Louis Oosthuizen is the 8th player in the last 25 years to lead or co-lead 6 or more major championship rounds in a single season.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGolf) July 17, 2021
Each of the previous 7 players won at least 1 major that year.
The top of the leaderboard at the 149 Open Championship is stacked with major championship winners, and a dramatic Saturday has set up a highly-anticipated final round at Royal St. George's with Louis Oosthuizen holding a one-shot lead over Collin Morikawa and a three-shot lead over Jordan Spieth. After setting the Open Championship 36-hole scoring record, Oosthuizen's one-under 69 on Moving day creates the opportunity for a golfer to go wire-to-wire at The Open for the first time since Rory McIlroy in 2014.
Among the most significant developments during the third round happened in the final hour of action as Spieth, sitting at 11 under for the championship and arguably the favorite to win with a three-under round going, went bogey-bogey on the 17th and 18th. It wasn't just the fact that Spieth gave up strokes but specifically that he finished his round by pushing an easy par putt off line in a mental mistake that could echo into Sunday's finish.
Behind Spieth is Corey Conners and Scottie Scheffler at 8 under, followed by a group at 7 under that is headlined by reigning U.S. Open champion Jon Rahm. Historically speaking, we should probably consider striking distance to be five or six strokes of the lead. Five times since 1997 the winner at the Open overcame a final round deficit of five strokes or more, including Phil Mickelson coming back from five strokes in 2013 and Ernie Els roaring back from six strokes in 2012. The major championship record for a final round comeback remains Paul Lawrie charging back from 10 shots down before winning the playoff at The Open in 1999, but that's the outlier in our historical precedent.
Here's how the leaderboard looks at the end of the third round at the 149th Open Championship.
1. Louis Oosthuizen (-12): For 36 holes, we saw mostly flawless ball-striking from Oosthuizen, but there was some regression on Saturday. He missed a couple greens in regulation early and his mis-hit on the approach shot at No. 15 nearly cost him another stroke in a day that saw two bogeys on the back nine. He still had stellar stuff most of the time throughout the round, keeping his lead with a one-under round of 69.
2. Collin Morikawa (-11): Two early bogeys were quickly balanced out by back-to-back birdies on No. 7 and No. 8 and by the time Morikawa made the turn he was playing with some swagger. The confidence is visible, and after putting on a show for Oosthuizen on Saturday, he'll be back for an encore performance in the final round on Sunday. Will the 2020 PGA champion win his second career major before the age of 25?
3. Jordan Spieth (-9): I'm ultimately not too concerned about the strokes lost because Spieth can still get that back on Sunday. I do think the biggest impact those miscues made was how they changed the game for Oosthuizen and Morikawa. After both playing solid golf together on Saturday, they get to link back up on Sunday afternoon and essentially play head-to-head with an eye on the leaderboard. Spieth being more in the mix would have given him the opportunity to also play the field, but now he has to post a number.
T4. Corey Conners, Scottie Scheffler (-8): Conners had one of the best rounds on a tough scoring day with four birdies and no bogeys, making him one of the biggest risers among those in the top 10. Scheffler was solid through the day with two birdies and one bogey, moving up into the group at 8 under with a birdie on the 18th hole.
T6. Jon Rahm, Mackenzie Hughes, Dylan Frittelli (-7): Rahm is clearly the most likely pick of this group to be able to make a run and win it on Sunday. He wasn't in the final group at the U.S. Open and beat out Oosthuizen last month, so there's going to be plenty of pressure if Rahm can go out and post a number. After the third round, Rahm noted that his position frees him up in terms of aggressiveness because it's "all or nothing" in terms of his finishing position on the leaderboard. Hughes hasn't been a major storyline, but this is his third straight round in the 60s and maybe should be a dark horse to watch if he can keep his current form on Sunday.
T9. Marcel Siem, Justin Harding, Cam Smith (-6): Siem has been one of the tournament's stars, but his round could have been one of the better ones of the day if not for a triple-bogey 8 at No. 14. He went iron off the tee and hit it out of bounds, setting up a long and frustrating grind of a hole on a day that had 3 birdies, 14 pars and no other bogeys.
T12. Kevin Streelman, Webb Simpson, Shane Lowry, Daniel Berger, Paul Casey, Andy Sullivan (-5): Streelman was one of four golfers to shoot 66 or better on Saturday, and he improved his position on the leaderboard by 28 spots with the four-birdie, no-bogey performance. Simpson had a great round himself with a 67, while Sullivan is lone name from this group to drop on the leaderboard after shooting 71.
T18. Dustin Johnson (-4): Extremely disappointing round from D.J. after carding a seven-birdie 65 on Friday. The front nine took a lot of strokes off the field today, but his three bogeys in the first eight holes set the two-time major winner off pace from the start of his round. Like many in the field, he picked up a couple of strokes coming in but finished with a 73.
T25. Brooks Koepka (-3): Like D.J., this ranked among the most disappointing developments of moving day at The Open. Koepka also had three early bogeys to drop him from contention and after a 72 he's basically playing for a better paycheck on Sunday.
T41. Rory McIlroy (-1): Ultimately, McIlroy improved his position on the leaderboard with a third-round 69, but it was the flip narrative from the field average in terms of how the scoring set up on Saturday. The front side played tougher on average, but McIlroy had five birdies on the way to a front-nine 31. Then on the easier (on average) back nine, he didn't have another bogey and shot a three-over 38. It doesn't make any sense!