had finished. “Seemed like it was very gettable. Seemed like they had shorter putts for birdie starting out. Sometimes it's good to see. Sometimes it's not so good to see. A bonus to get on the green and obviously for the putt to kind of curl in. It was a dream start for the day."

Spieth had not always intended to attack the first hole with a driver but clearly his aggressive play set the tone for the day.

“We were on the range kind of talking it over, and I said, "Do we like driver again?" And Michael said, "No, you lay it up, and it's still a wedge to the front pin.  Guys were getting it in there close all morning."

But walking to the tee, I was walking with Cameron, and I thought, how about I just send it on No. 1?  I felt good about the range session.  And he's like, "I put my chips behind anything that you decide always," something like that.

“And that kind of gave me that little extra boost that might have gotten it onto the front of the green. So it wasn't until walking off the practise green.”

Spieth puts his turnaround in form down to not so much on his experience in this event but rather adjustments he has made during the course of the week.

“I wouldn't say I drew on anything (in terms of Open experience) except for the adjustments I made throughout the week in my game to feel more comfortable over the ball, feel like I can work the shots I need to.

“After the first day, making a little putting adjustment and making that a little better. And then kind of a swing adjustment after yesterday.”

Kisner led after day one, shared the lead at the halfway mark and has continued to hold his ground, he too producing a bogey free round to move into a share of the lead with Spieth and Schauffele. It was impressive stuff for a man playing in just his third Open Championship and with a best of 54th in those.

He is aware of the predictions of a much more demanding day tomorrow weather wise but is ready for it.

“We've been discussing it all week in the house because we -- you know, when you watch any TV, that's all they talk about is how Sunday's coming. I've seen 15, 18 miles an hour. It was probably blowing 12 to 15 out there today.

“So at least at the end. I haven't played it in that much wind. So I think it's going to be a true test, and we'll get to see really who's hitting it the best and playing the best tomorrow.

“I have a great understanding about my tendencies and what I need to do to hit the shots I need to under certain situations, and today I was doing it. So that's a big sign for me for tomorrow. I was hitting it really solid, which I think is going to be a huge help tomorrow with that wind blowing.”

Schauffele is playing just his second Open Championship after finishing an impressive 20th on debut last year and was asked tonight just how he might tackle things tomorrow.

“I'll let you know when I'm on the 1st tee,” he said.  “I don't really know which way the wind's going to be blowing or how strong.  So I think all the players will just have to adjust on the fly.”

His record in tough conditions is good not because of his brilliance but because of his ability to grind it out when things get tough.

“I mean, always growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions. I'd say more so. I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

While much of the attention is on the leaders the man who created most interest on day three was Tiger Woods whose round of 66 has him just four from the lead and very much in the minds not only of the golfing world but perhaps, importantly, in the minds of those ahead of him on the leaderboard.

Tiger summed up his chances after his round and well before those ahead of him on the leaderboard had finished. “Well, we'll find out what the lead is by day's end. At least I know that I will be there with a chance. They won't be too far out of reach.

“If they get to double digits, I'm still only five back.  That's certainly doable with hopefully the weather that comes in tomorrow.  If it doesn't come in and we get conditions like this, then we know we're going to have to shoot between 6, 7, 8-under par tomorrow to have a chance.

His brilliant answer to a question about where this would rank if he were to win told the story of Tiger staying in the moment

"We're not there yet.  I know what you're trying to say in asking, but let me try and get there first.  Then ask me again."

The Australians are headed by Adam Scott and Rod Morri’s summary of their respective efforts is available by clicking the link.

Open Championship Sunday is one of the world’s great golfing days and Carnoustie one of the world’s great golfing tests. They along, with the expected winds will turn this golf course from a demanding test into something much more and will ensure this could well become one of the great days in major championship golf.

If Tiger Woods was to find a way to win then it might well be seen as the greatest.

As Tiger said however “ask me then.”

    

     

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