Jordan Spieth Targets Claret Jug Defence on Open Sunday
Jordan Spieth will today attempt to become the first back-to-back winner of The Open Championship in a decade as he goes into the final round at Carnoustie tied with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
And he could get the battle with Tiger Woods he has always hoped for with the 14-time major winner among the chasing pack after a day of low scoring at a defenceless Carnoustie.
The tone was set when Spieth drove the first green on the 380-yard par four and holed from 12 feet for eagle on his way to a bogey-free 65 to finish nine under par, a total matched by compatriots Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
Another American Kevin Chappell is two shots off the lead with Italy’s Francesco Molinari on six under and Woods another stroke back alongside Rory McIlroy, Tommy Fleetwood, Webb Simpson, Alex Noren, Matt Kuchar and Zach Johnson.
“I’ve always wanted to battle it out with Tiger in a major - who hasn’t?” Spieth said. “I’ve played it out at Augusta in my head.”
The last player to make a successful title defence was Ireland’s Padraig Harrington, who coincidentally won at Carnoustie in 2007 and again 12 months later at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth’s victories would be the other way around and make it four wins in his last 15 majors, during which time the 24-year-old has also finished second twice, third and fourth.
One of those runners-up finishes came after blowing a five-shot lead with nine holes to play in defence of his Masters title, while the fourth place came when he finished a shot outside a three-man play-off for the 2015 Open at St Andrews in pursuit of the third leg of an unprecedented calendar grand slam.
“I can certainly draw on the all major championship experiences, good and bad that I’ve had. I’ve had a career’s worth in a few years,” said Spieth, who admitted he found it “difficult” to hand over the Claret Jug when he arrived in Carnoustie on Monday.
“I know as well as anyone that anything can happen in the Open. I’m not getting ahead of myself, I’m just in a good position.”
Woods claimed he did not realise he had a share of the lead during his thrilling third round at the Open at Carnoustie.
The 14-time major champion briefly topped the leaderboard on six under.
It was the first time the three-time Open champion, who had begun the day on level par, had led in any major since the 2013 Masters.
A dropped shot on the 16th meant he finished on five under, but his round of 66 put him in contention for a first major victory since 2008.
The 42-year-old said: “I didn’t know I was tied for the lead. I know I was within one.
“I was just concentrating on trying to play the last four holes under par.
“It would be better (to have led) on Sunday but I’m right there. I’ve got a chance at this, which is great.”
Woods reached the turn in 33 after three birdies on the front nine and rolled in three more before his aberration on the 16th. Woods was also close to birdies on the 13th and 15th but did escape damage on the 18th by making par after hitting the wall of the Barry Burn.
He said: “I played well today, I really did. I hit a lot of good shots. I really didn’t feel like I really made a bad swing until 18.
“I really felt like I had control of the golf ball and, on top of that, I made some longer putts, which was nice. The golf course was gettable.”
Woods has not won any tournament since 2013 but, with his form returning after years beset by back problems, his confidence is growing.
“It certainly is possible,” he said. “I’ve shown that I’ve been there close enough with a chance to win this year.
“Given what happened 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.”
Woods, however, will not yet allow himself to consider how he might feel should he succeed.
Speaking to reporters after his round, he said: “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.”
England’s Justin Rose is a shot behind Woods after earlier equalling the lowest score in an Open at Carnoustie with a brilliant 64.
Rose, who finished fourth in the Open as a 17-year-old amateur 20 years ago, birdied the 18th hole on Friday evening to make the halfway cut with nothing to spare on three over par.
And the Olympic champion carried on where he left off on Saturday, taking advantage of benign conditions to fire seven more birdies to match the 64s recorded by Steve Stricker and Richard Green the last time Carnoustie staged the Open in 2007.
“It was massive to take advantage today,” Rose said after the lowest score of his career in any major. “I was very excited last night not to be down the road, ruing another Open opportunity gone. I picked up where I left off and it was a great day’s work.”
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