On Thursday morning, after watching Jordan Spieth play his first two holes of The Open Championship, I decided that I believed this was going to be his week to win a fourth career major championship. It wasn’t that he played ‘em so brilliantly — just a pair of pars — it was his demeanor, which already appeared locked in, right from the start.
On Saturday afternoon, after watching Spieth play his final two holes of the third round, I decided that maybe my previous declaration was a bit premature.
Spieth closed out Moving Day with a pair of untimely, unsightly bogeys, failing to get up and down front just short of the 17th green, then missing a short par attempt on the last. It all dropped him from the live tournament favorite into sole possession of third place, three strokes behind Louis Oosthuizen (+150, DraftKings) at 12-under and two behind Collin Morikawa (+200).
If you’re sitting on a Spieth ticket or considering playing him live prior to Sunday’s final round (+550, BetMGM), there are still a few positives to take out of that disappointing finish.
You’re Getting a Discount
Not long before Spieth’s closing bogeys — and before Oosthuizen birdied the 16th — he was tied for the lead at 11-under and the live favorite to win this title.
Granted, co-leader is a much more enviable place to start the final round than three strokes off the pace, but that finish essentially tripled his price in the live marketplace.
If you were riding with #TeamSpieth no matter the scenario, then you can view that late setback as simply an opportunity to bet him at a bigger number.
He Can Use Saturday as Fuel
Can’t you just see it now? Spieth jumps out to a hot start in the final round — let’s say two or three birdies in the first five or six holes — and the narrative instantly becomes: “He needed that Saturday finish in order to propel him to this start.”
That, of course, will be an unprovable theory. It’s just as possible that Spieth could’ve closed with a pair of birdies in the third round and still stepped on the gas pedal to start.
There is some thought, however, that beginning the final day three shots back instead of tied for the lead or one back should allow Spieth (or anyone else) to play more offense than defense. There’s a definite possibility that the two players in the final pairing play as if they’re trying not to lose, while the guy chasing them plays like he’s trying to hunt ‘em down. After all, this is the same differential that was facing Jon Rahm entering the final round of last month’s U.S. Open.
The Two Leaders Have Question Marks
Don’t get me wrong: Oosthuizen and Morikawa are both major winners, two of the world’s best ball-strikers and wholly capable of winning this title on Sunday.
That doesn’t mean they are infallible, of course.
Oosthuizen won this tournament back in 2010 but has built up a career’s worth of scar tissue ever since, finishing runner-up at a half-dozen majors, including each of the previous two this year. I’m a big fan of thinking that any experience while in contention is a beneficial one and helps the next time it occurs, but we still have to wonder whether Louis has what it takes to close out another one of these.
Despite being one of the game’s top players, Morikawa was somewhat of an unknown entering this week due to his lack of links experience. He’d only played last week’s Scottish Open and as late as this Wednesday admitted that he wasn’t quite sure how his ball would react at impact against this turf. Throw in the fact that he’s employing two different putting strokes — one for shorter putts and another for longer putts — and it feels like he might be walking a bit of a tightrope for 54 holes so far.
Again, each of these guys is capable of winning, and they’re rightfully on top of the odds board right now. If we’re looking for a reason to back Spieth, though, fading the competition isn’t an untenable idea.
One last note as we head into the final round: There’s a reason why I didn’t offer any names beyond the aforementioned three. With a trio of major champions atop the board and nobody else closer than four strokes, it’s tough to believe the winner doesn’t come from this small group.
One thing we’ve found about Royal St. George’s this week is that while there aren’t any extraordinarily low scores out there — the best has been a 6-under 64 so far — there also aren’t many big numbers, especially from those who have been in contention.
Even if we can envision one or (at most) two of these three blowing up with a bigger score in the final round, it’s tough to believe all three will do so and leave the door open for anyone else.