ST. ANDREWS, Scotland — Jordan Spieth stood on the 18th tee, the sweep of the Home of Golf before him. He could see the Swilcan Bridge, the R&A Clubhouse, and the spires of St. Andrews before him. He held a share of the lead in the British Open, and he also held a three-wood.
He took one more look at that vast fairway, put the three-wood back in his bag ... and pulled out the driver. Gotta let the big dog eat.
The gallery behind him and lining the Links Road went wild. Further up the hole, a group of fans broke into "The Eyes of Texas," the song of the University of Texas, Spieth's alma mater. Spieth would go on to par the hole after an approach that didn't ... quite ... stick on the green, but no matter. He entered the clubhouse with an aggregate 11-under score, 6-under on the day, and that was good enough to leave him just one stroke off the lead by the end of the night.
The third round demonstrated why Spieth has rocketed from promising rookie to two-time major winner in a matter of months. He got out of the gate fast, contained his mistakes, and played exactly the kind of relentless, grab-every-advantage golf that you need to win majors.
The turning point in the round came at the ninth hole, which Spieth uncharacteristically bogeyed. On a day when everyone this side of Tiger Woods was throwing up red numbers, a par was unsatisfactory and a bogey was unacceptable. Spieth punched his golf bag – he laughed later, saying that he didn't want to hit his caddy, Michael Greller, so he punched the bag instead – but then collected himself. He rolled in three straight birdies and four overall on the inward nine, including two key par saves, and set himself up for yet another run deep into a major's final day.
Dustin Johnson, Spieth's playing partner during the first two rounds and foil at the U.S. Open, fumbled away the lead late. But on a day when virtually everyone scored low, Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen and amateur Paul Dunne grabbed the lead at 12-under. Any one of them could win, but Spieth knows he could run any one of them down.
"I'm going to play to win," he said. "I don't want to place third [Monday]. I want to win. And so I'm going to play my game, obviously with patience, to stay in the mix, if it's not all there at the beginning, and if it is, I'm going to continue to play that way to try and get out in front."
Eighteen more holes remain between Spieth and a remarkable third straight major. It's a good bet he'll play almost all of them very well indeed.
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