MASTERS CHAMPION Bubba Watson made a dramatic charge up the leaderboard in today’s third round of the British Open at Royal Lytham.
The big-hitting American started the day 10 strokes behind leader Brandt Snedeker, but six birdies in 14 holes against two bogeys saw him close to six off the pace as the leaders set off.
World number one Luke Donald of England was also looking to put himself into contention for Sunday, with a birdie at the third getting him to three under. Snedeker and Adam Scott were in the final pairing with both anxiously looking over their shoulders at a talent-packed chasing pack led by Tiger Woods.
American Snedeker was leading the way on 10-under par following rounds of 66 and 64 that equalled the lowest first 36 holes in Open and major championship history. Scott, from Australia, was one shot back after rounds of 64 and 67.
Both have come close at a major before, at the Masters, and both said that they would draw on their past experiences in a bid to hold on to their positions and set the stage for Open glory tomorrow. Woods, 36, seeks a 15th major title four years after his last win in one of golf’s crown jewel tournaments at the 2008 US Open. He set Lytham alight late Friday when he holed his bunker shot for a birdie at the last.
That put him just four strokes off the pace, when a bogey would have pushed him back into the pack at six behind. Woods’ partner in the penultimate pairing was a new one for him in the shape of rising Danish player Thorbjorn Olesen, who sunk a monster putt in the fading light of Friday’s second round to bag a date with his childhood idol.
Olesen was on five under for the tournament with Scotland’s 1999 Open champion Paul Lawrie, US world top-tenner Matt Kuchnar, 2010 US champion Graeme McDowell from Northern Ireland, American Jason Dufner and South African hope Thomas Aiken all a further stroke back. Woods promptly dropped a shot at the par-three first, missing a straightforward eight-footer, while Olesen landed in a pot bunker but managed to get up and down for par to draw level with the American.
McDowell dropped a shot at the second while 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson moved up the leaderboard to join the Ulsterman at three under with three birdies against one bogey.
Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington were among the big names to finish their third rounds early Saturday and all failed to produce the kind of low scoring that could have put them back in the mix.
World No. 3 Westwood fired a one-over par 71 to stand on four-over 214, No. 2 and 2011 US Open champion McIlroy had a 73 to stand at five over and three-time major winner Harrington carded a 70 for two over.
Westwood, who made it 58 majors without a title win, said the pin positions were tricky and there was a slight breeze “but it’s still very playable and very scorable out there.”
To prove the point, Fiji veteran Vijay Siingh came in with a 68 to leave him at level par 210 after 54 holes.
More to follow