Tommy Fleetwood responds to his latest setback by firing his second at 17 straight at the stick. He’ll have a look at birdie. On the 18th tee, Rory McIlroy drives into sand on the right, while Xander Schauffele bangs one up the middle. Up on the green, a birdie for Erik van Rooyen, and a level-par 71: he’s -4. Par for his playing partner Matt Kuchar: he signs for a 70 and ends the day at -5.
Neither Xander Schauffele nor Rory McIlroy can find the 17th green in regulation. It costs the former, whose chip comes up eight feet short; it doesn’t cost the latter, who bumps his six feet past the hole but makes the putt coming back. McIlroy stays at -6; Schauffele falls out of the lead and drops to -8. Back on 16, Tommy Fleetwood misses another short putt and slips to -4. Momentum is not his friend today.
It’s been an up-and-down day for Tony Finau. He started off at -4, and that’s where he’s finished, having shot 71. But he’s made three bogeys, three birdies, a double bogey and an eagle along the way. Plus, having smacked his second at the last to four feet, he missed the short one. The mild-mannered Utah saint won’t win this Open, but another top-ten finish in the majors, after high finishes at the Masters and US Open, isn’t out of the question.
Here’s a lovely stat: Zander Lombard’s eagle at 18 was the first-ever at that hole in Open Championship competition. He’s thrown his ball into the stand; that’ll make a lovely souvenir for someone, a little piece of Carnoustie history.
Here’s someone who will always go down swinging: Tommy Fleetwood. His Open bid looked to be heading south after that double on 12 and bogey at 13. But here’s his response: birdies at 14 and 15! He’s back in the mix at -5!
-9: Spieth (F), Schauffele (16), Kisner (14)-7: Chappell (F)-6: Molinari (F), McIlroy (16), Z Johnson (14)-5: Woods (F), Simpson (F), Noren (F), Kuchar (17), Fleetwood (15)
Golf: a study in frustration and exhilaration. Zander Lombard has just bogeyed 17. So from the centre of the 18th fairway, the 23-year-old South African sends his second scampering towards the flag … and into the cup for a closing eagle! It’s been a difficult day for the young man, who will chalk it up to experience, but he allows himself a huge smile as he raises both arms in triumph and soaks up the applause from the elated gallery. He’s signing for a level-par 71; he’s -4.
Schauffele’s tee shot at the long par-three 16th nearly finds the greenside bunker front right … but teeters on the top. He clips a delicate chip to four feet, setting up a brilliant par save. McIlroy’s tee shot dribbles down the swale to the right. He putts up, but weakly, and the six-footer he leaves himself dies off to the right. He drops back to -6. Momentum’s a slippery bugger. Birdies meanwhile for Kisner and Johnson on 14: the former joins the leaders at -9, while the latter starts the climb back up the leaderboard at -6.
Two putts from distance for Jordan Spieth, and the defending champion posts a 65! He sits atop the pile at -9, alongside Xander Schauffele. His playing partner Kevin Chappell isn’t to be totally outdone: he birdies, the reward for a splendid approach to five feet. He cards 67. He’s -7, having come home in 32 strokes.
Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele make their birdie putts on 15. That’s given the leaderboard a good old shoogle! As for the Kuuuuuuuuuch thing … Matt Kuchar’s just bumped in a chip from the bottom of a swale to the side of 16. It’s his third birdie since the turn! He’s on this leader board too!
-9: Spieth (17), Schauffele (15)-8: Kisner (13)-7: McIlroy (15)-6: Molinari (F), Chappell (17)-5: Woods (F), Simpson (F), Noren (F), Kuchar (16), Z Johnson (13)
McIlroy sends his second at 15 pin high to ten feet. It’s a marvellous shot … though Schauffele betters it by landing one four feet behind the flag. Up on 18, Spieth sends his drive into thick rough down the left. He’s about to take his second when bedlam erupts elsewhere, and there’s a chorus of Kuuuuuuuch. We’ll see what that’s all about soon enough. Spieth steps back, goes again, and lashes his second onto the green. What a shot that was! We’ve seen players hoick balls out of bounds and into the Barry Burn from there. But the reigning champion lands his ball bang slap in the middle of the green!
Schauffele’s eagle putt stops one turn short of the cup. Rory’s misses on the left. Both tap in for slightly disappointing birdies, but you take what you can around Carnoustie, even on a benign day like this. Schauffele is a shot off the lead at -8; McIlroy rises to -6. Par meanwhile for Spieth on 17. And a word on his partner Kevin Chappell, who has responded well after dropping those shots at 6 and 9: birdies at 12 and 14 ensures the 32-year-old Californian – who has just the one PGA Tour victory to his name, last year’s Valero Texas Open – is still very much in the mix.
-9: Spieth (17)-8: Schauffele (14), Kisner (12)-6: Molinari (F), Chappell (17), McIlroy (14)
A birdie at the last for Danny Willett. The 2016 Masters champion isn’t going to win this Open Championship, but after a couple of lean years he’s on his way back, which is wonderful to see. His round of 70 today goes with two other solid rounds of 69 and 71, and he’s -3 for the tournament.
