Inclement weather can turn a golf tournament upside down. But Jordan Spieth might not need to worry about high winds Sunday, when it will take a lot to knock him from the top spot on the British Open leaderboard.
Spieth might not be too concerned with the player looming over his shoulder, either. The main threat to Spieth is Matt Kuchar, who never has won a major.
“Spieth is a closer, and Kuchar is not very clutch,” William Hill sports book director Nick Bogdanovich said. “Deadly combo.”
So Spieth enters the final round as a minus-400 favorite. The forecast calls for some wind and light rain at Royal Birkdale, a links course on the Irish Sea. It was a course that was abused Saturday by Branden Grace, Dustin Johnson and most others.
Grace became the first player to record a 62 in a major. Johnson followed with a 64. Spieth finished a day of calm weather by shooting a 5-under-par 65. At 11 under after three rounds, he leads Kuchar by three strokes and is six up on Austin Connelly, a 20-year-old appearing in his first major, and Brooks Koepka, the U.S. Open champion.
Spieth is tailed on the South Point’s adjusted odds board by Kuchar (4-1), Koepka (20-1), Hideki Matsuyama (20-1), Johnson (40-1) and Grace (50-1). Matsuyama and Grace are seven shots back in a tie for fifth, and Johnson is eight behind.
Rory McIlroy made a strong run Friday (https://www.vsin.com/after-surviving-cut-mcilroy-in-british-title-hunt/) and early in Saturday’s round before fading. McIlroy opened with three birdies in five holes before finishing with a 69 to fall nine strokes back.
Scoring soared Friday because of turbulent winds and driving rain, but the opposite was true a day later. It was sunny and warmer in Southport, England. Rickie Fowler also took advantage when he nearly aced the par-4 5th hole, which is ridiculous but true.
“With some of these courses, the only defense is the wind, and if there’s no wind it’s an easy course,” Westgate golf oddsmaker Jeff Sherman said.
Kuchar had a chance to close the gap on the 18th, but Spieth sank a 20-foot birdie putt before Kuchar missed from 12 feet.
“Spieth makes putts like that, and Kuchar just doesn’t win,” Sherman said. “Kuchar has got to take an aggressive approach and go for it.”
British Open fourth-round matchups
(Posted at the South Point sports book)
Jordan Spieth -145
Matt Kuchar plus-125
Brooks Koepka plus-110
Hideki Matsuyama -130
Dustin Johnson -125
Henrik Stenson plus-105
Branden Grace -105
Rafael Cabrera Bello -115
Rory McIlroy -110
Rickie Fowler -110