LYTHAM ST. ANNES, England — Adam Scott set the tone on Thursday with a record-tying 64 and hasn’t let his foot off the pedal since.
Scott made a couple of critical par saves early in his round on Saturday and then blitzed the middle portion of Royal Lytham & St. Annes to fire a 2-under 68 to take a four-shot lead after 54 holes at the 141st Open Championship.
The 32-year-old Aussie will take the lead into the final round of a major championship for the first time.
“The pins were very difficult today. It was hard to get really makeable putts on every hole, and you had to be a little bit careful,” said Scott, who played in the final group for the first time at a major. “And I think I was very careful on the back nine with my putts. But that’s what I felt I needed to do. I didn’t need to take any risks out there. And par is a good score.”
Par on Sunday would force playing competitor Graeme McDowell (7 under) to shoot his lowest round of the week to challenge him, while Brandt Snedeker (7 under) would have to shake off his rough round (a 3-over 73) on Saturday to catch Scott.
Tiger Woods is one more shot back and Scott shooting par would force Woods to take more chances than he has the first three rounds.
At one point on Saturday, it looked as though Woods and Scott would be paired in the final group on Sunday – which would have put Woods with his former caddie, Steve Williams. Scott said he didn’t care either way.
“It wouldn’t bother me. I’ve played with him a lot. And there was a circus out there today anyway,” said Scott, who will tee off with McDowell at 9:30 a.m. EDT on Sunday. “Steve actually warned me about how many people are inside the ropes late at an Open, and just having to wait a little longer for the people to walk across the green in front following the group in front today.
“So I don’t think it would have bothered me at all. I would have been happy. I’m just happy to be in this position.”
Through three rounds, Scott is leading the field in birdies with 15, but is only T-14 in fairways hit (31, 73.81 percent) and greens in regulation (38, 70.37 percent). But his 22 one-putts have made up for any inaccuracy he’s had getting to the green.
The wind promises to be more of a factor on Sunday, with accuracy off the tee and into the green becoming even more important. Scott says he is prepared.
“it’s going to be different conditions than we’ve faced for the last three days, that’s for sure. It’s been quite incredible, really, how still it’s been here for three days. But I think I’ll just have to draw back on when I was here last Friday, Saturday and Sunday playing in some windy conditions,” said Scott.
“Even Monday, Tuesday, as well, to kind of remember the clubs and the shots and how much the wind affects the ball. I might have to make some changes in the style of shots we’re hitting. And certainly if it’s good weather, it will firm the course up. The course was firmer again today, so the ball will get running.”
For Scott, he hopes to continue to run away with his first major title.
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2. BOGEY SPREE: Brandt Snedeker had the world abuzz on Friday evening. People were wondering who the blonde-headed American was after he tied an Open Championship record by going 10 under over the first 36 holes at Royal Lytham.
And early on Saturday, he looked to be handling the pressure well, picking up par on his first four holes. But then the wheels came off, with Snedeker posting bogey on five of his next seven holes. After two late birdies he would salvage a 3-over 73 and a date with Tiger Woods in the penultimate group on Sunday at 9:20 a.m. EDT.
“I didn’t hit the ball very solid and didn’t putt well,” said Snedeker, who had opened 66-64. “It was one of those days where you just shake your head. I hate that.”
Snedeker can take solace in that his last two victories on the PGA Tour were of the comeback variety.
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3. DREAM COME TRUE: Graeme McDowell was just in this position, right? Oh yes he was, playing in the final group with Jim Furyk at the U.S. Open last month in San Francisco. He’d miss a putt on the 72nd hole to force a playoff with eventual winner Webb Simpson.
The 2010 U.S. Open champion says he learned from the experience.
“I took a huge amount of positives away from Olympic. It’s the first time I’ve really kind of put myself in the absolute heat of the battle in a little while. I was reminded that I’m able to control my emotions correctly. I’m able to stay in the moment. And I’m able to kind of get the attitude right for that type of a challenge. Hopefully the positives I’ll be able to draw on tomorrow.”
He’s also fulfilling a dream by playing in the final group with Scott on Sunday.
“Since I was a young boy, I’ve dreamed of coming down that last fairway on a Sunday afternoon, the last group in The Open Championship.”
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4. THE CHASE IS ON: This fact is widely know, but worth repeating: Tiger Woods has never won a major when he didn’t have or share the 54-hole lead. In a career that has seen almost everything, will Sunday provide the world with a first?
Woods started shaky on Saturday, picking up bogeys on Nos. 1 and 3 before birdies at Nos. 6, 7 and 9 erased the early mistakes to remarkably make the turn at 1 under. But a bogey at No. 15 brought him back to even and he wasn’t able to bury a couple of birdie opportunities late and fired an even-par 70.
Woods won’t be the only one chasing Adam Scott on Sunday, with the likes of Zach Johnson and Ernie Els also in striking distance, but they are going to need some help from the weather and hope that Scott struggles a bit.
“Well, I turned it around,” Woods said. “I got off to an awful start and battled back and got myself right back in the mix again going into tomorrow, and I’m right there.”
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5. PAIRINGS PARTY: If you want to get up a little early on Sunday (or just stay up for that matter), one of the Open’s first pairings on Sunday will be a sight to behold when John Daly and Tom Watson tee off at 2:30 a.m. EDT.
Good friends Jason Dufner and Vijay Singh – who play many practice rounds together – will get a chance to tee it up together at 8:05 a.m. EDT, while American stars Dustin Johnson and Matt Kuchar are set to tee it up at 8:30 a.m.