Spieth, Kisner and Schauffele ready for final battle at Carnoustie
The trio lead the pack by two strokes heading into the final round at The Open Championship
July 21, 2018
By Mike McAllister , PGATOUR.COM
- Jordan Spieth carded the first eagle ever made at Carnoustie’s opening hole during The Open Championship. (Getty Images)
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — Three players share the lead entering the final round of The Open Championship at Carnoustie on Sunday. One is the defending champion, already has three major wins under his belt, and will be the favorite to add to his collection Sunday.
The other two are major-less and hungry, eager to chase the opportunity that awaits them at Carnoustie.
For Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, the challenge will be to keep the nerves steady and the emotions — and the adrenaline — in check. Both are two-time TOUR winners; Kisner broke through in 2015, while Schauffele won twice last season, including the TOUR Championship en route to Rookie of the Year honors.
So it’s not a matter of knowing how to win, but knowing how to win a major. On Sunday, that will require outplaying Jordan Spieth, who’s seeking to become the sixth player since 1960 to win consecutive Opens.
The 24-year-old Schauffele, who’ll be in the final group with Spieth thanks to a birdie on the 18th hole, is making just his sixth major start, but already has two top-6 finishes. A year ago at Royal Birkdale, he tied for 20th. He relishes going head-to-head with Spieth. They’re both from the Class of 2011 but never met each other until last year, as Spieth started his TOUR career early while Schauffele remained in college at San Diego State.
“I watched him on TV a lot more than anyone else in my class,” Schauffele said. “So it's cool to be out here.”
Since the PGA TOUR’s Rookie of the Year award was established in 1999, 10 winners have gone on to win majors – and seven of those won The Open. Carnoustie is expected to tougher up with a windy forecast Sunday, but Schauffele said he doesn’t mind.
“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” he said after his 4-under 67 on Saturday. “I'd say more so. I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard. So maybe there's something to that. But I don't think much of it to be honest.”
As for Kisner, he has held or shared the lead for the first three rounds at Carnoustie and will be in the penultimate twosome with Kevin Chappell, one of his American teammates at last year’s Presidents Cup. Kisner was in a similar position at the 2017 PGA Championship, taking a one-shot lead into the final round before dropping to T-7 after a 74.
The lessons he learned that Sunday could prove valuable this Sunday. He’s certainly ready for the toughest conditions of the week.
“Judging by the conditions and what's going to be going on, I would imagine it's going to be more of a grind all day,” Kisner said. “I don't foresee guys going out and making four or five birdies in the first eight or nine holes, but who knows? They're damn good players.”
Jordan Spieth (65, 9 under) was on the range Saturday and discussed the possibility of using driver off the tee at the 380-yard par-4 first. Caddie Michael Greller said to continue laying up because it’s only a wedge to the front pin. But Spieth couldn’t resist driver, and told his swing coach Cameron McCormick of the plan.
“He’s like, ‘I put my chips behind anything that you decide always,’ something like that,” Spieth said. “And that kind of gave me that little extra boost that might have gotten it onto the front of the green.”
Spieth then buried the eagle putt to get his round off to a flying start. It’s the first eagle ever made at Carnoustie’s opening hole during The Open Championship.
Kevin Chappell (67, 7 under) recently began working with swing coach Sean Foley, and it’s starting to pay off. Chappell entered this week having missed the cut in six of his last nine PGA TOUR starts but now has three rounds under par at Carnoustie.
“Some of Sean’s philosophical stuff has really hit home with me,” Chappell said. “He’s obviously making me more efficient hitting it, but more efficient mentally and understanding who I am.”
Webb Simpson (67, 5 under) won THE PLAYERS Championship in May. If he rallies to win Sunday, he’ll join Jack Nicklaus (1978) as the only golfers to win THE PLAYERS and The Open Championship in the same year.
“I hear the wind’s going to blow a little bit,” said Simpson, one of 10 players with a bogey-free round Saturday. “I’m excited for that challenge.”
Rory McIlroy (70, 5 under) suffered two bogeys in his final three holes, making his task more difficult Sunday.
“I just need to get off to a fast start tomorrow,” McIlroy said. “I'm obviously disappointed after the way I finished, but I'm still in the tournament.”
Justin Rose (64, 4 under) went out in the third group and had the low round of the day, with seven birdies and no bogeys. The day before, he had squeaked into the weekend by making a 14-foot birdie putt on his final hole to make the cut on the number. Now he’s just five shots off the lead and tied for 13th.
“The birdie on 18 last night freed me up,” Rose said. “I’m just very happy to be out on this golf course and not down the road somewhere else this morning.”
Tony Finau (71, 4 under) found out about the cruelties of links golf on the par-5 sixth hole. His tee shot kicked into a bunker and was stuck on the lip, forcing him to pitch out. His next shot then plugged into the lip of another bunker.
“So on the same hole, I kind of got hosed twice,” Finau said. “But it’s links golf. It can happen to you. Hopefully, some of the bounces go my way more so tomorrow.”
Not the most conventional of finishes for South African Zander Lombard (71, 4 under). He bogeyed the 16th, double bogeyed the 17th when he found the Barry Burn, then eagled the 18th from 132 yards with a gap wedge.
“It’s just awesome soaking up the energy and taking it in,” he said. “I feel really positive for tomorrow, and I’m going to fight for it.”
Phil Mickelson (70, 1 under) had a string of three late birdies but overall was feeling frustrated not to work himself into the mix.
“The game’s just hard for me right now,” Mickelson said. “I don’t feel like I’m playing bad but just it’s not coming easy.”
Bernhard Langer (68, 1 under) is too far back to win Sunday, but you have to like his form going into next week’s Senior Open Championship at St. Andrews. Langer’s 68 was his lowest score in a PGA TOUR major since the first round of the 2005 PGA Championship, and his lowest at The Open since the third round in 2001 when he tied for third. Not bad for the 60-year-old, who continues to dominate on PGA TOUR Champions.
“It was great. Almost felt like the old days,” Langer said when discussing the reception from the Carnoustie gallery on Saturday. “People really appreciate, I guess, what I’ve done in my career and that I’m still here at age 60 and still playing decent golf.”
It looked like a military-grade haircut.I’ve got a chance at this.The boys tore up the course a bit today.