5. Bones Can See The Future
At the beginning of the NBC Coverage, Dan Hicks asked Jim “Bones” MacKay what he expected to see out on the course today. After a few quick explanations of the conditions and the setup, Bones quickly said, “Don’t tell Johnny, but I could see a 62 today.” Sure enough, Branden Grace went on a few hours later to post the lowest round ever in a Major Championship (unless you’re Dan Jenkins and can’t let go of the past).
Branden Grace just tied Hogan’s 62.
— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) July 22, 2017
Hogan’s 62 in 1942 wartime U.S. Open was 10 under. Lipped out putt for 61.
— Dan Jenkins (@danjenkinsgd) July 22, 2017
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 22, 2017
Grace played spectacular golf, which is not uncharacteristic of the young South African. He had a chance to win the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay until he was derailed on the par-3 16th that year. Not everyone gets another chance to win a major, but Grace put himself right in the mix with a 62 that’s sure to break Johnny Miller’s heart. He also happened to pick Spieth as the winner this year, or at least the guy he was keeping his eye on. Not exactly a dark-horse pick, but that doesn’t take away from the apparent success of his pick thus far.
4. Lack Of Poor Weather Is An Equalizer
The Open Championship boasted an average age of 39 for the winner over the last couple of decades, but with a lack of wind and rain on Saturday experience is less of a factor. Soft and slow greens allowed for players to take aim at pins and sink downhill putts you’re not supposed to make. The best round in major history was shot today by a 29-year-old South African without a major victory and the leaderboard has as many 20-somethings as it does wily veterans. Richie Ramsay and 20-year-old Austin Connelly posted a pair of 66s today, which puts Connelly in the second to last group. Even though Spieth and Kuchar are three shots clear of the field, anyone could shoot another 62 tomorrow and put the pressure on if the weather holds.
3. Stenson’s Open Championship Hangover Is Long Gone
We’ll always remember the duel from last year at Royal Troon when Phil Mickelson lost by three shots after shooting a final-round 65. Stenson’s form since last year’s win hasn’t been great, but after posting his own 65 today he’s in the mix. If the “Ice Man” hits his signature frozen rope 3-woods and iron shots, then it could be a final round to remember. Stenson’s rental house was broken into earlier in the week, and while this could cause undue stress on a typical player, it could also provide just enough distraction from the golf at hand to prevent nerves from setting in. Golf is a funny game, and you never know what outside factors could hurt or help a player’s game. He proved to us last year that he can sink putts when he needs to, and without the added pressure of being the final group, Stenson could go out early and post a number that rattles the field.
2. Kuchar Has Staying Power
Matt Kuchar has long been a beloved pro by golf fans, but to this point, he’s been unable to take his game to the next level and break through in a major. The adage used to be in golf, “put yourself in contention enough times, you’ll eventually come out on top.” The young guns on tour have thrown that path to victory out the window, but that hasn’t stopped Kuchar from hanging around leaderboards for the past decade. Nobody would have faulted him if he’d shot even par and dropped a few spots today, but he didn’t. Despite making a horrific double bogey on No. 16, he rallied with an impressive bunker shot to set up a tap-in birdie on No. 17. He followed that with an incredible shot from the left rough on No. 18 to set up one of only nine birdies on the final hole in Round 3. Kuchar missed the putt, but who can blame him after Spieth sank an uppercut of a putt just before. With eight top-10s and 19 top-25s in majors, Kuchar is due to hold a trophy, but it’s going to take something magical to oust the young gentleman.
1. Spieth Could Be Wire-To-Wire King
Taking a three-shot lead into Sunday, having held at least a share of the lead for three rounds, Jordan Spieth could be only the second player in history to win two majors in wire-to-wire fashion. The other player? Rory McIlroy. Spieth made it around Royal Birkdale with a bogey-free 65 today capped off by an incredibly clutch birdie on No. 18. A win tomorrow makes him the second-youngest player to ever win three legs of the career grand slam, behind only Jack Nicklaus. It also means he’ll have a winning percentage of 15.7 percent in major championships at the age of 23, finishing inside the top-25 in 53 percent of major appearances. Spieth simply needs to repeat what he did in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February to hoist the Claret Jug. If today was any indication, and with no Rae’s creek at Royal Birkdale, he’ll have no problem doing so.
— The Open (@TheOpen) July 22, 2017