Bri­tish Open re­port

Con­nelly mak­ing own name

Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - BRITISH OPEN -

SOUTH­PORT, Eng­land — Austin Con­nelly is mak­ing a name for him­self at the Bri­tish Open this week.

Just not to Jor­dan Spi­eth. Con­nelly birdied his last two holes for a 66 on Satur­day, leav­ing him six shots out of the lead and in the penul­ti­mate group with U.S. Open cham­pion Brooks Koepka.

The 20-year-old Texan, who plays un­der the Cana­dian flag be­cause of dual ci­ti­zen­ship, earned one of 15 spots from the 36-hole qual­i­fier on links courses in Bri­tain two weeks ago. And he’s clearly not spooked by the big stage at Royal Birk­dale.

Spi­eth has known Con­nelly for sev­eral years, and they share the same swing coach in Cameron McCormick.

“He’s got a great head. He’s got a killer in­stinct,” Spi­eth said. “He’s a guy that’s not afraid of the mo­ment, as you can tell. And it will be a mat­ter of time.”

It’s only fit­ting that Con­nelly is play­ing the fi­nal round with Koepka.

Con­nelly, who turned pro in­stead of tak­ing a schol­ar­ship to Arkansas, has been toil­ing on the Chal­lenge Tour in Europe. That’s where Koepka was four years ago un­til he worked his way up to the main tour, the PGA Tour and then be­came a U.S. Open cham­pion.

Con­nelly missed the cut last week in Italy be­fore com­ing over to Royal Birk­dale. He opened with rounds of 67-72, and then started Satur­day with a birdie on No. 1 and hol­ing out from the fair­way for ea­gle on No. 2. He played the fi­nal 10 holes with­out a bo­gey.

As for to­day?

“I think I’ll feel the same way I felt to­day — con­fi­dent,” Con­nelly said. “I’m just go­ing to stand up there and hit ev­ery shot to the best of my abil­ity. … I’ve be­lieved when I turned pro­fes­sional that I was go­ing to rise and be able to play with the best in the world. And it’s just nice to have con­firmed.”

McCormick is staying the en­tire week in Eng­land — he usu­ally leaves by the week­end — to ac­com­pany Con­nelly next week to the Euro­pean Tour event in Ger­many. Even if he doesn’t win, a top-four fin­ish would get Con­nelly into the Masters. Fin­ish­ing in the top 15 gets back into the Bri­tish Open next year.

Still smil­ing

Hen­rik Sten­son will likely leave Royal Birk­dale to­day with­out the claret jug he has en­joyed car­ing for much of the past year.

He’ll be mi­nus some valu­ables and clothes, too, af­ter a bur­glar broke into the rental house he had this week in South­port.

But he still had his sense of hu­mor Satur­day af­ter shoot­ing a 65 in the third round of the Bri­tish Open.

“I’m glad to in­form you I haven’t lost any­thing in the last two days, so things are pretty good at the mo­ment,” Sten­son said.

Sten­son, who won last year in a duel with Phil Mick­el­son, was 3 un­der for the tour­na­ment, eight shots off the lead held by Jor­dan Spi­eth. He said he’s had a great week de­fend­ing his ti­tle, de­spite the theft of his be­long­ings.

He also liked that Bri­tish golf fans re­mem­ber what he did last year.

“I truly felt the sup­port and the fans were great,” he said. “So it was a good day to play in front of them and they cer­tainly didn’t for­get last year’s cham­pi­onship.”

Poul­ter’s re­gret

Ian Poul­ter was the only player in the cur­rent top 28 who was over par Satur­day on an ideal day for low scor­ing at Royal Birk­dale.

And he wasn’t happy about it.

Poul­ter took four ques­tions from re­porters af­ter his 1-over 71. All of the re­sponses were brief, and two were in­ter­spersed with pro­fan­ity.

Then he took to Twit­ter to apol­o­gize for his play.

“Amaz­ing fans to­day. Sim­ply the best set of fans in the world,” he wrote. “I can only say Sorry. Dis­ap­pointed with my per­for­mance to­day.”

Poul­ter, who was sec­ond at Birk­dale in 2008 and started Satur­day three shots off the lead, bo­geyed three con­sec­u­tive holes from No. 11 to slip out of con­tention. He was tied for 11th, nine strokes out of the lead.

Fa­mil­iar face

Chan Kim knew he had come a long way when he played the third round of the Bri­tish Open with Ernie Els.

Kim, who grew up in Hawaii, re­calls go­ing out to the Sony Open more than a decade ago when Els won in back-to-back years. Kim qual­i­fied for his Bri­tish Open, and he played a prac­tice round with him on Mon­day.

“And then to be paired with him again, it was a re­ally good ex­pe­ri­ence,” Kim said.

How about beat­ing him? Kim ran off two late birdies for a 67, leav­ing him tied for sev­enth place, eight shots out of the lead. Els shot a 70.

Div­ots

This is the 13th time Spi­eth has had at least a share of the lead af­ter a round at a ma­jor. That in­cludes his 2015 vic­to­ries in the Masters and U.S. Open. … Hideki Mat­suyama tied for 11th in the Masters and was run­ner-up in the U.S. Open. He goes into the fi­nal round of the Bri­tish Open in a tie for fifth. … The par-4 fifth hole was short­ened to 310 yards to en­tice play­ers to go for the green. Rickie Fowler hit a driver that missed go­ing in by a few inches. Fowler made ea­gle there, had 2 birdies, 14 pars and 1 bo­gey en route to a 3-un­der 67.

AP/ALAS­TAIR GRANT

Austin Con­nelly, 20, who earned his way into the Bri­tish Open through a 36-hole qual­i­fier, is tied for third with a 5-un­der-par 205 af­ter shoot­ing a 66 in Satur­day’s third round.

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