BRANDT Snedeker may not win his first major championship this afternoon, but his name will be forever synonymous with Lytham nonetheless after what was a remarkably turbulent third round for the overnight leader, the man who previously could do no wrong.
So compelling in everything he did in his round of 64 on Friday, Snedeker was a changed man for large parts of his third round, a shadow of the composed character of 24 hours before. All that was good about his game evaporated, all the unerring tee-shots, the accuracy of his irons, the deftness of wedges and the brilliance of his putts – all gone, spectacularly.
Snedeker, though, is one hell of a fighter. He grappled like hell with his game and managed to birdie his final hole to give himself a chance of taking the Claret Jug, a chance that looked like it was fading into oblivion. His 73 put him four behind Adam Scott, though. Scott is now the hottest favourite to win the first major of his career, and the first by an Australian since Greg Norman in 1998. He’s on 11-under with Snedeker and the resurgent Graeme McDowell locked together on 7-under. Tiger Woods is next. It never quite happened for him yesterday. He shot 70 and begins the final day five strokes behind Scott.
In many ways, though, it was Snedeker who once again captured the imagination, such was the eventfulness of his day. He had a one-shot lead over Scott standing on the first tee and by the time they holed out on the 14th green, he was six behind, so his recovery should not be underestimated. There were so many moments that illustrated how profoundly his game deserted him, but that 14th was as good any of them. He drove it in the rough, which he rarely did on Friday, then chunked a chip, which he couldn’t have done the day before, when he was hot, even if he’d tried. It was his sixth bogey of the day. When you consider that he’d played the first 40 holes of this championship without dropping a shot then you get a picture of how awful it was for the son of Nashville. Not so much country and western as a serious case of the blues.
In all of this, Scott was moving beautifully into a commanding lead. As Snedeker retreated, the role of challengers-in-chief fell to McDowell and Woods, both of whom will still feel they have every chance of winning this evening. We shall see. Snedeker has a chance, too, of course, but you wonder about his spirit now. It has taken a pounding.
The strangest thing was that there was no hint of his travails as he parred his way through the first four holes, the first chink coming on the 5th where he missed a 4-foot putt for par. On Friday, you could have put a blindfold on him and he’d have still made it. In the third round you could have drawn him a map and he wouldn’t have got close.
One by one the things that marked him out as a special player in his opening two rounds began to drop like skittles in a bowling alley. One of the key features of his rise was his ability to plot his way around the trouble, most notably the bunkers. In his 41 holes played he hadn’t been in one. In his 42nd he ploughed straight into the face of a fairway trap and had to play out sideways. It was then that he lost his lead – and his confidence. Right alongside him, Scott made merry.
The bogeys came in clusters after that. When, at last, he broke the destructive sequence with a birdie on the 16th he was struggling with his game as if he was on horseback in a rodeo. He is not completely out of it, but neither will he forget what happened here in a hurry.
It had been the oddest day at Lytham, a day of sunshine and little wind; a golfer’s dream. Conditions could scarcely have been more perfect but for the longest time there was something missing; a little movement on moving day.
Until Zach Johnson burned it up with a 66, most of the traffic was in reverse gear. Some guys got it going, like Bubba Watson, but then found trouble and lost momentum. Only a few out there managed to maintain it, the most heart-warming of them being Mark Calcavecchia, one of the great characters of the game, but the most impressive of all, before Scott began to do this thing, was Johnson, a person of faith whose golf game is so good right now you might think it’s been touched by something celestial.
Johnson won in America last weekend. They say it’s hard to win a tournament before a major championship and then contend in the major, but he’s debunking that myth. “On the 2nd hole I made a bogey with an 8-iron in my hand,” he said. “I should have hit 9-iron but I hit 8-iron. Just terrible. Bad yardage, bad club and I made a horrible bogey. Then on the next hole I hit a terrible lag putt from 30 feet and ran it 10 feet by the hole, but made it coming back. Also I had a couple of chunked 9-irons in the fairway on 16 and 17.”
The self-mocking didn’t last, though. Johnson may be too far behind Scott, but he’s playing wonderfully. One of the shots of the day was his approach on the 18th which he put to a foot. “I didn’t even mark it. I closed my eyes [putting it].” Snedeker closed his eyes on that same hole later in the day, but for altogether different reasons. His birdie brought him relief on a fiendishly trying day.
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Weather for Edinburgh
Saturday 25 May 2013
Temperature: 5 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West
Temperature: 8 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 14 mph
Wind direction: West