British Open 2017: Jordan Spieth's Saturday finish sets the stage for him to make more history on Sunday

July 22, 2017
146th Open Championship - Third Round

Christian Petersen

SOUTHPORT, England -- At the urging of playing partner Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth eschewed his normal routine of pulling out his greens book to study the putt facing him as he approached the 18th green. Under a Saturday evening glow at Royal Birkdale, Spieth held the lead at golf's oldest major, and he soaked up the moment as the packed grandstands showed their appreciation.

Moments later, he'd make the fans roar even louder.

The blip in Spieth's usual routine didn't stop him from rolling in one final putt, a 20-foot curler for birdie that capped a second 65 of the week. And with a three-shot lead heading into Sunday at the 146th British Open, the 23-year-old Texan is on the brink of winning a third major championship.

"I started to take out my book, and saw the 18th hole and I'm like, I can't. This is not worthy of this," Spieth said. "Everyone is giving us an ovation and it's a time to appreciate that, enjoy the walk, but also to say 'thank you' for the support that these crowds give."

With a victory on Sunday, Spieth would be the second-youngest golfer to Jack Nicklaus to win three majors. But he thinks the experience of letting a couple majors get away, most notably the 2016 Masters, will help him just as much as the previous two he's won at the 2015 Masters and U.S. Open.

"I think I'm in a position where it can be very advantageous, just everything I've gone through, the good, the bad, and everything in the middle," said Spieth, who has converted eight of his past nine 54-hole leads in PGA Tour events. "I understand that leads can be squandered quickly, and I also understand how you can keep on rolling on one."

It's unfair to say Spieth squandered the two-shot lead he entered Saturday considering how well he played, but playing partner Matt Kuchar caught him momentarily with a birdie on the 15th hole. Spieth responded, though, by making a five-foot tester for a birdie of his own, and Kuchar double bogeyed the ensuing hole.

Things looked like they might be closer heading into Sunday when Kuchar scared the hole on his approach to 18 while Spieth pushed his right. But after being "happily shocked" his ball cleared a bunker and found the edge of the green, Spieth converted his birdie putt while Kuchar lipped out his. Even so, Spieth doesn't anticipate his sudden extra cushion changing how he approaches the final round.

"I think I will assume that we are tied for the lead. And I think -- my game plan is going to take shape around 12 o'clock tomorrow," said Spieth, who also watched a lot of Saturday's early coverage to prepare for his third round. "I'm going to have to see what's forecasted and I'm able to fortunately watch coverage, see where misses are, see what putts do. It's actually a nice advantage to have. But I don't think my game plan changes much.

"I'm hitting the ball really nicely. It's all about greens in regulation. If the conditions are tough and you have to lay it further back, and play further away from holes, so be it. But having a putter in my hands for birdie is the most important thing for tomorrow."

At least, before he has a first claret jug in those hands. If Spieth manages to walk up 18 still holding that three-shot lead on Sunday evening, he's going to find that special scene a whole lot sweeter.