Spieth leads by three at The Open

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Spieth nearly sinks delightful approach to 3rd
2017 Open Championship on the BBC
Venue: Royal Birkdale Dates: 20-23 July
Live: Listen to BBC Radio 5 live commentary and follow text updates – including in-play video clips – on BBC Sport website and mobile app. TV highlights on BBC Two. Click for full times.

Jordan Spieth will begin the final round of The Open with a three-shot lead over his American compatriot Matt Kuchar and six shots over the rest of the field as he once again stormed Royal Birkdale’s defences.

On a day when Branden Grace became the first man in history to card a 62 at a major championship, Spieth strengthened his overnight grip on the championship with a bogey-free 65 to move to 11 under par as his big-name rivals struggled to stay in touch.

Canadian debutant Austin Connelly, 20, sits in a tie for third with US Open champion Brooks Koepka at six under, while Grace and Japan’s world number two Hideki Matsuyama, who shot a fine 66, are two shots further back.

But it was a disappointing afternoon for home favourites Rory McIlroy and Ian Poulter, McIlroy’s chances effectively over after a messy 69 left him two under, nine shots off Spieth and tied for 11th with his Ryder Cup team-mate.

Texan Spieth, 23, blew a five-shot lead going into back nine at The Masters 15 months ago, but with this links course in far less punitive mood than the Augusta National he is odds-on to add the oldest major to his Masters and US Open titles from 2015.

Kuchar, 39, has never finished in the top five at an Open and has only one top-10 finish in 12 previous attempts, and he will rue the three putts on the 16th green that cost him critical momentum this time around.

Spieth wins duel with Kuchar

This was a relentless Spieth rather than spectacular, his birdie on the 18th green giving him a lead that so few will expect him to relinquish.

After a cautious opening, his 15-foot putt for birdie on the seventh re-established the two-shot lead he had held over playing partner Kuchar overnight.

But Kuchar closed in, birdieing the 14th and 15th, only for Spieth to drop a seven-foot putt for a birdie of his own on the latter hole to take back the lead 30 seconds later at 10 under.

When Kuchar three-putted the 16th his deficit was three, and while the elder man birdied 17 to stay in touch, Spieth’s nerveless 15-foot putt on the last stretched that lead back out.

Amazing Grace

Grace had earlier made history on a day of baking temperatures and minimal wind, the links stripped of its usual defences.

In an extraordinary few hours he made birdies on the first, fourth, fifth, eighth, ninth, 14th, 16th and 17th holes, which left him requiring just a oar on the par-four 18th to set the record.

His tee-shot found light rough and his second flew 45 feet beyond the pin, but a marvellous putt to within three feet set up the finish to rewrite the record books.

Grace shoots record-breaking 62 with putting masterclass

McIlroy brilliant and horrible once again

McIlroy, champion down the coast at Hoylake three years ago, charged out of the blocks, easing in a five-foot birdie on the first, flighting and rolling in a 30-foot chip from short of the green on the fourth and driving the green on the 346-yard par-four fifth before leaving his eagle putt just shy.

The subsequent birdie left him four under and within touching distance of Spieth, only for the inconsistencies that have dogged his game over the past year resurfacing once again.

A hooked tee-shot cost him a bogey on the par-three seventh, and worse was to follow as he bogeyed the eighth and then dropped two more shots on the 10th, going from tee to bunker to bunker to rough.

He had chances to salvage shots down the stretch but little would drop for him, and his three-year wait for his next major goes on.

Poulter, looking to become the first man since Paul Lawrie 18 years ago to come through qualifying and win the claret jug, mixed three birdies with three bogeys in his first 11 holes.

He then missed a six-footer for par on the 12th and dropped another shot on the 13th, the energy going out of him as his hopes slipped away.

McIlroy chips in for ‘wonderful’ birdie

Kid Connelly impresses as big names struggle to stay in touch

Connelly has never before played an Open but showed a precocious talent as he raced round the links in 66, picking up birdies on his last two holes to take fourth on the leaderboard as his own and secure his place in the penultimate pairing come Sunday afternoon.

Koepka dropped a shot on the first but then birdied three, four and five before a birdie and bogey on the back nine left him five under.

World number one Dustin Johnson looked as if he might match Grace when he stood on the 16th tee six under par, and while three successive pars ended that dream, his 64 still left him three under and in a tie for seventh.

Last year’s champion Stenson fired an equally impressive 65 to sit alongside Johnson.

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