Whatever happens in the final round of the 147th Open Championship, we'll always have Saturday. At 13 minutes past four o'clock, the open dynamics were shifted strongly. We have been here several times; a long long time ago.
Tiger Woods was on top of the leaderboard. Those who doubted that a tiger effect would last for a decade or so after his last big win had certainly dispelled their skepticism. Wood's position is clearly registered with other players. Galleries flocked to see the final stages of the 42-year round. Social media has been highlighted, including comments from golfers and professionals in other sports. Finally it was Woods who supported the excitement with the performance. His problem was that Jordan seemed to offend Spieth.
"There are a few holes where people can stand 15, 20 deep on each side," said Shaun Norris, Woods' Saturday partner. "It's like playing with a mythical creature, it does not feel real."
To summarize the recent days of the tiger, he should wiggle on the final stretch. A bogey on the 16th after a missed green at par-3 meant he had to settle for a 66. However, this was his best main round since 2011. It was his lowest in the Open since the second round at Hoylake 12 years before. Woods was to prevail on Merseyside; From the immediate vicinity of the leadership, he has a chance to repeat this triumph here. An incredible amount of fortune on the 18th, when Wood's Ball seemed to be against gravity, jumping away rather than Barry Burn, suggested that the Gulf Gods were on his side. Perhaps they feel that the 14-fold main champion, an individual who was once devoured by personal and physical chaos, has repented.
"It's certainly possible," said a confused Woods when asked if Scotland will testify to its most famous victory of all. His attitude remained the same when he was asked for his opinion on the extent of such a feat. "We're not there yet, I know what you're trying to say, but let me try first, then ask me again."
If statistics work easily against Woods, he'll never have a major from outside the top five Having won 36 holes after being in this 29th place – that is a not inconsiderable affair for a young pretender. Spieth is, despite the poor pre-open form, the only competitor with whom his colleagues in such events do not want to compete. A modern forest, if you like. The defending champion, who was inspired by a wonderful eagle to start the third day, signed for a 65 to break the clubhouse lead at nine. That's four points ahead of Woods.
Shortly before the end of the game, when Spieth warned of a very different challenge on the fourth day, Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner gave him a score of nine. The latter refuses to leave; He did not score more than 70 points in three rounds. Kevin Chappell, at seven o'clock, is the next in line.
Should Spieth bring the Claret Jug back to Texas, a large load of four, including a successful defense of the oldest, would mean he could be considered one of the greatest in the game. Spieth is only 24.
Moving Day has become a fast moving day because of the quiet Angus conditions. This is expected to change on Sunday, with gusts of perhaps more than 20mph. Spieth is one of those who will rub his hands at this prospect. It was reasonable for a remaining open field that started the third round with only nine shots to exploit Carnoustie if it was as submissive as it is likely to always be.
The ranking is brilliantly versatile. Spieth, Woods, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Webb Simpson, Justin Rose and Rory McIlroy are the main course and distance specialists; to varying degrees, of course. For Kisner, Schauffele, Francesco Molinari, Chappell and Alex Noren, there is the life goal of a first victory in one of the four major golf courses. Norens 67, for a five under in total, was bittersweet in the face of a bogey at the last, after the Swede had flicked a stand with his approach stroke.
Rose started the scoring show, his 64 matching the lowest round in a Carnoustie Open. The Englishman, who survived the cut by only one, can not be beaten at four o'clock. When the attention was drawn to her – towards the marauding woods – Molinari gave a 65. The Italian is six under. Both the European Championship and the PGA Tours this season, as well as an incredibly accurate play from the tee make Molinari a clear and current danger.
"It was the day we had to be aggressive," Molinari said. "It was not much wind, and after the rain [on Friday] the course is a bit softer, but I was playing well, had quite a few chances that were close, or it could have gotten even better."
Simpson tied Woods' 54-hole score with a 67. McIlroy, Johnson, Tommy Fleetwood and Matt Kuchar complete the game's five-under contingent
Phil Mickelson's 70 means he needs to snooker the Claret Jug to recover from a starting position on Sunday with a minus. "The game is tough for me right now," said the 2013 champion. "I do not feel like I'm playing bad, but it just will not be easy."
Woods knew this feeling only too well. On a breathless Saturday afternoon, he reminded all viewers – and possibly even themselves – about how good the alternative could be.