Zach Johnson doesn’t take advantage of his break. Two putts would have limited the damage to bogey … but he misses a short one, and the double means that’s three shots gone in two holes. He’s -5. Kevin Kisner pars calmly, and he’s now three ahead of his playing partner at -8, but one behind the leader Spieth.
A huge break for Zach Johnson. His ball has landed the other side of a gorse bush, and there’s a route to the green! He can lash his ball into the heart of the putting surface … and that’s exactly what he does. Some good fortune for Xander Schauffele too: a drive at 14 that looked like dropping into a bunker stays out, and he can go for the green. He nearly hits the flag with his second! His partner McIlroy sends a drive over 400 yards down the track, and lifts a gentle wedge to eight feet. Meanwhile another bogey for Tommy Fleetwood: a second short putt missed in two holes, this time at 13, and he’s falling out of contention quicksmart. He’s -3.
Jordan Spieth makes his birdie putt on 16! He takes sole ownership of the lead, no more than that stunning tee shot deserved! Meanwhile back on the par-five 14th, Matt Kuchar and Erik van Rooyen pepper the flag with their second shots, but the hole repels both eagle putts. Not sure how Kuchar’s in particular stayed out; half of it disappeared at one point! They move to -4 and -5 respectively.
-9: Spieth (16)-8: Kisner (11)-7: Schauffele (13), Z Johnson (11)
From the rough down the left of 12, Zach Johnson snap-hooks his ball into terrible trouble. It smacks into the big video screen – I hope the R&A have a good accidental breakage clause in their contents policy – and away towards some gorse. God speed, little ball. Meanwhile up on 18, Alex Noren wedges from the dropzone to five feet, and escapes with an outrageous bogey, having found the Barry Burn twice, but bounced out of it once. He’s earned that luck, though, Gary Player style, because despite the final-hole bogey he’s round in 67. He’s -5 and right in the mix!
Jordan Spieth is a sensational player. Like that’s breaking news! Still, his tee shot on the lengthy par-three 16th is nothing short of outrageous, a long iron whipped straight at the flag, holding the small portion of the green near the flag and stopping softly. He’ll have a ten-footer for a birdie, on a hole most players struggle to make par. To illustrate its difficulty: Tom Watson had five goes when he won here in 1975, failing every time. Even if he misses his birdie putt, he’ll be gaining on plenty in the field with par!
Jordan Spieth misreads his short birdie effort at 15. The ball was always going off to the right. He remains at -8, tied with Kevin Kisner. A double bogey for Tommy Fleetwood on 12, and the European number one really is out of sorts today. He’s -4.
Spieth lags his long eagle effort at 14 holeside, then knocks in what’s left for birdie. He joins Kevin Kisner at -8 … but Zach Johnson’s no longer there, because he lets a short one slip by at 11. Then at 15 he fires his second straight at the flag. He’ll have a 12-footer for the outright lead! Meanwhile the komik kutz kontinue for Alex Noren on 18: having taken his drop, he carves his third towards the Barry Burn further up the hole. The ball twangs off the far face of the creek, rebounds backwards, onto the grandstand on the right, and back into filth. Strong shades of Jean van de Velde.
Alex Noren had stormed up the leader board … but he’s sent his tee shot at 18 to the right and into the Barry Burn. More European pain in 12, where Rory yips a tiddler for par and drops back to -5. And trouble for Erik van Rooyen at the par-three 13th. He sends his tee shot into sand – the pin’s tucked behind a bunker, and it was a very aggressive line. Nearly, but not quite. He’s right up against the face without much green to play with. He quits on the splash, and he’s left in the trap. He nearly holes the second effort, but that’s another shot gone. Twenty holes without a bogey, then two come along at once. It’s not often you can use the old London Buses quip about bogeys at Carnoustie, but there you go, fill your boots.
A huge break for Jordan Spieth on the par-five 14th. His drive looks like it’s going to be swallowed by a big bunker down the left. If it goes in, he’ll have to chip out sideways. But it somehow stays up on the left, allowing him to smash his second into the heart of the green. He’ll have a look at eagle from 30 feet or so. Meanwhile birdie for Tommy Fleetwood on 11, and after a frustrating run of pars, it’s finally happening again for Southport’s finest! He’s -6.
Thorbjorn Olesen has been thoroughly refreshed by that eagle on 14. He fires an iron from 200 yards straight at the flag. It looks for all the world like it’s going to trundle slowly into the hole, but somehow lips out. He’ll knock what’s left in for birdie that takes him to -4. Suddenly, he’s back in contention! Up on 17, Alex Noren rolls in a birdie putt from off the green, and he’s -6. But it’s Erik van Rooyen’s first bogey in 20 holes, the punishment for failing to hit a ten-foot putt on 12 by one inch. Harsh. He’s -5.
Rickie Fowler’s day started to turn sour with that out-of-bounds triple-bogey on 6. Another dropped shot at 8. Another bogey at 12. But he’s rekindled his now-much-slimmer chances with eagle at 14. He’s -2. Eagle for his playing partner Thorbjorn Olesen, as well. He’d been heading in the wrong direction also, so that keeps his hopes alive: -3. Meanwhile Xander Schauffele passes up a golden chance for birdie at 11, but his partner Rory McIlroy makes no mistake from 12 feet. A third birdie of the day, and after a terribly sluggish start, the 2014 champion is beginning to regain some momentum.
