SANDWICH, England – Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth had a lot in common when Saturday’s third round of the British Open ended in an early evening kind of gentle breeze and golden light associated more with Augusta National than the English coast.
Morikawa and Spieth are precocious and thoughtful American golf stars in their twenties who have proven they can win a big championship. Both are still on the hunt for Louis Oosthuizen, the meek South African who stays at the top with just one round at Royal St. George’s, but is hardly responsible for this major.
Oosthuizen is 12 under par. Morikawa, who was paired with him on Saturday, is one shot back with 11 under. With nine, Spieth is below third place.
But although Morikawa and Spieth are in similar positions, they ended their rounds in very different moods.
While Spieth missed a bogey on the last two holes and missed a two-foot putt on the 18th, Morikawa remained imperturbable after a shaky start and repeatedly made promising places with his glittering iron game.
While Spieth marched off after his 69th and refused to speak to assembled reporters, Morikawa patiently and methodically made his arranged rounds after his 68th. Tent by tent, he spoke to the main broadcasters of the Open and then crossed his arms to the fence, where, in this pandemic, the rest of the news media is kept at microphone length.
“Sometimes you just have to find that momentum,” he said of his gloomy afternoon. “Hopefully you can find it on the first hole, but sometimes it takes a couple of holes and you really just have to dig deep and just fight your way through.”
As always, 24-year-old Morikawa spoke like a veteran, but remains a newcomer to the British Open and has the chance to become the first man to win this tournament in his first appearance since American Ben Curtis won at Royal St. to win . Georges in 2003.
After playing with Oosthuizen for the first time on Saturday, Morikawa will be at stake with him on Sunday in the final pairing with the claret pitcher.
Does Morikawa see it as a head-to-head duel?
“This course can generate low scores,” he said. “We have already seen it. So I wouldn’t count anyone. I’m not going to consider it head-to-head. I want to go out and try to fuck as many holes as possible and see what happens. I can only control myself. You know everyone says that, but that’s the truth. Hopefully I’ll just do my best and play really well. “
Other high-profile players stay within striking distance. Jon Rahm, the bearded Spaniard who won the US Open in Torrey Pines last monthHe is off the lead at seven under five strokes and has long had an affinity for links golf. Corey Conners from Canada and Scottie Scheffler from the United States are under fourth place with eight.
But Oosthuizen and Morikawa will be side by side again on Sunday. Both are aiming for their second major championship, and Oosthuizen, 38, has been aiming for a long time.
Morikawa won the PGA championship in 2020, just over a year after finishing his college career at the University of California, Berkeley.
Oosthuizen won the British Open in 2010 in St. Andrews, the famous Scottish course that for many defines links golf. Oosthuizen, who missed the cut in seven of his first eight majors and was ranked 54th in the world rankings, took a sovereign lead with five strokes in the second round and surprisingly won with seven strokes.
It was a breathtaking achievement, and he has remained one of the best and most agile golfers in the world, finishing second in major championships six times. Now he’s back close after finishing second at this year’s PGA Championship and second at this year’s US Open.
The mental hurdle remains and one has to wonder whether it is a mental block at this stage.
“You know, finishing second isn’t that great, so I’ll play my heart out tomorrow,” said Oosthuizen. “I think we are all human only when we think of lifting the trophy, and you will remember that. But I think you just have to know and deal with it. As soon as we step on the golf course, everything is golf. You have to believe that you can also raise the trophy. “
He played with considerable determination on Saturday, starting the round two strokes ahead of Morikawa and keeping at least part of it throughout the round despite Spieth’s early wins.
Oosthuizen was 13 under after 10 holes, but then lost the par-3 11th and the par-4 13th and was only able to cut off with a par on the par-5 14th, which felt like another drop shot, considering how vulnerable the 14th was to birdies throughout the round.
He was in a three-way tie at the time for the lead with Spieth and Morikawa at 11 under par and appeared to be heading for more trouble when he hit an approach shot on 15 into the rough with a 5 iron. But he was able to recover and do a 15-foot putt to save the par, then proceeded with the birdie on par-3 16, finishing the round more convincingly.
Oosthuizen said he should have hit a 6 iron on a 15 instead of a 5 iron.
“It was the wrong club,” said Oosthuizen. “I hate making wrong decisions. I don’t mind taking bad punches, but wrong decisions are something that I am in control of. I was a bit angry, but quickly got together and made a great up and down. “
Spieth also did a lot of quality scrambling on Saturday when he played with Dylan Frittelli, a South African who was once Spieth’s teammate at the University of Texas.
Spieth repeatedly improvised solutions from deep, rough and awkward attitudes. He had a great rhythm at the start of the round and a hot putter, birdies on 2, 4, 6, 7 and 10 to get under 12 before falling back, and closed his eyes in fear after his short par – Failed to pocket putt 18.
The positive side is that he’s back in the race at the British Open. where he won in better known British Open weather – rain and gusty winds – in Royal Birkdale in 2017.
That was Spieth’s third major championship, and after a long slump, he revised his swing and regained self-confidence at the age of 27.
On Sunday, with more sunshine in the forecast, the pressure will rise again.
Morikawa was asked if it would matter whose nerve broke first.
“I would just say who is ready for the moment,” he said. “This is an opportunity for me to go out and hopefully get a great result and play really great golf in a major championship that I’ve never played before. So that’s the exciting thing. “
Oosthuizen has the most top 3 experience, but also the most scar tissue.
“He’s been through it many times,” said Morikawa of the pressure in the finals. “I’ve been through it enough, I think. So it’s not the one who cracks. It is who will take advantage of this opportunity. “