Date: July 22, 2018
Author: Mark Hayes

Tiger, Spieth set Open alight

Australia’s hopes at The Open were effectively reduced to two after a Tiger Woods-inspired third round of high-octane scoring at a near-defenceless Carnoustie.

Veteran Queenslander Adam Scott carved out a fine 68 to reach four under and a share of 13th, while Open newcomer Lucas Herbert refused to be overawed with his own fine 69 to reach two under and a tie for 28th.

But they’ll all be chasing defending champion Jordan Spieth, who had the last laugh after a series of stunning scoring runs from golf’s A-list.

Spieth, already a three-time major champion and still not 25, flexed his muscle on the opening tee shot and didn’t let up.

The American remarkably drove 340m to find the first green and rolled in his eagle putt to lay the foundation for a stunning six-under-par 65.

But it wasn’t enough to shake loose the rising Xander Schauffele (67) and stoic Kevin Kisner (68) who will start the final round on level terms with their compatriot at nine under.

Two shots further back at seven under is another American Kevin Chappell, with Francesco Molinari at six under, then a star-studded group including Woods and Rory McIlroy at five under.

Scott, for the second consecutive day, pushed into the top 10 with a mid-round surge, but again looked headed south when he took back-to-back bogeys on the 11th and 12th holes.

But the 2013 Masters champion hit back with a birdie on the 14th, then a rare two on the savage par-three 16th to right the ship.

Herbert, similarly, rose early with three birdies through the sixth hole, but fell back into the pack with bogeys on the ninth and 12th.

But the Victorian wasn’t fazed by the occasion, nor the hysteria surrounding Woods in the group ahead.

He brilliantly eagled the 14th, then hung tough with four closing pars on Carnoustie’s toughest stretch to close just seven back and just on the verge of contention.

“It was a pretty cool atmosphere out there, obviously with Tiger in the group in front the crowd was pretty big,” Herbert said.

“We always felt like there were a lot of people watching. But I played on Tuesday (in practice) with (Tiger), so I kind of experienced it and was a bit used to it.”

Herbert admitted to being “a little frustrated” he’d been unable to advance his cause even further.

“Today’s conditions were a little easier and the greens were softer (than Thursday and Friday), (so) there was definitely a chance for me to move up the leaderboard and try to give myself a good look tomorrow,” he said.

“But the form wasn’t as good as I’d have liked and I only managed two under. In some ways it was a positive day – I didn’t go backwards – but it was frustrating not to move up (more).”

The other five Aussies to make the cut probably played their way out of contention, with Marc Leishman (69) the only other under par, but only able to reach even par in total.

Jason Day and Brett Rumford each carded one-over rounds of 72 to sit at one and three over, respectively.

Cameron Davis and Cameron Smith each fired 73 to drop out of the hunt at three and four over, respectively.

But at the top of the leaderboard, it was an extraordinary day’s play.

Normally treacherous Carnoustie was powerless in still conditions to stop a barrage of birdies and an incredible 14 eagles.

Justin Rose was the first to go low, carding an exemplary and tournament-best 64 to leapfrog into contention at four under having made a closing birdie on Friday just to make the cut.

Then it was Woods’ turn to electrify the crowd.

The 14-time major champion wound back the clock with some stunning approach shots teamed with a hot putter – and his five birdies in eight holes from the fourth had the big crowd rocking en route to a sparkling 66.

Woods shared the lead momentarily when he birdied the long 14th, but a bogey on the 16th dropped him back and he was lucky to stay within four when his closing drive looked set for a swim in the Barry Burn, only to miraculously kick right and set up another rousing par save.

The red-hot Francesco Molinari then, with about a thousandth of the fanfare, went one better than Woods with his own imperious 65 to raise the bar to six under.

But the second-round leaders weren’t about to shy away from the task, either.

Spieth finally hit the front alone when he birdied the 16th, but 2017 US PGA Tour Championship winner Schauffele and smooth-putting Kisner made their combination of great birdies and par saves late to keep pace.