Posted by: Pete Robertson | July 17, 2011

A Wide Open Championship.

Heading into the final day at Royal St George’s, it’s anyone’s guess as to who will raise the Claret Jug on Sunday evening.

Current leader Darren Clarke will be pinching himself, and his mentality of simply smiling and enjoying himself is clearly paying off. At 5 under par, he is fortunate to have missed the worst of the weather on Saturday, but took advantage of the conditions, striking the ball superbly from tee to green. And his lead could have been greater still, only his self confessed problems on the greens letting him down. The 42 year old Northern Irishman will be doing all he can on Sunday to hold on to his slender lead, and go one better than his second place finish in this competition at Royal Troon in 1997.

Leader Darren Clarke will look to stay ahead of the chasing pack.

Clarke’s greatest threat as it stands comes in the form of 27 year old American Dustin Johnson. The big hitter shared the lead for a short while on Saturday, and will hope that he can post an under par score on Sunday. If he manages that, the weather could just do the rest for him, and he will stand every chance of breaking the current duck facing American’s in major tournaments, not having won in the last five.

Thomas Bjorn did not even know he would be playing at this year’s Open Championship until Monday, but has seemingly taken it all in his stride. The 40 year old Dane took a share for the lead after the first day, and is still in the hunt for the Claret Jug, currently just three shots off the lead at -2. A win tomorrow would be sweet retribution for Bjorn, who infamously threw away a two shot lead here in 2003 with just three holes to play, handing the win to Ben Curtis, by taking three shots to get out of what is now known as ‘Bjorn’s Bunker’.

American Ricky Fowler put in the round of the day on Saturday, shooting a two under par 68 in the midst of the wind and rain, to put himself in a very healthy position heading into Sunday’s final round. And Fowler will be looking to emulate the recent exploits of fellow youngster Rory McIlroy by winning his first major championship, and well and truly kick starting what could well be a long and successful career. Certainly, a repeat performance of his round on Saturday, or looking further back, his singles match at the 2010 Ryder Cup, and only the very foolish will write off one of the most talented youngsters in golf.

But any score under par after three days is an excellent effort in the tricky conditions we’ve seen, and Lucas Glover and Miguel Angel Jiminez have played better golf over three days than their one under par scores suggest. Both still have a great chance to win, and a good final round, combined with some luck of the weather, could easily see either of them topping the leaderboard after Sunday’s play.

Miguel Angel Jiminez smokes his trademark cigar.

But of these six, who will finish on top? Personally, I’m going to go with my heart and cheer on both Darren Clarke and Thomas Bjorn. Clarke is one of the most liked players on tour, and has faced so much adversity though his career, sadly mostly off the golf course, that a win on Sunday would mean just that little bit more. And for Bjorn, what better way to put to bed the demons that haunted him in that bunker on the 16th hole eight long years ago, than doing what he deserved to do then and lift the Claret Jug, winning his first major along the way?

But with the weather predicted to be bad once again, who’s to say that the likes of Phil Mickleson, Rory McIlroy or even Tom Watson couldn’t do the unpredictable and come from far behind to mount a serious challenge. Anything could happen on Sunday at Royal St George’s, and I can’t wait.

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