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Jordan Spieth continued to display his captivating artistry Saturday on the rutted links canvas of Royal St. George’s and remained in prime position to claim his second Claret Jug.
The three-time major winner and Champion Golfer of the Year from 2017 at Royal Birkdale, when he delivered an extraordinary back nine on Sunday to win, patched together a 1-under-par 69 to move to 9 under and rest three shots behind pace-setter and 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and two shots behind 2020 PGA champion Collin Morikawa.
The only other time Spieth began a major with three rounds in the 60s – he has shot 65-67-69 – was in 2017 at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth was at his brilliant best early in the round as he made five birdies in his first 11 holes to offset two bogeys. He grabbed a share of the lead early on the back nine before he was forced to scratch and claw to keep his round together.
But he couldn’t keep from needing three putts from short of the green on the par-5 14th to walk away with just a par and then three-putted both the 17th and 18th greens for bogeys, which sent him directly to the practice green after he put his signature to the scorecard.
The frustrated Spieth thus bypassed the assembled media.
But the world No. 23 is still in the hunt through 54 holes and will get the bad taste out of his mouth as quickly as possible and call upon his links golf powers in the final round in an attempt to end his major drought dating to Royal Birkdale.
Spieth has been much-watch TV this week, his assortment of escapes, supreme ball-striking and converted long birdie putts never dull. This week, his brushes are his old reliable Scotty Cameron putter – though it let him down late on Saturday – and a set of Titleist’s latest version of its new T100 irons he put in the bag this week. But his mind has been equally instrumental at Royal St. George’s and his love at first sight for links golf fuels him.
When Spieth travels over the pond, his paint-by-numbers approach is not in his luggage as he turns his golf senses away from swing thoughts when eyeing the lay of the land in the Old World and is always mindful of the elements.
Without worrying about his mechanics, Spieth channels his imagination, creativity and feel and plays golf instead of playing with swing thoughts dashing through his head. He relishes shaping and flighting shots and turning to a variety of clubs when confronted with chip and pitch shots.
“There’s a lot of external factors over here, and I think that external is where I need to be living,” said Spieth, who has won the oldest championship in golf in 2017, fell one shot short of a playoff in 2015 at St. Andrews and tied for ninth in 2019 at Carnoustie.
He can tap into that history on Sunday. And he is no longer lost in the wilderness, ending his winless drought of nearly four years with a victory earlier this year in the Valero Texas Open. Spieth grinded through his struggles, even coming to enjoy the grind, and thinks he’s better for it.
Piece it all together and Spieth could wrap his hands around the Claret Jug once again.