SANDWICH, England — So flawless for so long, Louis Oosthuizen started making his worst swings of the week Saturday as his two-shot lead evaporated in the British Open.

With an hour left in a third round as undulating as the fairways at Royal St. George’s, Oosthuizen found himself tied for the lead with Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth and facing a 10-foot par putt to avoid falling behind.

“I was a bit upset there,” the South African said, “but got myself quickly together.”

Oosthuizen delivered a key par save on No. 15 and an 8-foot birdie on the par-3 No. 16. He finished with a 1-under-par 69, leaving him with a one-stroke lead and another good shot at ending his 11-year wait for a second major title.

“I will play my heart out tomorrow,” the 2010 Open champion said, “and see if I can lift the claret jug again.”

The day ended pretty much as it had started, with Oosthuizen, Morikawa and Spieth occupying the top three spots, three shots separating them.

Joel Dahmen, a former two-time Washington high school state champion at Clarkston and University of Washington player, carded two birdies on the back nine and finished with a 1-under 69 to sit in a seven-way tie for 18th place at 4-under 206.

Plenty happened, especially on the back nine and — most tellingly — on the 18th green, where Spieth missed a par putt from two feet for his second consecutive bogey to drop three shots back again.

Barely 45 minutes earlier, he was just off the green in two at the par-5 No. 14 and seemingly on the brink of taking the lead.

After making only par there and then bogeying Nos. 17 and 18, Spieth ran off for some putting practice after a round of 69. The R&A said he declined all media requests.

It wasn’t long before Morikawa and Oosthuizen, each one-time major winners some 10 years apart, were walking onto the green at the last. Oosthuizen’s long putt over a hump from the right of the green settled close to the hole for his par, then Morikawa slid a 12-foot birdie putt just past the hole.

Morikawa, the PGA champion last year and in his first links test, settled for a 68 and trimmed Oosthuizen’s lead to one shot. He had been four shots behind after 10 holes and made a strong push at about the time Oosthuizen showed signs of fading.

“I don’t have much experience on links golf, and pretty much all the highlights in my head are from this week,” he said. “Thankfully there is quite a few. Hopefully we can just use that momentum from the first three days and just bring it into the last 18.”

Oosthuizen, a runner-up in the previous two majors, was at 12-under 198 and on course to be the first wire-to-wire winner at golf’s oldest championship since Rory McIlroy in 2014.

The pin positions — rather than the weather — proved to be the greatest defense at Royal St. George’s on a day when the wind didn’t get above 10 mph and a cloudless sky with bright sunshine looked sure to bring more low scoring.

However, pins were tucked away, sometimes near slopes, while the firmer fairways brought the deep rough and pot bunkers into play.

“Those are some of hardest pin locations collectively I’ve ever seen,” said No. 2-ranked Jon Rahm, who shot 68 and is in contention, five shots off the lead.

A number of other big names were unable to launch a challenge.

Corey Conners (66) and Scottie Scheffler (69) moved into contention at 8 under while Rahm — looking to add the British Open to his U.S. Open win in June — was 7 under alongside MacKenzie Hughes and Dylan Frittelli.

Marcel Siem, who qualified from the second-tier Challenge Tour in Europe only last week, rebounded from an 8 after going out-of-bounds at the par-5 14th with two birdies in his final three holes. He was in a three-way tie for ninth place, six off the lead.

Dahmen played steady throughout. He bogeyed the par-4, 447-yard No. 1 to fall back to 2 under for the the tournament. Then he showed consistency, parring the next 13 holes until he got to the par-5, 555-yard No. 14. Dahmen took advantage of the easiest hole on the course this week and converted for his first birdie of the day. He then parred the next three holes before coming to No. 18. There, he carded a birdie on the par-4, 448-yard hole for his score.

For the week, Dahmen has nine birdies and just five bogeys.

All are chasing Oosthuizen, who won the Open in 2010 and has rung up a career Grand Slam of runner-up finishes since then. That includes the U.S. Open, when he was leading with two holes to play until Rahm’s birdie-birdie finish. He also was runner-up in the PGA Championship to Phil Mickelson.

Dahmen will tee off at 1 p.m. local time (5 a.m. Pacific) in today’s final round with playing partner Jason Kokrak.

Recommended for you