-8: Kisner (9), Z Johnson (9)-7: Spieth (13), Schauffele (11)-6: Molinari (F), van Rooyen (11), McIlroy (11)-5: Woods (F), Simpson (F), Noren (16), Chappell (13), Lombard (12), Perez (10), Fleetwood (10)-4: Rose (F), Cook (F), Scott (17), Hoffman (16)
Spectators hold up television cables so that US golfer Rickie Fowler can play onto the 6th green Photograph: Paul Ellis/AFP/Getty Images
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Kevin Kisner sends a delightful second into 9. He’s left with an eight footer for another birdie, but his putt lips out on the right. He turns in 34 and smacks the head of his putter in frustration. Don’t be too hard on yourself: you’re still co-leader of this famous old tournament. Par for Zach Johnson too. They’re -8. Adam Scott rattles a long birdie putt across 16 and into the cup. He’s -4.
Rory McIlroy and Xander Schauffele both set up good birdie chances on 10 with big drives and gentle wedges. Both give them up with distinctly average putts. They remain at -5 and -7 respectively. On 18, Webb Simpson nearly holes out from a greenside bunker, but the up and down saves his par, and he signs for a 67. He ends the day at -5, and his impressive 2018 continues apace.
Xander Schauffele of the United States tees off at the 4th. Photograph: Warren Little/R&A/R&A via Getty Images
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Two poor shots by Jordan Spieth up 12, and he’s in a deep bunker well short of the green. He’s faced with a long sand shot … and caresses a stunning effort to five feet. He tidies up to remain at -7. That’s a superb save. His partner Kevin Chappell, having done much to negate that triple-birdie start with bogeys at 6 and 9, races in a long one to move back to -5. And Pat Perez nearly salvages a par on 9 with a 25-foot left-to-right slider, but it horseshoes out: he drops back to -5.
Matt Kuchar, vanquished last year at Birkdale by the absurd brilliance of Jordan Spieth, will be dreaming of another tilt at the title. It wasn’t looking great for a while: bogeys at 4, 5 and 8 sent him clattering down the leaderboard, but a birdie at 10 brings him back to -3. And yes, of course he’s been smiling all the way through, whatever. Another birdie for his partner Erik van Rooyen, too, his second of the day. He’s -6.
A smidgen of disappointment at the end of Francesco Molinari’s round. He whip-cracks his second at 18 straight at the flag, the ball stopping six feet short. But he tugs the birdie putt. Still, he’s tapping in for a sensational 65: out in 33, back in 32. He’s -6, and the runner-up in last year’s PGA will be hoping to go one better in this particular major tomorrow. He’s in a seriously rich vein of form, and he’s got a chance!
Zach Johnson rattles in another biggie with the flat stick. Just 30 feet or so this time, but the birdie at 7 brings him level with Kevin Kisner, who pars, at the top: -8. Back-to-back birdies for Alex Noren at 13 and 14. He’s -5. And a birdie for Jordan Spieth at 11, the reward for knocking his second to six feet: he’s a shot off Johnson and Kisner at -7.
Tiger talks to Sky! “It seemed like everybody was shooting six, seven under par. I figured I needed to do the same. There were quite a few guys five or six under par after 12 holes. The pins were definitely gettable, they were quite friendly to us, so I had to attack. The up and down at 18 kept me in the fight. Some guys will get to -10 today, and five shots are achievable. I didn’t want to drop that last shot. Today’s was one of the better rounds I’ve played, I had control of my ball, which is not easy to do on a links course.”
You may have noticed Pat Perez creeping further up the standings. That’s because he’s just drained a 50-footer across 7 for his third birdie in four holes! Brilliant from the late-bloomer from Phoenix, Arizona. The 42-year-old won the CIMB Classic this year, only his third Tour title in a long career, but his second in the last two years. Don’t rule him out, because he’s playing as though he doesn’t give a solitary flying one. Just for the love of the game. He’s freewheeling around Carnousite and it’s great to watch!
MONSTER PUTT ALERT! Scrub that leader board! Stop the clocks! Nothing’s happened for Zach Johnson today yet. Apart from that bogey on 4. And he’s only on the front of the huge green at the par-five 6th. The best part of 100 feet from the hole, uphill, over a couple of mounds, with a right-to-left swing thrown in. And in it rattles! The crowd go wild! The 2015 champ doesn’t know what to do, so just pulls his hat over his eyes and smiles in disbelief. Did that really happen?! He’s the new co-leader … for about a minute, because his partner Kisner takes a more realistic two putts from distance for his birdie, and he’s now top on his own.
-8: Kisner (6)-7: Schauffele (7), Z Johnson (6)-6: Molinari (17), Spieth (10), Perez (7)-5: Woods (F), Simpson (16), Lombard (9), van Rooyen (8), McIlroy (8), Fleetwood (7)
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