The Open 2017: Jordan Spieth holds off Matt Kuchar to win third major

By Matt DavisBBC Sport
Final leaderboard
-12 Spieth (US); -9 Kuchar (US); -6 Li (Chn); -5 McIlroy (NI), Cabrera-Bello (Spa)
Selected: -4 Southgate (Eng), Grace (SA), Koepka (US); -3 Casey (Eng), Stenson (Swe); -2 Wood (Eng), Poulter (Eng); Level Ramsay (Sco); +1 Westwood (Eng) Drysdale (Sco), Fleetwood (Eng), Johnston (Eng) Full leaderboard

Jordan Spieth won The Open at Royal Birkdale by three shots after an enthralling battle with Matt Kuchar.

Spieth, 23, blew a three-shot overnight lead by the turn and trailed Kuchar after dropping a shot on the 13th.

But he wrestled back the lead with a run of birdie, eagle, birdie, birdie to finish on 12 under and win his third major after the Masters and US Open.

The American is the second player after Jack Nicklaus to win three of golf's four majors before the age of 24.

The world number three is the youngest Open winner since 22-year-old Seve Ballesteros won the first of his three titles in 1979.

Spieth, who either led or tied for the lead after every round, carded a one-under-par 69, with fellow American Kuchar's 69 leaving him on nine under.

Spieth will have the opportunity to complete the career Grand Slam at the PGA Championship in August.

"This is absolutely a dream come true," said Spieth, who receives $1.8m (£1.4m) in prize money.

"I drank some wine from the Claret Jug when Zach Johnson won it two years ago and people said that was bad luck.

"I started to believe them too after nine holes today."

Twenty-one-year-old Li Haotong of China played the second lowest round of the tournament with a 63 to climb to third place on six under.

Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy hit a three-under 67 to tie for fourth on five under, alongside Spain's Rafael Cabrera-Bello (68).

England's world number 172 Matthew Southgate finished on four under for a tie for sixth place, along with South Africa's Branden Grace, who carded the first 62 in a men's major in the third round.

How the round unfolded

After the third round Spieth said he had learned from his 2016 Masters collapse, when he squandered a five-shot lead with nine holes remaining.

But he made a terrible start to his final round at Royal Birkdale, with three bogeys on the opening four holes.

Despite a birdie on the fifth, another dropped shot on the ninth meant he reached the turn level with his playing partner, who birdied the ninth.

Jordan Sieth
Spieth's Open hopes almost fell apart on the 13th hole

Then came the 13th and extraordinary scenes on Merseyside.

Spieth's wayward drive was 120 yards right of the fairway and went into the deep rough. After long discussions and debate with R&A rules officials, Spieth eventually took a penalty drop and played what became his third shot, more than 20 minutes after he struck his drive.

His shot pulled up short of the green and a chip and a putt resulted in a bogey that handed the lead to Kuchar - who parred the hole - for the first time in the round.

Spieth refused to let his head drop and almost holed his next shot from the tee on the par-three 14th.

The birdie brought him back level with Kuchar and he took the lead with an incredible 35ft putt for an eagle on the par-five 15th. Kuchar responded with a birdie, but it was advantage Spieth.

A further birdie on the 16th gave him a two-shot lead and when they traded birdies on the next, it was Spieth's to lose.

Kuchar's second shot to the last plugged into a greenside bunker and he was unable to get up and down to save par, while Spieth lagged his birdie putt and tapped in to finish with the three-shot advantage he had begun the round and claim the Claret Jug.


'Tough finishing second'

Kuchar, 39, had four birdies and three bogeys in his 69, but could not match four holes of brilliance from Spieth.

The world number 18, who made his Open debut at Royal Birkdale as an amateur in 1998, has now achieved his best ever major result.

Kuchar who said he was "crushed", added: "It was quite a battle. Jordan just turned it on. It was an amazing bogey he made at the 13th.

"I would've liked a few more of those putts to drop in. It's tough finishing second but I played well and all I can do is control how I played."

Spieth paid tribute to his Ryder Cup team-mate, adding: "What a great champion Matt is and a class act.

"I took about 20 minutes to play a shot today. Matt took it in his stride with a smile. He sets a great example for all of us."

The home nations' challenge

Four-time major winner McIlroy had struggled for form this year after being affected by a rib injury, and missed the cut at the US Open, Irish Open and Scottish Open in recent weeks.

He was five over par after six holes of his first round, but rescued a 71, before an accomplished 68 in tough weather conditions on Friday put him back in contention.

The 28-year-old shot a disappointing 69 in good scoring conditions on Saturday to fall nine shots off the lead but moved up the leaderboard with a steady final round and secured fourth place with an eagle on the par-five 17th.

"It was definitely a week of what might have been, but it's a step in the right direction," said McIlroy.

Leading English player Southgate, 28, who was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2015, will take home a cheque for $371,000 (£285,494) and automatically qualify for next year's Open.

The 2018 Open will be played at Carnoustie, where Southgate has been a member since the age of 16.

"It's something I'm very lucky to have and I think it's going to be an incredible turnout," said Southgate. "I think the whole of Carnoustie will be rooting for me.

"Carnoustie has got a very special place in my heart and my family's heart. I think it is the best golf course in the world. I can't wait to go and try to make them all proud."

Compatriot Paul Casey, who was four under after round one but wrecked his chances with a 77 to mark his 40th birthday on Friday, ended joint 11th on three under after a 67.

Ian Poulter (70) was tied for 14th on two under, alongside fellow Englishman Chris Wood (67), while Scotland's Richie Ramsay (72) finished on level par.

Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood and Andrew Johnston were all at one over, with Olympic champion Justin Rose at four over.

Alfie Plant finished on six over to take the Silver Medal, awarded to the best amateur, and then announced his intention to turn professional.

Li's round of his life and best of the rest

World 107 Li jumped 26 places on the leaderboard after he shot seven birdies in his bogey-free round to equal the lowest final round at a major.

With Spieth's lead dwindling on the first 13 holes, Li went to the practice range with brief hopes of a play-off.

"The Open means a lot, it is a dream come true," said Li, who gained notoriety at the French Open last month when he tossed his broken putter into a lake during the first round and his mother waded into the water to retrieve it.

"Since I played golf I wanted to play in the majors and win a major and I am happy to see I am getting closer and closer."

Henrik Stenson, the 2016 champion, was tied for 11th on three under after a final-round 70, while world number two Hideki Matsuyama (72) was a shot further back.

Canadian Austin Connelly, 20, who came through qualifying and only turned professional in 2015, slipped back with a 73 to finish tied for 14th on his major debut on two under.

Australia's Jason Day was one over, a shot ahead of Masters champion Sergio Garcia, while world number one Dustin Johnson had six bogeys and a double bogey to sign for a 77 and finish on four over.


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