By Simon Evans
PORTRUSH (Reuters) – Brooks Koepka is well-placed to complete one of the greatest major seasons as he goes into the final round of the British Open in equal fourth place on Sunday.
The relentless Koepka has hardly hit a bad shot all week, boldly proclaiming that nobody has played better, only a cold putter preventing him from being closer to leader Shane Lowry at Royal Portrush on Saturday.
Koepka will tee off on Sunday trailing Lowry by seven strokes, but only three shots behind second-placed Tommy Fleetwood.
And the American was licking his lips at the wild weather forecast of strong winds and rain, which he thinks will give him a better chance than calm conditions.
“It’s going to be an advantage for me,” he said after a four-under-par 67 in benign conditions.
“Nobody has hit it better than me this week. Difficult conditions, that’s what I need.”
Koepka is having a major year for the ages, finishing equal second at the Masters, first at the PGA Championship and second at the U.S. Open.
He has led an American challenge that has dominated the rest of the world, with Tiger Woods (Masters), Koepka (PGA Championship) and Gary Woodland (U.S. Open) winning this year’s three majors.
A victory by Koepka or any other American on Sunday would complete the first sweep by the country since 1982.
But he knows his putter needs to heat up to have any chance.
“I’ve hit it as good as I could possibly imagine (and) putted the worst in the entire field,” he said. “It’s been really bad.
“I need to figure out the putter.”
Koepka is not the only American within striking distance of Lowry.
J.B. Holmes, the joint halfway leader, is closest, after a birdie at the final hole for a 69 left him six behind Lowry. The Irishman’s 63 lifted him to an Open record 54-hole score of 16-under 197.
Holmes’ round was no disgrace but it felt like that as he played with a rampant Lowry.
“It wasn’t like it was terrible but you’re playing with a guy making everything, it feels like you shot a million,” he said.
Rickie Fowler, Jordan Spieth and Tony Finau probably thought they would be well positioned as they signed their cards, little knowing that Lowry would reel off a hat-trick of birdies from the 15th to open a big lead.
Fowler ended the day eight strokes behind, while Spieth and Finau were nine off the pace.
“I’m going to be in aggressive mode,” Finau said. “I’m not trying to come close.”
(Reporting by Simon Evans/Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Tony Lawrence)