While all the attention was on Tiger Woods putting together his best Major round in seven years, the American who has come closest to replicating peak Tiger’s dominance was quietly putting himself in pole position to retain the Claret Jug.
Jordan Spieth has not yet generated the rabid following of Woods, so while Carnoustie was understandably rocking at the 42-year-old rolling back the years, the defending champion was flying under the radar despite accruing shots at a remarkable rate.
Tiger’s superbly scrambled par at the 18th earned whoops and hollers that shook the Angus links’ foundations; Spieth’s equally impressive iron into the green from the left rough that helped him save par earned polite applause.
But the reality is that if Woods’ round of 66 was brilliant, then Spieth’s 65 was sensational and a fourth Major title in as many years is within the 24-year-old’s grasp as he heads into Sunday at nine under – co-leader with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.
Tiger is four shots behind at five under but the fact the 14-time Major winner is in contention at all will mean the eyes of the sporting world are on The Open, something Spieth is relishing.
‘The way that Tiger is striking those 2- or 3-irons, he’s certainly going to be in it, which is really exciting for us,’ said Spieth.
‘I’ve always wanted to battle it out in a Major with Tiger. Who hasn’t? It’s kind of a dream come true just to have the opportunity.
‘It’s nice that he’s on point. It’s really good for the sport, with all the extra interest. It’s very cool looking at it from a big picture, but my head will be down.
‘There’s a lot of guys in contention but we’ll have a totally different golf course tomorrow with the wind.’
The tone was set when Spieth pulled out driver at the 1st and crunched the ball straight down the fairway and on to the green, leaving himself a ten-foot putt for eagle which circled the lip of the hole and dropped.
Birdies at the 4th, 11th, 14th and 16th followed before he salvaged par at the 18th – the Texan posting a bogey-free round, where Woods dropped a stroke at the 16th.
Twelve months ago at Royal Birkdale, Spieth successfully duelled Matt Kuchar in a head-to-head battle to claim his maiden Claret Jug but this time he will have to hold off a slew of players within striking distance.
Credit: The Open
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