CARNOUSTIE, Scotland (Reuters) - Tiger Woods set the British Open alight with a vintage six-under 66 in Saturday’s third round but he no longer possesses the fear factor that will send a shiver down the spine of his rivals, according to Tony Jacklin.
Jacklin, who won the British Open in 1969 and the U.S. Open in 1970, believes England’s Tommy Fleetwood has what it takes to claim the coveted Claret Jug, and a maiden major championship victory, in Sunday’s final round.
“It gives the whole tournament a different feel when Tiger plays like he did today, there’s no doubt about that,” the 74-year-old Englishman told Reuters.
“But he’s got so many good players ahead of him, I don’t think they are in awe of him any more.
“There’s more of a human element about Tiger these days. Nothing stays the same for ever but it’s great to see him in with a shout of winning,” Jacklin added.
“He said earlier this week the British Open was probably his best chance to win a major again, the way the course is set up, but if the wind starts to blow as hard as it is forecast, it will make all the players think a lot more.”
Woods and Fleetwood are among a gaggle of players who are four shots behind joint-leaders Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner and it is the 27-year-old Englishman that Jacklin fancies to pick up the trophy.
“I said before the tournament that Fleetwood would do well and I still think he can win it,” said the most successful European captain in Ryder Cup history.
“A four-shot deficit will be nothing tomorrow, especially if the wind blows. Tommy has come on in leaps and bounds in the last couple of years.
“He hits more greens and fairways than most of the others. He didn’t quite get it together today but he still came back strongly with three birdies in the last five holes.”
Jacklin thinks three-times major winner Spieth is probably the biggest danger to Fleetwood.
“If Jordan gets in the same mood he was in when he won at Royal Birkdale last year he will be tough to dislodge,” said Jacklin.
“He was a bit tentative early in the final round but after he hit that errant tee shot at the 13th hole he came back strong, and once he gets the bit between his teeth, he is tough.”
Jacklin, who together with Shelby Yastrow has written a fictional book entitled Bad Lies, which is available on Amazon, said the winner would be decided by who best handles the treacherous four closing holes at the fearsome par-71 Carnoustie layout, on the east coast of Scotland.
“It’s bound to come down to the player who performs the best over that stretch,” he added. “We saw today how a strong wind can make that tee shot at the 460-yard 17th very, very awkward, and the 18th is precisely the same.
“I’m in awe of these young guys, that they can hit five and six-irons off the tee at the 248-yard 16th. I don’t quite understand it. It’s a very different game to the one we played in my era.”
Editing by Neville Dalton