JOR­DAN SPI­ETH IS IN A 3-WAY TIE FOR THE LEAD AT THE BRI­TISH OPEN

The Charlotte Observer (Sunday) - - Sports - BY DOUG FER­GU­SON As­so­ci­ated Press

Jor­dan Spi­eth has a share of the lead in the Bri­tish Open and a big edge in ex­pe­ri­ence. Still only 24, he al­ready has won three ma­jors and his name is the last one etched on the base of the sil­ver claret jug.

One name in the mix makes it all feel so new.

“I’ve al­ways wanted to bat­tle it out in a ma­jor with Tiger. Who hasn’t?” Spi­eth said af­ter seiz­ing upon a calm Carnoustie for a 6-un­der 65 to tie for the lead with Kevin Kis­ner and Xan­der Schauf­fele. “It’s kind of a dream come true just to have the op­por­tu­nity.”

Woods feels the same way.

Never in the mix at the Mas­ters, gone by the week­end at the U.S. Open, the 14-time ma­jor cham­pion surged into con­tention Satur­day with a 66, his low­est round on week­end at a ma­jor in eight years.

He didn’t have the best score. He was four shots be­hind.

But he’s Tiger Woods, and it felt like that again to thou­sands of fans who crammed along the fair­ways and beind the greens as Woods ran off three straight birdies around the turn and then two-putted for birdie on the par-5 14th to work his way into a tie for the lead, even if that lasted for only 20 min­utes.

“I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year,” Woods said. “Given what hap­pened the last few years, I didn’t know if that would ever hap­pen again. But here I am with a chance com­ing Sun­day in a ma­jor cham­pi­onship. It’s go­ing to be fun.”

It was ev­ery bit of that on Satur­day, a rare day when Carnoustie had lit­tle de­fense.

Justin Rose, who made the cut on the num­ber with a birdie on his fi­nal hole, matched the Carnoustie record for the Open with a 64. Spi­eth set the tone in the af­ter­noon when he de­cided on the way to the first tee to hit driver on the 396-yard hole. He sent it bounc­ing and rolling along the firm turf, down a hill and onto the green to about 10 feet away for an ea­gle.

Mo­ments later, Woods be­gan his charge to get into con­tention at a ma­jor for the first time in five years.

It never stopped. Seven play­ers had a share of the lead at one point. Kis­ner, who started the third round tied for the lead, was never far away but had to work hard to stay there. He made a tough par save on the 17th, and then got up-and-down from be­hind the 18th green for a 68.

Schauf­fele, the PGA Tour rookie of the year last sea­son, holed a 30foot putt from be­hind the 18th green for a 67.

They were at 9-un­der 204.

“We’ve got pretty much a new tournament to­mor­row,” Spi­eth said.

A dozen play­ers were sep­a­rated by four shots, which is noth­ing con­sid­er­ing that the last two Bri­tish Open cham­pi­ons at Carnoustie ral­lied from 10 shots (Paul Lawrie) and six shots (Padraig Har­ring­ton) on the fi­nal day.

The wind is ex­pected to be the strong­est it has been all week. And then there’s the pres­ence of Woods, play­ing in the third-to-last group.

Woods started qui­etly enough with a few birdies through eight holes. He started his move with a 40-foot birdie putt on No. 9, fol­lowed with short birdie putts on the next two holes and with a twop­utt birdie on the par-5 14th, he put his name atop the leader­board.

It was there for only 20 min­utes. But it was there.

A bo­gey on the 16th and a par save from short of the Barry Burn on the 18th gave him a 66. He fig­ured it would at least keep him in range. He wound up as close to the lead as he has been in a ma­jor since he was two be­hind at Muir­field in the 2013 Bri­tish Open.

“I’m right there,” he said. “I’ve got a chance at this, which is great.” And he has com­pany. Kevin Chap­pell, who spent most of his round watch­ing Spi­eth put on a show, birdied the 18th for a 67 and was two shots be­hind.

Francesco Moli­nari had a 66 and will play in the third-to-last group with Woods. They were last to­gether three weeks ago when Woods pre­sented him the tro­phy at the Quicken Loans Na­tional af­ter Moli­nari shot 62 for an eight-shot vic­tory.

Twelve play­ers were sep­a­rated by four shots, a group that in­cludes Rory McIl­roy, Tommy Fleet­wood and Zach Johnson. They all dropped shots on a day when there was no time to be go­ing back­ward. McIl­roy was within two shots of the lead un­til bo­geys on two of his last three holes for a 70 left him four be­hind.

Johnson, stay­ing in the same house as Kis­ner, Spi­eth and four other Amer­i­cans, hooked his ap­proach on No. 12 and three-putted for a dou­ble bo­gey. He shot 72 and was in the group four be­hind. Join­ing them was Tommy Fleet­wood, who dropped three shots in two holes on the back nine on his way to a 71.

Of the five play­ers sep­a­rated by three shots, only Spi­eth has ex­pe­ri­ence winning a ma­jor. He will try to be­come the first player since Padraig Har­ring­ton in 2008 to win golf’s old­est cham­pi­onship in con­sec­u­tive years.

His move started with a sud­den de­ci­sion.

The open­ing hole is 396 yards on the card, with the fair­way get­ting nar­row be­tween two bunkers. Spi­eth, who spent Satur­day morn­ing watch­ing the Open on tele­vi­sion, asked cad­die Michael Greller on the prac­tice range, “Do we like driver?”

Greller told him no. Play short and it’s a wedge to a front pin, easy birdie chance.

Spi­eth walked to the tee with coach Cameron McCormick and asked him, “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 you de­cide, al­ways.’ And that kind of gave me that lit­tle extra boost,” Spi­eth said.

He stuffed his ap­proach to 2 feet on No. 4 and made two short birdie putts un­til he came to the par-3 16th, when his 5iron set­tled 12 feet away for his long­est putt of the day.

This is the 16th time he has been in at least a share of the lead in the ma­jors in the five years he has been play­ing them on a reg­u­lar ba­sis. And it’s the first time he has had to look over his shoul­der at Woods.

MARTIN CLEAVER AP

Jor­dan Spi­eth is seek­ing his fourth vic­tory in a ma­jor and to be the first back-to-back Bri­tish Open cham­pion in 10 years. He shares the lead head­ing into the fi­nal round.

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