Jordan Spieth is the clear favorite to win the 2017 Open Championship at Royal Birkdale Golf Club in Southport, England, on Sunday, but savvy veteran Matt Kuchar, who has seven PGA Tour wins and made 28 of his last 31 major cuts, is hot on his heels.
Here’s a look at the latest leaderboard and predictions for three top golfers when play ends Sunday.
The 2017 U.S. Open champion took a month off after winning his first major in mid-June, but he hasn’t looked rusty at Royal Birkdale, finishing the third round in a tie for third place with 20-year-old Austin Connelly.
Koepka has an advantage over many other American golfers on links courses, as he began his professional career in Europe, playing on the Challenge and European Tours. That has certainly helped him this week.
He also seems to bring his best at majors. Since the 2015 U.S. Open, Koepka has not finished worse than 21st in any event and has registered top-10 finishes four times.
Expect him to finish strong at Royal Birkdale, but with Spieth holding a healthy six-shot lead over Koepka entering the final round, it will be very difficult for him to win the Claret Jug.
Prediction: Third place (seven under)
The 39-year-old Kuchar, who has seemingly been in the top five of every single Masters during his professional career (in reality, it’s four of the last six), is making waves at Royal Birkdale, which suits him well.
Kuchar doesn’t drive the ball far (he is 162nd on the PGA Tour in that statistic), but Royal Birkdale awards accurate, smart and technically sound players who are creative and can manage the elements.
Kuchar is that guy, as he’s proven over three rounds by shooting eight under overall. If not for a double bogey on the 16th hole Saturday, then Kuchar could be neck and neck with Spieth for the Claret Jug.
However, Kuchar has a three-shot deficit staring him down right now. That can be erased in the matter of one hole, but Spieth is playing so well that it’s hard to see him giving up a three-shot edge.
Still, Kuchar should do well again on Sunday and secure a second-place finish.
Prediction: Second place (11 under)
Spieth, who is looking for his third major win, finished with bogey-free rounds on Thursday and Saturday, shooting a combined 12 under.
However, Spieth’s best performance in this tournament may have come on Friday, a day filled with nasty winds and rain that led to many high scores. Only eight players managed to finish under par during the second round, and Spieth was one of those eight.
He’s been nothing but spectacular this weekend and looks unstoppable right now. Although a comeback from Kuchar or a wild card outside the final grouping isn’t impossible, it’s hard to pick anyone but Spieth to win considering his nearly flawless play this week.
Prediction: Winner (13 under)
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