Louis Oosthuizen emerged from a three-way tie late Saturday with a picture-perfect birdie on the 16th hole to move to 12-under par 198, securing the lead for the third straight round at the Open Championship.
After consecutive runner-up finishes at the PGA Championship and U.S. Open, the South African will return to Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, Kent, England, on Sunday looking to lock up his second career major title — 11 years after his 2010 victory at the Open.
Collin Morikawa (68) is a stroke behind at 11-under, with Jordan Spieth (69) in third at 9-under. Spieth tarnished another strong round by closing with two bogeys, including a muffed three-foot par putt on No. 18.
Scottie Scheffler and Canada’s Corey Conners are tied for fourth at 8-under. U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm of Spain, Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and South Africa’s Dylan Frittelli are T6 at 7-under.
Oosthuizen (69) landed his tee shot at the par-3 16th less than 10 feet in front of the cup and converted the birdie to regain the solo lead. Entering that hole, he was tied with Morikawa and Spieth.
“There’s lots of golf left, but it was so great with all the fans there,” Oosthuizen said of the birdie. “It felt like it was a Sunday afternoon, really, when I made the putt and I was taking the lead.”
Should Morikawa win Sunday, he’d be the first player in modern golf history to win two majors as a debutant. In his first crack at the 2020 PGA Championship last August — the first of a pandemic-delayed, seven-major stretch in the last 12 months — Morikawa came from behind by two to claim victory.
“I think the biggest thing I can draw from the PGA is just knowing I can get it done,” Morikawa said. “But I think confidence just comes from hitting good shots, quality shots, seeing putts go in. There is a lot to draw from, especially this week. I don’t have much experience on links golf, and pretty much all the highlights in my head are from this week.”
Royal St. George’s had no defense on Thursday and Friday without strong coastal winds, producing an uncharacteristically low scoring average. In response, the R&A set up the course at its maximum length Saturday and chose more difficult pin locations.
Oosthuizen made it through the front nine bogey-free for the third straight day, touching 13 under with birdies on Nos. 7 and 9. Morikawa, meanwhile, recovered from two early bogeys with consecutive birdies on the seventh and eighth holes.
But after Oosthuizen recorded just his second bogey of the championship at No. 11, there was a two-shot swing at No. 13. Oosthuizen missed left of the green and failed to save par after Morikawa drained a long birdie, bringing the 24-year-old within a shot of the South African.
At No. 14, Oosthuizen again missed his approach left and went on to par, and Morikawa tied him and Spieth at 11 under with a two-putt birdie.
Spieth chased Oosthuizen early with four birdies and a bogey over his first eight holes. He walked in another birdie on the 10th to cut his deficit to one shot — then found a bunker off the tee at the par-3 11th and gave a shot back.
The Texan only continued backwards from there. He slipped out of the three-way tie with a bogey on No. 17, where his bump play on the second shot didn’t make it up over the false front and rolled back to him. Then came his surprise three-putt on the final hole.
After the gaffe, Spieth jogged out of the concourse area, declined a post-round interview and reportedly headed straight for the putting green.
Conners shot up the leaderboard with a 4-under 66. He opened with nine straight pars before doing the entirety of his damage with four birdies across Nos. 10-14. Scheffler’s quiet 69 featured 15 pars and kept him where he started the third round — in a tie for fourth.
Rahm muddled through the start of his day until he birdied Nos. 12, 14 and 17 and saved par at 18 to shoot a 68 and remain in contention.
“I don’t know if on TV you could appreciate it, but those are some of hardest pin locations collectively I’ve ever seen,” Rahm said. “On a golf course that’s not the easiest, it can get tricky. You can hit the right shots and give yourself chances, but even hitting the right shots you can have some funky putts with difficult breaks and difficult speeds.”
Frittelli (70) birdied Nos. 6 and 7 to get as low as 9 under and sniff around the leaders before a difficult back nine brought him back to where he started. Hughes (68) sank a 45-foot birdie putt on his final hole to join the tie at 7 under.
Dustin Johnson’s errant approach shot on No. 4 hit the rear end of a marshal who had his back turned to the course. His ball redirected back toward the hole but rolled off the front lip of the green.
It led to the first of five bogeys over Johnson’s first 11 holes. The World No. 1 took himself out of the hunt with a 73 that dropped him to 4 under after 54 holes.
Scotland’s Robert MacIntyre produced the low round of the day, a 5-under 65. From off the 18th green, he drained an incredible lag putt over multiple breaks for his sixth and final birdie.
Rory McIlroy came out hot with five birdies and one bogey on the front nine. But the star from Northern Ireland came apart after the turn, carding three bogeys and no birdies on the back. He hurled his iron to the ground after an errant tee shot on No. 14 and finished with a 1-under 69 to follow a pair of 70s.
–Field Level Media
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