Jordan Spieth shot a third-round 66 at the British Open on Sunday. So did Paul Dunne. Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day shot a 67. Padraig Harrington shot a 65.
That’s certainly impressive, but why were there so many low scores for a course as tough as St. Andrews? Was it simply because the weather calmed and the wind settled?
“Yeah, it really is,” Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine writer Jeff Ritter said on CBS Sports Radio’s After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “St. Andrews, being a classic course built right on the coast of St. Andrew’s Bay, its ultimate defense is the weather itself. This place, when the wind blows, guys can shoot any kind of number out here. It’s the nature of a links course. When you start missing fairways, you start finding pot bunkers. A sand trap here is a penalty, as opposed to a minor inconvenience in America.
“So really, this place, it all starts with the wind,” Ritter continued. “If the wind is down, if the weather is calm, it’s a place where drives can roll our farther than ever – and you don’t have to be the biggest hitter. You don’t have to be Dustin Johnson to go driver, pitching wedge to a lot of these par 4s. So if the weather is down, you’re going to see low numbers. If it gets nasty this afternoon – and they’re saying it might – you could see any kind of number, and that’s only going to add to the finish we see today.”
It’s difficult to determine what has been the biggest story of the British Open thus far. Is it Paul Dunne in first place? Jordan Spieth vying for a third straight major? Tiger Woods missing the cut?
“Well, it probably changes like the weather,” Ritter said. “Tiger was a big story here on Saturday. Watching him finish out his six or seven holes in the twilight, it was a little surreal to watch a champion of his caliber at a place that he used to just dominate. I mean, this was his place. These fans know him as the two-time champion. Locally, they’ve never seen him play golf like this. That was a very strange scene to watch Tiger walk over the Swilcan Bridge and – to be honest – not know if we’re going to see him walk that bridge again. That was a very huge moment, the way the fans cheered for him. They love him here. You almost wondered if the fans were thinking that themselves.”
Once Woods was gone, however, the focus shifted to Spieth, who has won two consecutive majors, and Dunne, the only golfer to shoot in the 60s in each of the first three rounds.
“Paul Dunne is a great Cinderella story,” Ritter said. “He’s European. He’s Irish. No one had more fun yesterday than he did. So as you look at the leaderboard today, you’ve got something for everybody. You’ve got Cinderella, you’ve got Spieth chasing history, you’ve got wily veterans like Oosthuizen and Harrington – there’s everything out here for golf fans today. It’s so tightly packed, it’s going to be a real sprint to the finish today. It’s going to be fun.”