The 2017 Open Championship got insane on Saturday at Royal Birkdale as Branden Grace shot a 62, Dustin Johnson almost matched him, and Jordan Spieth took a 3-stroke lead into Sunday's final round over Matt Kuchar.
After opening with a superb 65 at Royal Birkdale on Thursday, Spieth picked up a birdie on the first but bogeyed the third and dropped another shot at 9 after overshooting the green.
Behind Kuchar, there is a gap to Canada's 20-year-old Open debutant Austin Connelly and current US Open champion Brooks Koepka, who are both on five under par.
The stunning rescue act prompted two-time U.S. Open champion Curtis Strange to tweet: "Jordan Spieth chips in more than anybody I have ever seen other than Watson and Seve". He would join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three of golf's four majors before the age of 24.
Spieth, victor of the Masters and US Open in 2015, had held a two-stroke lead over Kuchar at the halfway stage and kept his rival at bay all afternoon on Saturday before extending the advantage when he birdied the 18th.
Spieth spent Friday morning watching television coverage of the tournament, the wind blowing shots all over the course. "And I was really excited about that, finishing the day". I will put Phil on every player-to-watch list for a major until he calls it quits, primarily because he is one of my all-time favorites but also because he is must-see-TV regardless of odds. He is at 11 under heading into the final round, three shots ahead of Matt Kuchar, and six shots ahead of the two golfers tied for third.
So ruthlessly efficient and locked in was Spieth that Kuchar, his playing partner, had to remind him to relish the moment as they walked up the No. 18 fairway toward the grandstands encircling the green. On the same front nine he'd butchered a day earlier, he started his second round with three birdies in the first six holes.
Can Spieth keep it going for another day?
Phil Mickelson lipped out for a 62 in the first round of last year's Open at Royal Troon, and eventual victor Henrik Stenson shot a memorable 63 in the final round en route to victory. The 39-year-old has yet to record a single round with a better score than Spieth, however, and really hurt himself with a double-bogey on the 16th on Saturday.
"I didn't think I drove the ball incredibly well yesterday, either", he said.
"You just don't know where your breaks fall and where they don't".
This was the first time that Kuchar had gone out in the last group in a major. Kuchar shot 66 to get to 8 under, missing a chance to cut into the lead when his 7-footer for birdie on the last slid by. He has done quite well this week, but has committed a few too many bogeys to keep pace with Spieth.
Remarkably, Grace's 62 looked like being matched soon after as Johnson played his first 10 holes in five under par, but the big-hitting American could only find one more birdie and settled for a 64. We are only one round away from crowning a new Open Champion. "I'll be playing with him but not focused on him". And if I don't win [Sunday], it has nothing to do with that. And I just want to get out there again tomorrow (Sunday) and try to do something similar, just play some good Golf.
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.