After two miserable marathon days trying complete the second round, Sunday at St. Andrews delivered and made up for it. The Old Course was gettable with the wind down and a clustered leaderboard pouring in birdies for constant movement. We head to the final round, the first Monday finish since 1988 and just the second in the championship's history, with three tied atop the lead. None of the three -- Jason Day, Louis Oosthuizen, and amateur Paul Dunne -- were the favorites at the start of the day, but they will go to bed with the 54-hole lead.
Day and Oosthuizen are two world-class players and it's not surprising to see them on top of a major championship leaderboard. Day has come close at so many majors. At just 27 years old, he's got two top-three finishes at the Masters, four top 10s including two runners-up at the U.S. Open, and two top 10s at the PGA Championship. It was just a month ago he played in the final Sunday pairing at the U.S. Open. The only surprising part is that Day has never done well at the British Open. It's the one championship where he's never contended or even competed, his best result coming with a T30 in 2012.
But Day has figured out this St. Andrews links layout, where his length off the tee gives him a huge advantage like all the other bombers. Day quietly arrived at the top of the 54-hole leaderboard while Jordan Spieth and Dustin Johnson got most of the publicity through the first three interminable days. He's posted 66-71-67 to get to 12-under. This will be another golden chance to get his first major and heading to the final round, he's got the distance to be the favorite among the three on the lead.
Oosthuizen, of course, is on friendly ground. He blew a world class field out at St. Andrews to win the 2010 Open Championship, running away by seven shots. His 272 score was the second-lowest in St. Andrews history at the time, and he'll get another crack at it again on Monday. Oosthuizen is reputed by most close golf watchers to have the sweetest swing in the game. He's just been crushed by injuries in the intervening years from that last Open title. His health has held together this year and now he's on the verge of a second straight title at The Open.
Dunne is the one name that's a total shock on the 54-hole lead. He started the week as a 1500/1 longshot and is now the first amateur since Bobby Jones in 1927 to hold the lead at this point in an Open Championship. Even on the lead, Dunne is still a longshot heading to Monday but the UAB grad is an incredible story with one more round to go.
The top two talents, who sucked up so much of the coverage the first three days, went in opposite directions on Sunday. Jordan Spieth's Grand Slam hopes looked on the ropes after an ugly bogey at the 9th hole, but he responded with three straight birdies to start his inward nine. That streak put him on a share of the lead for most of his back nine. He'll start a shot back on Monday. It was an awesome turnaround and the Grand Slam chase is fully in tact. His shot at history will be the biggest story over the final 18.
Dustin Johnson was the other American talent that dominated the coverage through the first three days. The course set up perfect for Johnson and his ability as the longest driver on the planet. It was all coming together and it really seemed like this would be the one that he finally chased down. But on an extremely easy day for scoring, he tumbled down the leaderboard with a 3-over round of 75. His was one of just 11 rounds over-par and only one player shot worse. Even while he struggled to make birdies, which were out there on almost every hole, at least he wasn't giving them away. That ended with a bogey-bogey-bogey finish that probably extinguishes his shot. He's now tied for 18th and five shots back, saying he needs a round of 8 or 9-under on Monday just to get back in it.
Here's your complete leaderboard after three rounds:
|Place||Player||Score||1st Round||2nd Round||3rd Round|
|T45||Rafael Cabrera Bello||-4||71||73||68|