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Spieth would be a hugely popular Open winner and can count on Sunday support

The American is three shots off the lead going into the final round at Royal St. George’s and in the absence of a home contender, he will be backed by the British crowds

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Maybe it is because the home challenge melted away soon after the first ray of sunshine.

Maybe it is because the fans are aware of his struggles over the last few years.

Maybe his lovely victory speech after the 2017 Open still resonates.

Maybe it is down to the fact he simply comes across as an all-round decent guy and has a game your average weekend golfer can just about relate to.

But whatever the reason, Jordan Spieth has been adopted as one of our own.

The final-day leaderboard is full of fine ambassadors for the sport but there would surely be no more popular winner than Spieth.



Jordan Spieth is three off the lead after his third round 69




The Texan talked his way through a topsy-turvy third round 69 that included five birdies and the galleries loved it.

You could feel the sympathy when he missed what should have been a tap-in par putt on the last to make his task all the more sterner on Sunday.

But Spieth will have plenty of support.

He can get cross, he can get agitated, he can curse, he can look as though he is just itching to throw a club or two.









Just as most people can on a golf course.

But boy, can he play.

And he is back in the sort of form that won him three Majors between 2015 and 2017, the last of which earned him the Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale.

But that win, four years ago at the age of 23, would prove to be his last until he triumphed at the Texas Open in April of this year.



Spieth could lift the Claret Jug for the second time with a faultless final round
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Image:

AFP/Getty)




At one point, he had plummeted to 92nd on the world rankings list.

Spieth became the forgotten superstar of American and world golf, overtaken by the likes of Dustin Johnson and Justin Thomas.

But although he trails Louis Oosthuizen by three and Collin Morikawa by two going into the final round, this Open – after finishing third at the 2021 Masters and in the top 30 at this year’s US Open and PGA Championship – has confirmed his return to the elite.

And as he air-punched and saluted the crowd through almost every step of his third round, you could tell this was a stage he loves performing on.

Indeed, he had already told us all as much a few days ago when he referred to Open crowds as golf’s “best fans”.









For an American to express that opinion is some tribute.

To walk with Spieth on a sun-drenched Saturday was to feel the admiration reciprocated.

Let’s face it, they had to adopt someone after charges from the smattering of Englishmen inside the top 20 after round two failed to materialise.

There has not been an English winner of the Open since Nick Faldo won at Muirfield in 1992.

It is coming up to 30 years of hurt.

And that never really looked like changing at the 149th instalment of the Championship.



Louis Oosthuizen gholds a three-shot lead going into Sunday




Paul Casey said the English players “need to buck their ideas up”. He was half-joking but had a point.

Casey is the joint highest-placed home golfer after a battling level par round but is seven shots off the lead, alongside Andy Sullivan, who birdied the last.

Danny Willett briefly threatened a surge but knocked one out of bounds on the 15th and ended up a stroke behind Sullivan and Casey.

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Robert MacIntyre, Scotland’s sole representative, shot a best-of-the-day 65 to also sit at four under.

But the brutal truth is that the home players are fighting for scraps.

Instead, the leaderboard has been dominated by South Africans, Americans and Canadians.

Morikawa already has a Major to his name and Oosthuizen and Spieth, of course, have Open-winning pedigree.



Spieth would be a hugely popular winner




They will cut contrasting characters as, along with Morikawa, they duel in the sun on what is set up to be a memorable, thrilling final day.

Oosthuizen’s mild manner and Morikawa’s geniality would also make them very pleasing winners of a Championship that feels like it has marked the return of ‘normal’ golf.

But as Spieth walked down the 18th on his way to that surprise bogey, his popularity could be heard booming from the grandstands.

Don’t bet against the ovation being even louder late on Sunday afternoon.




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