ST ANDREWS (Scotland) • Graeme McDowell believes the St Andrews Old Course might need some tweaks to protect it against the modern-day big hitters after a third-round birdie feast at the British Open yesterday.
With the high winds of Saturday, that forced the third round to be delayed a day, replaced by a gentle breeze and greens and fairways soft and lush, 2010 US Open champion McDowell fired eight birdies, although two double-bogeys saw him card a two-under 70 for a two-under 214 total.
Australia's Marc Leishman shot the round of the championship as he carded a 64 to catapult up the leader board at nine-under.
At press time, he stood within one shot of British Open front runner Dustin Johnson, who made par in his two opening holes.
Leishman came within one shot of a record-tying score of 63 at a Major championship. But he will still be delighted after making the cut deadline by one shot and starting yesterday nine shots off the pace.
Eight birdies in a bogey-free round suddenly put Leishman, whose best finish at a Major was fourth at the 2014 Masters, into the running to become the first Australian to win the Open since Greg Norman at Royal St George's in 1993.
Englishman Eddie Pepperell, making his Open debut, was the second early big mover as he went from two-under to nine-under through 15 holes, thanks to seven birdies without dropping a shot.
The 7,297-yard, par-72 course needs the elements to offer it some protection but it had none yesterday. American veteran Jim Furyk, 45, said "they were as good a scoring condition as I've ever seen here" after a six-under 66.
Said Northern Ireland's McDowell: "You start to see an old test like this one and start wondering what they can do with it to keep it up.
"The bunkers are starting to become - a lot of them are not in play any more, when you see the type of power that these guys are kind of using and putting on the golf ball.
"I think, with a little bit of a tweak here and there and tightening up some areas, (it will) make guys think a little bit more on some of the tee shots."
He added: "I don't think you've got to go put a tonne of yardage on this golf course.
"I think if this golf course just had a tiny bit more rough and the bunkers were slightly up to modern yardages, I think this golf course is still all there in front of you."
Texan Jordan Spieth's quest for a rare third straight Major title continued yesterday with three birdies and a bogey in his front nine.
The 21-year-old was two-under on the day and seven-under for the tournament at press time.
REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE