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Spieth in 3-way tie for Open lead

CARNOUSTIE, United Kingdom (AFP) – Jordan Spieth is dream­ing of retaining the Claret Jug after a standout third round at the Brit­ish Open on Saturday left him in a share of the overall lead with fellow Americans Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner.

 Jordan Spieth of the US plays a shot off the third tee during the third round of the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. (AP)

Jordan Spieth of the US plays a shot off the third tee during the third round of the British Open Golf Championship in Carnoustie, Scotland. (AP)

The trio were locked together on nine under par at the end of a thrilling day in perfect conditions at Carnoustie, but at least a dozen other players are still right in con­tention, among them Tiger Woods after he rolled back the years on the Scottish links.

Spieth had started the day at three-under for the tournament, but made his intentions clear with a stunning eagle at the par-4 first hole – the rest of his round fea­tured four birdies and not a single dropped shot for a six-under-par 65.

Now he finds himself primed to follow up his victory at Royal Birkdale 12 months ago and be­come the first golfer to retain the British Open title since Padraig Harrington a decade ago.

‘‘I feel like my game’s in good shape. It’s progressed nicely. We’ve got pretty much a new tournament tomorrow,’’ said Spi­eth, who had popped into Car­noustie town centre for a haircut before his round.

Kisner, with whom Spieth is sharing a house in Scotland this week, had started the day in a share of the lead with Zach John­son and cemented his strong po­sition with a bogey-free 68.

‘‘Today was the most solid tee to green I’ve played all week,’’ said Kisner, who has never won a major, although he also led going into the final round of last year’s US PGA Championship before finishing tied for seventh.

Meanwhile Schauffele, at 24 the same age as Spieth, shot a 67 to considerably boost his own chances of a first major victory.

With Kevin Chappell the near­est challenger to the leading trio on seven-under, the prospects of a sixth consecutive major being won by an American are high, but there is still hope for the Europe­an contingent.

Italy’s Francesco Molinari had a bogey-free 65 and is six-under, while Sweden’s Alex Noren is at five-under along with Rory McIl­roy and Tommy Fleetwood.

The latter two were unable to convert positions of strength, with McIlroy’s 70 featuring four bogeys and Fleetwood having an inconsistent 71.

‘‘We’ll see. The wind is sup­posed to pick up, so that might be a helping hand,’’ said Fleetwood of his chances of becoming the first English winner of the Claret Jug since Nick Faldo in 1992.

The group on five-under also includes Johnson and Woods, who captivated huge galleries as he shot a 66, arguably his best round in a major for a decade.

Woods even had luck on his side at the 18th, when his drive landed a foot away from the Barry Burn only to bounce away from the water to the rela­tive safety of the long grass – he then salvaged a par after a tre­mendous approach shot.

‘‘That was good. I played well today. I really did. I hit a lot of good shots. I really didn’t feel like I really made a bad swing until 18,’’ he said.

Woods is still a huge draw, with his playing partner, South Africa’s Shaun Norris saying it was ‘‘like playing with a mythical creature’’, and if he can emerge from the pack to win the title on Sunday it would probably be his greatest victory yet.

History shows that almost anything can happen at Car­noustie, where Paul Lawrie won in a playoff in 1999 after starting the day 10 shots back.

Even those in the large group at four-under will still believe in their chances, including Eng­land’s Justin Rose, who produced a seven-under-par 64 early in the day.