History-seeker Jordan Spieth has seized the clubhouse lead during a remarkable third round of the British Open at St Andrews.
Bidding to join Ben Hogan as only the second man to win golf’s first three majors of the year, Spieth’s six-under-par 66 propelled the American prodigy to 11 under for the championship.
Irishman Padraig Harrington, chasing his third Open title and fourth major, signed for a 65 to be one shot back as 15 players – including Australian trio Jason Day, Steven Bowditch and Adam Scott – sat within three strokes of the lead late in their third rounds.
As the world’s best golfers – sans injured world No.1 and defending champion Rory McIlroy – attacked the Old Course on a breathless afternoon, no less than 10 players enjoyed either a share of the outright lead.
As fleeting as it may have been, Day and Bowditch were among them as they strive to become the first Australian since Greg Norman in 1993 to raise the Claret Jug.
Spieth rattled in seven birdies to make his big move as fellow American Dustin Johnson relinquished his overnight advantage with another frustrating round in his long-running attempt to break his major duck.
Johnson was among only six players of the 80 who made the halfway cut not to post a birdie on the front nine in the perfect scoring conditions.
Spieth’s surge overshadowed Marc Leishman’s magnificent eight-under 64, the best round of the week that rocketed the Victorian into contention at nine under and two back safely in the clubhouse.
Leishman’s unblemished round was just one shy of the best effort in 155 years of Open championships, a record jointly held by eight players including countryman Greg Norman, who fired a 63 when he lifted the Claret Jug for the first time at Turnberry in 1986.
Leishman lipped out for birdie at the 17th after narrowly missing another putt on the 16th.
Had they dropped, Leishman would have had the lowest round in major golf history.
Playing partner Marcus Fraser “thought for sure” he was about to witness golfing history.
“On 16 and 17 he hit nearly his two best putts for the day and they managed to stay out so it was a bit unlucky,” Fraser said.
“Then it was good to see him get up and down on the last to go and shoot eight under.
“He played pretty much flawless golf all day long. It was pretty impressive to watch.”
Leishman’s came just three months after he sat out the Masters to be with wife Audrey as she fought for her life in a Virginia Beach hospital.
Battling toxic shock syndrome, Leishman’s wife was given less than five per cent chance of surviving.
But survive she did, with the reality check also providing Leishman with a fresh perspective on life – and golf.
“It takes a lot more to worry me,” he said.
“I don’t get annoyed about little things that I can’t really help.
“When you hit a bad shot there’s no real point getting frustrated about it because you tried to hit a good shot, you didn’t, move on.
“That frustration doesn’t help. And I feel like even if I do have a bad day, I can still go home and hopefully give her a hug and cuddle my boys. There for a while it didn’t look like I was going to be able to do that.”
American amateur Jordan Niebrugge (67) and Spanish star Sergio Garcia (68) joined Leishman at nine under.