LYTHAM, England (AFP) — Adam Scott shot a two-under-par 68 in the third round of the British Open at Royal Lytham yesterday for a four-stroke lead and a golden opportunity to win a long-overdue first major title.
The 32-year-old Australian firstly overhauled faltering third-round leader and playing partner Brandt Snedeker to move ahead, and then he resisted a charge by a fired-up Tiger Woods.
When the dust had settled, Scott had a handy cushion out in front at 11-under-par 199, four strokes clear of Ulsterman Graeme McDowell, who finished strongly for a 67, and Snedeker, who had a 73.
Woods was alone a further stroke back at six under after a 70.
Tied on five under and still in with a chance were 2002 champion Ernie Els from South Africa, who signed for a 68, and 2007 Masters champion Zach Johnson of the United States with a day's best 66.
A win for Scott on Sunday would make him the first Australian to win The Open since Greg Norman at Royal St George's in 1993, and it would finally remove any lingering doubts over his big occasion temperament.
For the moment though, he said that he had no intention of getting ahead of himself.
Widely regarded as one of the best current players yet to win a major, Scott started the day one shot behind Snedeker after firing rounds of 64 and 67 and while he parred the first six holes with his "stress-free" golf, Snedeker finally proved fallible with his putter.
After 40 bogey-less holes, the American missed a five-footer at the fifth and then had to hit out sideways from a deep pot-bunker at the next, the first trap he had found in the tournament.
The net result of that was that Scott had sole possession of the lead and when he birdied the seventh and eighth and Snedeker bogeyed eight and nine, the Australian suddenly was four strokes clear of the field.
Playing in the group ahead of them, Woods, seeking a 14th major title four years after his memorable win in the US Open at Torrey Pines, was intent on closing the gap on the leaders to give himself a fighting chance today.
He got off to a miserable start by missing makeable par putts at the first and third, but a monster putt at the sixth and further birdies at the seventh and ninth saw him reach the turn in 33 level with Snedeker at seven under.
He parred his way down the back nine until a bogey at the 15th set him back and dashed the prospect of him joining Scott and Woods' former caddie, Stevie Williams, in Sunday's final pairing.
Woods said that considering the way his round had started, a score of par-70 was a reasonable outcome.
McDowell, who tied for second at last month's US Open in San Francisco behind Webb Simpson, had an up-and-down round but he had three birdies down the back nine to skip up the leaderboard.
Rory McIlroy, Lee Westwood and Luke Donald were among the big names to finish their third rounds early and all failed to produce the kind of low scoring that could have put them back in the mix.