Holding the lead going into the final day of a major can be the proverbial blessing-or-curse choice. Some players handle a Sunday-morning lead like a newborn, protecting it and nurturing it right on to victory. Others handle it like a greased watermelon, fumbling an already-heavy load and surrendering to the inexorable charge of the field.
Following a third-round 68 that left him 11 under and four strokes up on the field at the 2012 British Open, it's now Adam Scott's chance to preserve a lead. How's it going to go for him? We're about to find out.
In Scott's favor: these days, those in front at majors tend to stay in front. This marks the fourth time in the last nine majors that a player has taken at least a four-shot lead into the final round. The only one who didn't win? Rory McIlroy at Augusta in 2010.
Plus, Scott has Stevie Williams on the bag, the guy who was present (and took an inordinate amount of credit) for 13 of Tiger Woods' 14 major wins. Williams ought to steady any nerves that Scott has on the final day ... and he'll surely have plenty.
But first and foremost, let's credit Scott's own play. He was nothing short of relentless on Saturday, blowing right past Snedeker as if the shellshocked Tennesseean was standing still. He carded three birdies against a single bogey on 13, and appeared in control of his find-the-fairway tee shots, his laser-guided approaches and his big-stick belly putter all afternoon.
"If I play a solid round [on Sunday], it makes it very difficult for the other guys," Scott said, and there's no indication that he'll choke up a lead just because of his relative inexperience in majors. After all, he was leading the Masters in 2010 with two holes to play, and only an astounding four-birdie closing run by Charl Schwartzel snatched the green jacket from his grasp.
Still, there is reason to be wary. "Four shots is not a big lead," he added. "That can vanish quickly." One need look no farther than Scott's playing partner Brandt Snedeker, who saw his own Friday night lead vanish as he plummeted down the leaderboard. Snedeker dropped as many as five strokes to par, but recovered to finish +3 and was far enough ahead of the field that he'll still be in the penultimate group on Sunday, paired with Woods. But Snedeker is enough of a cautionary tale that Scott is likely to laser in on every single shot. If he doesn't, Williams is likely to kick him. Hard.
Also, the tournament isn't over until it's over. The name "Jean van de Velde" will always crop up in these situations, as will that of Greg Norman, the last Australian before Scott to lead a major going into the final round. That was Augusta 1996, and that was one of the great collapses in sports history. For Scott's sake, let's hope neither of those fates are in his immediate future ... which begins at 2:30 local time, 9:30 Eastern on Sunday.
Ahead and protecting a lead, or charging from behind to claim it? Hunter or hunted? Where would you rather be right now?
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