ST ANDREWS // Louis Oosthuizen refused to buckle under the pressure of seeing his commanding British Open lead evaporate yesterday afternoon and finished with an impressive flourish to go into today's concluding round at St Andrews with a four-stroke advantage.
Oosthuizen, who added a battling 69 to his previous scores of 65 and 67 leads England's Paul Casey by that handsome margin with third-placed Martin Kaymer a further three shots adrift. Casey, who began a captivating third day of the 150th anniversary Open six shots behind Oosthuizen, reduced the gap to only two strokes by the sixth hole but was unable to make any more impact on the leader. They traded shot for shot for the ensuing nine holes until Oosthuizen, unhappy with his loose approach shot to the 16th green, somehow managed to sink the putt from more than 50 feet away to make a significant move in going three clear.
Casey squandered an outstanding opportunity to restore the gap to two at the last, the Englishman over-borrowing on a four foot birdie putt and then watching disconsolately as Oosthuizen drove putt his drive from the 18th tee on the final green. Kaymer, like Casey a dual winner of the Abu Dhabi championship, was ruing afterwards a costly slip at the ninth when he was looking over a six-foot foot for birdie and ended up making bogey.
"Apart from that I played very good golf like I have done on the other two days," said the German who is convinced that his top-10 finishes in last year's US PGA championship and last month's US Open will stand him in good stead to make a solid challenge for a first major this afternoon. Kaymer, who shot a 68 yesterday to stand at eight under par through 54 holes will be accompanied in the penultimate final round pairing by Henrik Stenson, the Swede who has a home in Dubai.
Level with Stenson and Lee Westwood on seven under par is Alejandro Canizares, son of the famous Spaniard Jose Maria Canizares who won five times on the European Tour. Alejandro, 27, has one professional win to his credit so far - the 2006 Russian Open - so it would be asking a lot for him to prevail in this kind of company. An even bigger ask would be Tiger Woods capturing a 15th major title. The world No 1's relatively long wait to add to his 2008 US Open success will almost certainly be extended after the world No 1 again struggled to assert himself on a course which brought him triumphs in 2000 and 2005.
"I hit it good today but I just didn't get anything out of the round," he said after a one-over-par round of 73 left him 12 shots off the pace with 16 players ahead of him. "I just couldn't build any momentum because I wasn't making any putts." Woods, who thought it was ironic that his driver was now working well for him as his putter is letting him down, said: "I'm playing better than my position suggests.
"I've had a lot more putts here than I have ever had and that is what has kept me out of the final few groups. Rory McIlroy's topsy-turvey Open continued as the young Irishman bounced back from his disastrous second round to post a brave 69 to give himself an outside chance of finishing where he started the tournament - at the top of the leaderboard. Remarkably, McIlroy has still not recorded a score in the 70s on the Old Course.
Until Friday's wind-blown round of 80, all of his nine previous rounds had been in the 60s, including Thursday's championship record-equalling 63. McIlroy, who briefly held the clubhouse lead again before Stenson took it from him, has not given up hope of a first major victory. The man who shot a brilliant 62 to come out of the pack to win the Quail Hollow Tournament - his first on the PGA Tour - in May said: "I know what I'm capable of around this golf course.
"I also know what I'm capable of in final rounds. We'll see how far off the lead I am and hopefully I get off to a fast start." firstname.lastname@example.org