Louis Oosthuizen’s lead for Sunday at the Open Championship is just a single shot this time, as a shocking finish from Jordan Spieth and two late missed chances by Collin Morikawa handed him the advantage at Sandwich.
Oosthuizen famously held a three-shot lead for the final round of his Open victory at St Andrews in 2010, extending it to seven by the end. In 2021 Morikawa is closest one back with Spieth, the 2017 champion, trailing.
Spieth’s two surprising bogeys to finish his round – he was four-under for the day and flying after 10 holes – left him where he started, three shots back. Morikawa made up a stroke on the 2010 champion but had chances on the 17th and 18th.
Louis’ cruise control falters
Another Louis masterclass ✍️
— The European Tour (@EuropeanTour) July 17, 2021
Oosthuizen relinquished the cruise control he’s been in at this Open with some sloppy play on the back nine. But a key birdie at the short 16th meant he ended the day with the initiative again.
“I was 13-under at one stage,” he said. “Probably a good back nine could have gone to 14 or 15.
“But there was a few very tough pins out there that you can’t really go for at all. You always had to make those 20-footers for birdie.
I made a few bad swings there in the middle of the round and put me in some awkward positions and ended up making two bogeys.
“I did have a lot of opportunities to go two or three better, but that’s what this golf course can do to you.”
It was strangely subdued for most of the day on the Kent coast, despite favourable conditions with not too much of a wind. The pin positions were trickier but having given up 11-under for the halfway lead, the R&A were bound to react in some way.
There were scores out there – Robert MacIntyre’s best of 65 and three 66s, with Corey Conners’ being furthest up the leaderboard. MacIntyre’s score jumped him nearly 50 places and Conners’ into a tie for fourth.
Spieth bridges the three-shot gap quickly
Oosthuizen, with only one bogey in the championship so far, seemed to be coasting along perfectly nicely.
Spieth got into his running quickly, attempted to bridge the three-shot gap. The American had four birdies in his first seven holes, off-set by a rare three-putt bogey at the fifth.
Oosthuizen had two birdies of his own on the front nine to maintain his comfortable lead. But he gave them both back at 11th and 13th, allowing Spieth to draw level.
Morikawa, struggling after two early bogeys, found his feet with birdies at seven and eight, and then another at 13. That was a two shot swing on his South African playing partner at that hole. When Oosthuizen toiled to a par on the 14th and Morikawa’s eagle putt stayed up but gave him an easy birdie, it was a three-way tie at 11-under.
The tie was broken within 15 minutes when Spieth bogeyed 17. Oosthuizen, playing with Morikawa in the group behind, rolled in a six-foot birdie putt at 16. The younger American parred and it was 1-2-3 as it had been at the start of the day.
Spieth’s dreadful 18th hole three-putt
Jordan still working. pic.twitter.com/ieXezS7zzL
— Bob Harig (@BobHarig) July 17, 2021
Spieth was solid tee to green on 18, and saw his 15-foot birdie putt touch the hole but stay up. Then, completely out of character, he missed the return. The two finishing bogeys meant it was just a 69 and he remained three shots back.
The 2017 champion declined to speak to the media after his round, heading straight for the putting green.
Oosthuizen parred the last two holes in regulation fashion. Morikawa, meanwhile, had two birdie chances from 15 feet at both holes, but couldn’t convert either.
The surprise was to see so many fancied names wilt in the bright late afternoon sunshine. Major specialist Brooks Koepka had three bogeys in his first five holes. He could only get one stroke back, dropping him out of the top 20.
World No 1 Dustin Johnson was even worse, not recording a birdie until the long 14th and shedding five bogeys before he got to that point. Although he rallied with another birdie at 16, he was left way off the pace.
South African Dylan Fritelli briefly flirted with the leaders but dropped back on the back nine. It looks like a three-horse race leading into the real and decisive moving day, Sunday’s final round.