Saturday at the Open: A quick 18

1. NOT AS BAD AS IT LOOKED: David Duval finally put together two good rounds to get into contention at the British Open, raising the idea that he was close to breaking out of a mystifying slump.

Then came a triple bogey on the first hole at Royal Birkdale, and an 83 on his card to match his highest score in this major. Yet none of that changed his outlook.

“I don’t walk away from today’s round any less confident than yesterday’s round,” Duval said. “If anything, I gained confidence with how I struck the ball and maintained my rhythm. You need good bounces on a day like this to have a good score. I just got behind it and couldn’t get any nice things to happen.”

He didn’t make a par until the fifth hole, and didn’t make a birdie all day. But he wasn’t alone. Duval had one of nine rounds in the 80s.

“It’s about as hard as I’ve ever played in,” Duval said. “I don’t know how you can describe it. You have to be out there trying to hit a shot to appreciate it. How do you judge on one hole if a 2-iron is going to go 160 yards, and on the next hole a 5-iron is going to go 230 yards? There’s a lot of guessing out there.”

2. PETER ALLISS QUOTE OF THE DAY: BBC commentator Peter Alliss saved his best line of the day for last. “Yeah, it’s getting wild,” said Alliss, speaking of the windy conditions just before leaving the ABC booth. “Even the seagulls are walking.”

3. WHICH MEANS…: Said Paul Azinger: “It’s a great day to be a kite.”

4. A TRULY ROYAL BIRKDALE: Paul Casey flared his second shot on the par-5 15th well to right, near a cluster of gorse bushes and into deep grass. Marshals already were searching for the ball when Casey joined them, and then came a mild surprise.

“I looked over and HRH was right there with them,” he said.

That would be His Royal Highness – Prince Andrew – who had been watching him play and decided to help look. He mentioned to Casey that he also had hit his shot in the same area when playing Birkdale last week.

“I said, ‘Did you find it?’ And he said, ‘Didn’t bother looking,’” Casey said.

Casey never found his ball, had to return to the fairway and made a double bogey in his round of 73.

5. NOMINEE FOR BEST SARCASTIC CELEBRATION: Jean Van de Velde, after sinking a 6-footer for eagle on No. 17 Saturday. After the putt dropped, Van de Velde – who began the day four shots off the lead and shot a third-round 80 – raised his arms in the air, turned around to the crowd and waved. He then hugged his caddie. On the 17th green.

6. UP TO PAR?: Not one player in the field broke par in the third round, and only four players shot even-par 70. Simon Wakefield, Ben Curtis, Henrik Stenson, and Davis Love III all shot par.

7. MOVING DAY: Wakefield’s 70 moved him from 22nd to fourth. Curtis vaulted from 38th to T-5 with his 70. Stenson rose from 52nd to T-9, and Love III went from 69th to T-15.

8. HURRY UP AND WAIT: It took about five hours to play the third round, thanks to two delays on the 10th hole from wind so strong the ball wouldn’t stop moving.

The most bizarre was what happened to Fredrik Jacobson.

His ball was in the bunker on No. 10, and when he got ready to step into the sand, he noticed the ball moving.

“The ball was rolling five times in the sand before I walked down in the bunker,” Jacobson said. “I was scared of getting a penalty shot if I walked down, because if it counted as addressing the ball and the ball moved … I could have been standing in that bunker still trying to replace that ball.”

Jacobson checked with a rules official, and the discussion caused a huge backup behind them. By the time Greg Norman and K.J. Choi got to the 10th tee, they had to wait 30 minutes.

“I would have refused to play if I was penalized,” Jacobson said. “So they made an exception.”

Stephen Ames was playing with Jacobson, and he had to wait while finishing off his triple bogey. As usual, Ames held nothing back about how it was handled.

“They had to assess whether it was a penalty or not,” Ames said. “The guys didn’t know the rules.”

9. TIME IS MONEY: The final three groups took 1 hour, 12 minutes to complete the 10th hole, and played it in 8 over.

10. ELEMENTARY, WATSON: Tom Watson made his ABC debut in the broadcast booth during Saturday’s third round, and said Jack Nicklaus was the benchmark of talent in golf, not Tiger Woods. Watson also said Nicklaus was the best player out of the rough in the history of the game. When the crew was discussing players grounding putters, Watson chimed in with a tidbit that Nicklaus never ground his putter on the green.

How’s that for respect?

11. FIVE FOR FIGHTING: Peter Hanson needed five putts – yes, five putts – on the par-4 10th. Three of those putts came from less than 2 feet.

12. A LASTING FIRST IMPRESSION: There have been 11 players in Open Championship history who won the event in their first try. The last was Ben Curtis in 2003, but the last before him was Tom Watson in 1975 at Carnoustie. Anthony Kim has the best chance of achieving that feat as he sits in a tie for fifth five strokes back of Norman entering the final round.

13. DECENT ODDS: Of the 11 players who have led after the third round of eight different British Opens held at Royal Birkdale, five have gone on to win. Ian Baker-Finch was tied with Mark O’Meara heading into the final round in 1991 and went on to win along with Lee Trevino (1971), Peter Thomson (1965), Arnold Palmer (1961), and Thomson again in 1954.

14. SHOTS HEARD AROUND THE WORLD: At the PGA Tour’s U.S. Bank Championship, on-course reporter Dottie Pepper was walking with Jason Gore up the 15th fairway and reported back to the booth their conversation: “He asked me who was leading at the British Open,” Pepper said. “And you guys would have paid to see the look on his face when I told him who it was, and that he had a two-shot lead. It was classic.”

15. THE LAST ENGLISH HOPE: The English had high hopes of a first British Open triumph since Nick Faldo in 1992, looking to the likes of Lee Westwood, Ian Poulter, Justin Rose and Paul Casey to provide it.

Few thought that the Englishman just behind the leaders at Birkdale would be Simon Wakefield – and even he wasn’t really expecting it.

“I was very nervous this morning over breakfast,” said Wakefield, who began the day tied for 22nd. “I might not sleep tonight. It’s a very unfamiliar territory for me. I am going to try and relax tonight and try not to think about it.”

Wakefield is ranked 340th in the Golfweek/Sagarin Rankings.

16. LEFT OUT: Phil Mickelson won’t be in the mix on Sunday afternoon as a third-round 76 put him at 13-over 223 for the week.

Mickelson has struggled at the Open Championship. In 15 starts, he has one top-10 finish – a third at the 2004 British. His other best finish is a T-11 in 2000, and he’s cracked the top 25 just two other times in 2006 (T-22) and 1997 (T-24).

17. LOW AMATEUR: Twenty-year-old amateur Chris Wood is running away with the low amateur race at the British Open. Wood is tied for ninth after rounds of 75-70-73.

18. COINCIDENCE OR FATE?: The last time the 54-hole lead fell at over par at the Open Championship was in 1986 at Turnberry. The leader that year? Greg Norman.

– Staff and wire reports

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