Jordan Spieth leads the American surge to take three-shot lead at the Open

U-S-A, U-S-A. If the United States could bottle this scene, there would be little point in playing the Ryder Cup. Who do they think they are, coming over here and creating the narrative for our tournaments? In Jordan Spieth, the US has provided the man now within touching distance of what would be the third part of a career grand slam. Once more, and after the shortest of lulls, he is the man of the moment to the point where it would be a shock if Spieth does not hold the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.

With 18 holes to play the leaderboard may as well have a backdrop of the stars and stripes. Spieth and Matt Kuchar will take to Royal Birkdale last on Sunday, the contrasting aspirations therein testimony to how the game can span the ages. Kuchar played in the 1998 Open here; Spieth was five at the time.

Kuchar remains in pursuit of maiden major success. Spieth’s three-stroke advantage – he sits at 11 under after a second 65 of the week – renders him the overwhelming favourite, as does the earlier collection of major titles. Still, there is a fascinating and potentially negative back-story for the 23-year-old. He has not won any of the four marquee events since the dramatic and disastrous capitulation that cost him the 2016 Masters from a supposed position of formality.

This may well be straw clutching; when Spieth holed for a birdie from the fringe of the 18th green, putter aloft in celebration, even he seemed to appreciate the strength of his position. Kuchar’s 66, a terrific effort in its own right, could not stem the flow.

Brooks Koepka’s dropped shot at the last meant he slipped back to five under and needing assistance from those ahead. Hideki Matsuyama is a shot worse off with Dustin Johnson, a suddenly reinvigorated world No1, Henrik Stenson and Rafa Cabrera-Bello among those at minus three.

Rory McIlroy had threatened to gatecrash the party before a disastrous double bogey at the 10th, the kind of heavy scorecard error that has badly affected his 2017 results. McIlroy has Ross Fisher, Richie Ramsay and Ian Poulter for company in supplying at least some European backup.

The most remarkable leaderboard story of them all is Austin Connelly, a 20-year-old dual national of the United States and Canada. His appearance is so boyish he would struggle to purchase alcohol but there is nothing inexperienced about his game.

Connelly, who has created only minor ripples on the European Tour this season, converted from 20ft at the last for a 66 and five-under aggregate. He sits on the same score as Koepka, ahead of major champions and players ranked considerably higher than his own placing of 524th.

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