Oosthuizen clings on to Open lead as final day drama beckons – Golf News
Louis Oosthuizen saw his lead cut to just one shot heading into the final day at the 149th Open Championship at Royal St George’s, but the 38-year-old South African remains the bookies’ favourite to capture a second Claret Jug.
What is traditionally called ‘Moving Day’ proved anything but for the leaders, with the top three at the half-way stage remaining as they were after an attritional afternoon on the Kent links, with the R&A setting up the course to prevent the winning score being too far under par.
Oosthuizen, winner in 2010, held a two-stroke advantage after setting a record-breaking pace through 36 holes, but it briefly vanished on Saturday, when Jordan Spieth and Collin Morikawa closed in to make it a three-way tie before Oosthuizen birdied 17 and edged ahead at 12 under par.
“I was definitely not swinging freely,” Oosthuizen said after signing for a one-under-par 69, which included two bogeys and three birdies. “I was a little all over the place with my iron shots, but I felt like I kept the round together at the end there. Finishing second isn’t so great, so I will play my heart out and see if I can lift the Claret Jug again.”
Morikawa is Oosthuizen’s closest challenger at 11 under after Spieth fell away with a back-to-back bogey finish that dropped him to nine under. American Scottie Scheffler and Canada’s Corey Conners are four shots off the lead at eight under par.
Oosthuizen showed no signs of nerves on the front nine as he carded seven pars and birdied seven and nine to reach 13 under. At the same time Morikawa was initially trending in the wrong direction, scrambling to save par from a bunker on the opening hole and continuing his nervy start with a bogey after again finding the sand at the second. The 24-year-old dropped to seven under par, four strokes adrift of Oosthuizen, with a bogey at five before successive birdies at seven and eight and again on 13 and 14 saw him chisel out a gritty 68.
“I don’t have much experience on links golf and pretty much all the highlights in my head are from this week,” said Morikawa. “Thankfully there are quite a few. Hopefully we can just use that momentum from the first three days and bring it into the last round. It’s going to be a gruelling 18, but I look forward to it.”
Low scores were carded when the wind dropped on Friday and organisers responded by setting up tougher pin positions on day three at the Kent links track. Jon Rahm said they “may have been some of the hardest pin positions I have ever seen” after he shot a two-under 68 to move to seven under and within five of the lead. “You cannot tell on TV, but the flags are almost always on top of a little hill,” said the US Open champion. “It’s a way of defending the golf course.”
Spieth’s putter was proving as hot as the late afternoon sunshine when he sank two birdies in his opening four holes and recovered from a bogey at five with two more birdies to take a share of the lead for the first time. Even when he found trouble off the tee the three-time major winner was at his scrambling best, making a number of creative shots from the rough and around the edge of the green as he hit the turn in three-under 32.
The American birdied the 10th to reach 12 under. but that was cancelled out on the par-three 11th, though he regained a share of top spot as Oosthuizen stuttered on the back nine. A string of pars looked to be keeping Spieth in the hunt, but he bogeyed the 17th and then missed a two-footer for par on the last to leave himself work to do if he is to end his major drought on Sunday.
Further down the leaderboard, Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre posted the best round of the day, a five-under 65 that included a birdie-birdie finish as he reached four under for the week. He is one behind Ireland’s defending champion Shane Lowry and leading English pair Paul Casey and Andy Sullivan, who all sit at five under par. Unless either of the latter two players breaks the course record, and others fall away, the host country’s 52-year wait for an Englishman to lift the Claret Jug on home soil looks likely to continue.
For the very latest scores from St George’s, visit www.theopen.com/leaderboard