The signs were good that Bryce Molder would play well on Saturday. (Kinnaird/Getty Images)
Notebook: Molder makes day's biggest move into top 10
TURNBERRY, Scotland (PA) -- Bryce Molder leapt into contention in the Open Championship Saturday after a third-round 67 lifted him to level par for the tournament and tied for eighth.
With most of the field struggling to stay under par, the 30-year-old from Arkansas had five birdies from the eighth to turn around his fortunes after bogeys at the third and fifth.
The Open is Molder's first major as a professional, having previously finished tied 30th in the U.S. Open in 2001 as an amateur before joining the paid ranks later that year.
Now he fully intends to seize his opportunity, having qualified via a mini-Order of Merit on the PGA Tour.
"I got here through a PGA Tour qualification during which there was a five-week stretch where the low two guys made it and I happened to have two really good finishes," said Molder, who has no left pectoral muscle (making that side of his chest concave) and also has a rare defect that means his left hand is much smaller than his right.
"It's been a lifelong dream to come here. I played Walker Cup and a Palmer Cup (college equivalent of the Ryder Cup) in St. Andrews, but that was 10 years ago,” he added. "I love it here, I love the golf here. I woke up today and said a little prayer just to help me enjoy the day.
"You need a little bit of luck, but I made the putts when I needed to,” he said. “I made three 25-footers."
McILROY NOT READY YET: Northern Ireland's Rory McIlroy doesn’t believe he is ready to win a major yet but wants to change that in the next couple of years.
The 20-year-old was among the favorites behind Tiger Woods to win the Open this week, but a third-round 74 ended any distant hopes of that. Instead, the world No. 22 is focusing on improving on his best finish on his only other appearance at an Open, two years ago when he won the Silver Medal for leading amateur after coming in 42nd.
Asked if being one of the pre-tournament favorites had been detrimental, McIlroy replied: "No, because the favourite missed the cut so I have done better than him.
"I knew coming in here there were a lot of guys who had a better chance of winning this tournament than me,” he added. "I still feel it is too early for me to win a major. I have a lot of improving to do and maybe in a couple of years' time I can talk about it."
He began Saturday 3 over and needed a good round to edge himself closer to the top 10, but bogeys on his opening three holes put paid to that. However, he arrested the slide and finished with three successive birdies to show that when he is on his game anything is possible.
"I didn't get off to the best starts; I just didn't hit the fairways and put myself behind the 8- ball," he said. "I was 5 over through five and then I held it together. From the sixth onwards, I was 1 under. I was pretty happy with the way I finished, and if I can go out tomorrow and play like I did the last nine holes today, I could shoot a good score.
"I finished 42nd in my first Open Championship and if I can shoot a good one and finish better -- maybe in the top 20 or 30 -- then I feel I will have done well considering how I have played this week,” he added. “Today I have hit some of the best shots I have all year and some of the worst ones. I just need to bring it all together."
EDFORS PLOWS LONE FURROW: Sweden's Johan Edfors failed to gain any inspiration from being first man out on his own in the third round, but at least he enjoyed the experience.
The 33-year-old Swede made the cut for the first time after three previous appearances in the tournament had all ended on the Friday. He began the day 4 over and, after opting not to play with a marker, shot a 2-over 72 in just over three hours after teeing off at 8:40 a.m.
"It was a nice round playing on my own. I played a little bit better even though the score was not the best," said Edfors, who finished with two birdies, including holing a putt from off the green at the last. "I enjoyed it, I could take my time. It suited me really nicely.
"I was told by my coach not to rush and I tried to take my time. I had a good walk with my caddie, the markers and the rakers,” he explained. "The wind died down a bit so it was playing a bit friendlier on the back nine but I did not really take advantage.
"It was a nice finish. I was a little disappointed I had a poor three-putt on 16 and [missed] a 10-footer for eagle on 17, but to hole that one from off the green at 18 was a bonus."
LUKE BACKS TOM: Luke Donald is "not surprised at all" that 59-year-old Tom Watson is playing so well -- and Paul Casey thinks it would be "fantastic" if the American went on to win.
"I've always thought he was a great ball-striker," said Donald after a third-round 70 kept him at 3 over.
Watson and Donald played together the first two days at St. Andrews in 2005 -- Jack Nicklaus was the third member of the group and the center of attention in his last Open -- and Watson finished 41st there.
"What most impressed me was, in a left-to-right wind, he could draw the ball and hold it perfectly," added Donald. "We've had a lot of that here and obviously he's got a huge amount of talent."
Casey, the current world No. 3 and therefore the highest-ranked player left in following Tiger Woods' exit and Phil Mickelson's absence, managed only a 74 and dropped to 8 over.
On Watson and 49-year-old Mark Calcavecchia being in contention for the Claret Jug, Casey commented: "It's about controlling yourself and controlling the ball and those guys still have supreme skills. It's great to watch."
Casey, three times a winner this year, dropped four shots in the first five holes to dash any hopes of getting back into the title race.
"A very difficult course on a very difficult day," was his assessment. "If you don't have control of your ball and try to guide it in any way you're going to be penalized.
"I love the course,” he said. “I just wish I was playing better. It just beats you up."