British Open Scott's for the taking
By IAN HUTCHINSON, Special to QMI Agency
|American Zach Johnson, lining up his putt on the 16th green during yesterday's third round, overcame a disastrous second round - he shot a 74 - to vault back into contention with a 66 and grab a share of fifth entering Sunday. (REUTERS)
As the third round of the British Open wound down on Saturday, the only thing left to decide was who would play with Adam Scott in the final round.
Scott is the one remaining golf-bot who has the option of maintaining the mechanical game plan that has rewarded him with a seemingly insurmountable four-shot lead over Graeme McDowell and Brandt Snedeker.
While the blow-dried TV types will go for the ratings and say this thing isn’t over yet, a combination of two things will need to happen if that is true and they will have to start taking place early.
They will need Scott to collapse as Snedeker, the second round leader who had a one-shot edge on Scott, did on Saturday, bringing back memories of his 77 in the final round of the 2008 Masters that took him out of contention at Augusta.
It wasn’t as bad yesterday as his own mechanical play over the first two rounds seemed to be continuing until his bogey-free streak ended at 40 holes, his fifth of the day on Saturday.
Snedeker then seemed to be short-circuiting when he followed that up by hitting his first bunker of the tournament to take his second bogey on a day that saw him register six against just three birdies to finish with a 73.
Meanwhile, Scott helped his own cause with three birdies against just one bogey to card a 68, his third consecutive round in the 60s after his 64-67 start as he takes the lead into the final round of a major for the first time.
Whether that inexperience will lead to nerves is a possibility, but something the rest of the pack will need to happen, yet they can’t just count on that. They’ll also need to put the pedal to the metal themselves, even if their performance thus far has been outstanding.
McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champ who was just a missed putt away from a playoff in the same event this year at a brutal Olympic Club, has posted scores of 67-69-67.
Tiger Woods looked like he was about to collapse in pursuit of his 15th major when he posted bogeys on two of his first three holes, but he righted the ship with birdies on three of his last four holes on the back nine and finished with an even par 70 after a pair of 67s to place him fourth.
The situation dictates it’s not good enough. Pars are no longer your friend gentlemen and the same holds true for the rest of the pack.
Unless somebody starts piling up the birdies, Scott has the luxury of playing the fairways and greens style that’s gotten him to this point, but you’ll need to press him and it won’t be in the surprisingly benign conditions you’ve enjoyed thus far.
The wind is expected to blow, with gusts between 25 and 30 miles an hour, and it won’t be the prevailing wind. With the holes going in various directions, it could be difficult to read, so the juicy rough and pot bunkers might very well become even bigger factors.
Scott’s swing has often been compared to Tiger’s. He has Woods’ one-time caddie in Stevie Williams. Now, he has a commanding 54-hole lead at the granddaddy of all major championships, so we’ll see if he reacts as Tiger did in his prime.
While it may not be easy on him, and it shouldn’t be, it will be even tougher on those trying to stop him from quickly becoming a speck on the horizon.
Should Scott hang on to win, he’ll be the first Aussie to take the British Open since Greg Norman in 1993 at Royal St. George’s ... Geoff Ogilvy is the last Aussie to win a major, that coming at the 2006 U.S. Open at Winged Foot, one best remembered for a Phil Mickelson meltdown on the 18th hole ... Scott’s use of a long putter has ignited again the debate about anchoring a putter against the body, an argument that flared up when Keegan Bradley won last year’s PGA Championship ... Snedeker’s streak of 40 consecutive bogey-free holes in the longest in any major over the past 20 years ... While Scott has never held the lead going into the final round of a major, he has led at the same point in nine PGA Tour events and has won six of those. He has eight tour wins overall, the latest being last year’s WGC Bridgestone Invitational ... After his tumble from the top of the leaderboard, Snedeker can take comfort in Zach Johnson’s third-round performance after he posted a bloated 74 in the second round. Johnson came back with a 66 on Saturday to move into a tie for fifth with Ernie Els. A 66 on Sunday could be enough for Snedeker to catch Scott ... If Woods is to win, he’ll need to play the back nine better on Sunday. He was one-over yesterday and for the tournament ... India’s Anirban Lahiri used a 9-iron for a hole in one on the 165-yard ninth hole on Saturday. The day before he’d bogeyed the hole, using a wedge. Lahiri is even par for the tournament.