Australia

Oosty on course for wire-to-wire Open win, Smith still in contention for Australia

Louis Oosthuizen says he is ready to play his heart out to become British Open champion for the second time.

His comments came as he led for the third successive round of the 149th edition to go into Sunday’s showdown with a one-shot lead.

The brilliant, calm South African, on 12 under, has not shaken off the threat of US major winners Collin Morikawa, who is a shot behind, and Jordan Spieth, who dropped shots on the last two holes to fall back to nine under.

And though he has never quite shaken off the tag of somehow being a nearly man after six times finishing runner-up in a major since his 2010 Open triumph at St Andrews, Oosthuizen reckons he is ready to complete a wire-to-wire triumph.

Asked if he could take anything from those second-place finishes, he smiled at Royal St George’s on Saturday night: “Go one better.”

The 38-year-old’s still the man to beat after a one-under par 69 gave him a three-round total of 198.

Saturday, of course, was “moving day”, yet “Oosty” was quite immoveable, leading at the end of the day yet again following his brilliant 64 and 65 in the opening two rounds.

Behind the major-winning trio are Canada’s Corey Conners and American Scottie Scheffler, who lie a shot behind Spieth on eight under.

US Open champ Jon Rahm is in a trio tied for sixth on seven under alongside another Canadian Mackenzie Hughes and South African Dylan Frittelli.

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Australia’s only hope now, Cameron Smith, who was outscored by the 66-shooting Conners, recorded a 68 and is joint-ninth alongside South African Justin Harding and German Marcel Siem.

But the Queenslander rates his chances as “very slim” and reckons he will have to shoot a 62 to become the first Australian since Greg Norman back at these same Kent links in 1993 to bring home the Claret Jug.

Adam Scott, the other Australian to make the cut, had two double-bogeys in his disappointing round of 73, which leaves him out of contention at 2-over.

On another cloudless day, with the wind not too unkind but the fairways firming up and tougher pin placements providing a bit more defence for the venerable links, the one disappointment for 2010 champion Oosthuizen was that he might have gone into the final round in greater command.

What he described as “a couple of loose swings” on his inward nine led to bogeys, which almost felt like a sensation, so excellently has he been playing.

A birdie on the par-three 16th edged him into the lead over a resurgent Morikawa, who showed his mettle after slipping back to seven under after six holes.

“It was so great with all the fans there,” Oosthuizen said.

It kept the South African on pole to record a wire-to-wire victory — only the eighth in Open history, with Rory McIlroy’s 2014 victory at Royal Liverpool the most recent.

Spieth had been four under for the day after 11 holes and shared the lead with Oosthuizen and Morikawa with three holes remaining, but the 2017 champ bogeyed the 17th and missed a short-par putt on the last.

Not that Oosthuizen seems at all fazed by the task.

“I’m going to try and stay awake as long as I can tonight because I know the tee time is probably going to be around 3:00pm, 3:30pm (local time) again tomorrow,” he said.

Does he ever get worked up about anything?

“I was worked up about 45 minutes ago when I hit that (wayward) five iron on 15,” he smiled.

“But I got myself quickly together and made a great up-and-down.

“So, no, I mean, just chill … “

His grin looked like a chilling warning to his pursuers.


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