Spieth has leg up on winning 3rd leg
SOUTHPORT, ENGLAND» Jordan Spieth is one round away from the third leg of the career Grand Slam, and one year removed from a reminder that it won’t be easy.
On the horizon is a chance to join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three different majors at age 23. In the past was his last time leading a major, when he let a five-shot lead get away from him on the back nine a year ago at Augusta National.
All that mattered to him was the present.
Spieth did his part on an extraordinary day of scoring in the British Open, capping off his 5under 65 by seizing on a good break and making a 20-foot birdie putt on the 18th hole for a threeshot lead over Matt Kuchar, who did his best to keep pace with a 66.
Spieth had one of seven rounds at 65 or lower at Royal Birkdale, which was never more vulnerable with a light breeze and a clear sky until the final hour. He was warming up on the range when Branden Grace shot a 62, the lowest 18-hole score over 157 years of major championships. Spieth then delivered his second bogey-free round of the week in which he never came seriously close to a bogey.
“Pretty stress-free,” Spieth said. “On a Saturday with a lead in a major, that’s as good as I can ask for.”
He was at 11-under 199, breaking by six shots the 54-hole record at Royal Birkdale that Tom Watson set in 1983. Not only did that last birdie give him a three-shot lead, no one else was closer than six shots.
This will be Spieth’s third time taking the lead into the final round of a major. He led by four at the Masters two years ago and won by that margin. More recent was a one-shot lead at Augusta to start the final round, a five-shot lead at the turn and a quadruplebogey on the 12th hole that cost him another green jacket.
Spieth was embracing both memories.
“I think I’m in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I’ve gone through — the good, the bad and everything in the middle,” he said. “I understand that leads can be squandered quickly. And I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one.”
He described the Masters last year as a humbling experience that he thought would serve him well down the road.
“If I don’t win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that,” he said. “And if I win tomorrow, it has nothing to do with that, either.”
Kuchar never quite caught up to Spieth. He twice made birdies that momentarily tied him for the lead, only for Spieth to pour in birdie putts on top of him to stay in front. Kuchar’s one slip was a drive into the pot bunker on No. 16 when the rain finally arrived, and a three-putt that led to a double bogey.
He will be playing in the final group of the fourth round at a major for the first time, and the 39year-old Kuchar sounded up for the occasion.
“It’s not that I ever felt like I was playing Jordan today,” Kuchar said.