SOUTHPORT, England — On a day when Branden Grace made golfing history, shooting the lowest round ever in a major championship, Jordan Spieth continued along the path to making his own.
Playing early, Grace shot a 62 on Saturday in the third round of the British Open at Royal Birkdale. Playing in the last group of the day, Spieth shot a 65 and has a three-stroke lead as he tries to become the second youngest player to win three majors.
“I’m extremely pleased,” Spieth said. “Couldn’t ask for more.”
Spieth, a few days from his 24th birthday, is already a Masters and U.S. Open champion. He could join Jack Nicklaus as the only players to win three major championships by the age of 23.
Spieth’s second bogey-free round of the three so far put him at 11-under par 199. Matt Kuchar, paired with Spieth, is at 8-under 202 after a round of 66.
Tied for third at 205 are Austin Connelly, a young Texan who grew up playing with Spieth and shot 66, and U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka, who had a 68. After his record round Grace shared fifth with Hideki Matsuyama at 206.
Most of the day the weather was pleasant, sunshine and light wind, although light rain arrived when the leaders had three holes to go. After Friday’s storm the golfers went out Saturday to attack the softened course.
“I thought it was a favorable day for scoring,” said Spieth, “And recognizing that ahead of time made it tough mentally because — I was leading by two — you’re in the position you’d think you can play safer, but you had to play aggressive.”
Kuchar, starting the round two strokes behind Spieth, could never quite catch him. He twice made birdies that momentarily tied him for the lead, only for Spieth to pour in birdie putts on top of him to stay in front. Kuchar’s one slip was a drive into the pot bunker on No. 16 when the rain finally arrived, and a three-putt that led to double bogey there.
Spieth had five birdies, including one on the final hole to which the crowd responded with a huge roar.
Walking up 18 at Birkdale toward the white clubhouse is a chilling experience for those on the top of the leader board.
“I kind of take out my notes walking to the green,” said Spieth, “but I saw the 18th, and I’m like I can’t. Everybody is giving us an ovation, and it’s time to appreciate and enjoy the walk.”
Kuchar, 39, who never has won a major, said he wasn’t trying to beat Spieth head-to-head. “I was playing with him but not focused on him. My goal is to go out and play Royal Birkdale. He and I had a lot of birdies.”
Spieth blew the 2016 Masters with a triple-bogey on the 12th hole of the final round, but he believes that will work to his advantage.
“Everything I’ve gone through, the good, the bad,” he said. “I understand that leads can be squandered and quickly, and I also understand you can keep rolling on one.”