CARNOUSTIE, Scotland, July 22 (Reuters) - Predicted stiff breezes arrived at Carnoustie on Sunday as the British Open geared up for a thrilling climax with defending champion Jordan Spieth in a three-way tie for the lead.
After the benign conditions of Saturday when the old links yielded 288 birdies and 41 players carded under-par rounds, a testing westerly breeze arrived to add another ingredient into the battle for the Claret Jug.
Spieth hit a 380-yard drive onto the first green on Saturday to launch a round of 65 which put him level on nine under with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele, who he will partner in round four, and Kevin Kisner.
That will almost certainly not happen today with the par-four first straight into a breeze that forecasters say could be gusting to 25mph by the time Spieth tees off 1345GMT.
Sunday’s early starters certainly found the 7,402-yard layout less docile although there were still chances with the par-five 14th, playing downwind, birdied by 13 of the first 15 players with first man out Beau Hossler eagling it.
American Luke List and 2016 Open champion Henrik Stenson both carded 69s while Denmark’s Thorbjorn Olesen was the first man to make an impression on the leaderboard as he birdied two of his first three holes to reach five-under-par.
The dangers lurking for the title contenders were all too apparent though with Shaun Norris, playing partner of an inspired Tiger Woods on Saturday, making a quadruple-bogey eight on the first hole.
Woods, who electrified the galleries on Saturday with his best Open round since he won at Hoylake in 2006, a sizzling 66, will start on five-under with playing partner Francesco Molinari. The 42-year-old American is bidding to win his first major for a decade.
Only five strokes separated the top 19 players on the leaderboard going into Sunday’s conclusion with four-times major winner Rory McIlroy in the mix as are Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood who hope to become the first English player to win the Open since Nick Faldo in 1992.
Spieth, at 24, is seeking to become the youngest player to retain the Claret Jug since Tom Morris jr in the 1870s.
The thousands of fans descending on the course could have a rollercoaster afternoon in store though with Spieth predicting Sunday would be like a “new tournament”.
Double U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka predicted anyone within five shots could win the tournament.
“It’s all going to be based off the wind, how much the wind blows,” he said after finishing with a one-under 70.
“I’m sure anybody within four or five shots can win.” (Reporting by Martyn Herman Editing by Toby Davis)