Can anyone catch Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale?

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Can anyone catch Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale?

Professional

Can anyone catch Jordan Spieth at Royal Birkdale?

SOUTHPORT, England – If the 146th Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is Jordan Spieth’s to lose, then whose is it to win?

Who’ll take a run at Spieth in the final round to wrestle the old Claret Jug from his grasp?

That was the buzz around Royal Birkdale at the end of the third round, along with the faint, dulcet tones of a very large Southport lass warming up her larynx somewhere amid the dunes.

The smart money says Spieth shoots another round in the 60s to win his third major championship, which is why British bookmakers Ladbrokes have the two-time major winner as the 1-4 favourite. In other words, it’ll cost you four English quid to win one if you think Spieth’s a certainty.

You could wager your hard-earned cash on Matt Kuchar at 4-1 to overturn a three-shot deficit and win his first major championship. Brooks Koepka is six shots behind with odds of 20-1, while Hideki Matsuyama is seven off the pace at 33-1. Branden Grace, Mr 62, is tied with Matsuyama and a 50/1 shot. How about little Austin Connelly? The dual Canadian/American citizen is tied for third with Koepka with 100-1 odds.

Kuchar is obviously the likeliest challenger. He should be closer to the lead. A double bogey at the 16th after he drove into a pot bunker and three-putted cost him dearly. Still, Kooch hasn’t thrown in the towel.

“Continue with good golf,” Kuchar said when asked about his Sunday game plan. “Again, I’ll be playing with him (Spieth) but not focused on him. My goal is to go out and play Royal Birkdale.

“I’ll know exactly where we stand but I don’t know how much that ever helps you. You just have to go out and hit the best shot for the situation. I’ve been on some good form. The formula has produced a lot of good golf, and I hope it continues to produce some good golf tomorrow.”

Koepka has the power to go low on Sunday and win, as he proved last month with his U.S. Open victory. That’s exactly what he has in mind.

“You’ve got to be aggressive anyways if you want to win,” Koepka said.

“You’ve got to be able to be conservatively aggressive, I guess you could say is the best way to put it. I can’t make mistakes with bogeys tomorrow.”
Connelly has turned out to be the surprise package of this championship. He got off to the best possible start when he holed a 9-iron from 145 yards at the second hole after a birdie at the first to play the first two holes in three under. Birdies on the last two holes helped him shoot 66.

“I never felt any nerves from the first tee on, which is surprising to me,” Connelly said. “I was very calm.

“I’ll feel confident tomorrow and hit every shot to the best of my ability. I just hope I have my A-game.”

He and the other challengers better have theirs, too, because Spieth will probably have his.

The smart money’s been wrong before in the Open Championship. Remember Jean Van de Velde in 1999? Ernie Els losing to Todd Hamilton in 2004? Adam Scott handing victory to Els in 2012? Not many saw those three dropping the old claret jug down the stretch, but they did.

Spieth is obviously no Van de Velde, but Scott’s four bogeys over the last four holes at Royal Lytham to let Els win the 2012 Championship is a salutary reminder that the Open Championship isn’t over until the winner’s name has been etched on the jug.

Even if that Southport lass’s voice is becoming a little more distinct.

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