Can Paul Casey follow Nick Faldo as an English winner of the British Open? We'll find out Sunday. (Getty Images)
What to expect on Sunday? Who knows?
Contemplating that big yellow British Open leaderboard looming over the Old Course, Melanie Hauser has more questions than the Old Course has undulations. The biggest one? Well, they're all big. And the answers? Well, there's only one way to get them.
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.com Correspondent
ST. ANDREWS, Scotland -- One question. OK. Maybe two. Or three. Or …
With one round left in this 139th British Open at St. Andrews, there seems to be a leaderboard full of them.
Anyone jump out at you? Anyone scream proper winner for the Home of Golf? Any name demand that you run out a plop a few quid down at the window?
And while we’re at it, anyone wondering if the engraver might have to try and fit the third-round leader’s full name -- Lodewicus Theodorus Oosthuizen -- on the Claret Jug?
What could have been an Open for the ages -- this is the 150th anniversary of the very first Open -- has morphed into the latest wide-open major. And another 18-hole sprint for your next first-time major champion.
South African Louis Oosthuizen? Englishman Paul Casey? Both have played exquisite golf for the past three days and set themselves apart.
Oosthuizen leads by four and people are still struggling to pronounce his last name. Louis they can do. Shrek, too. That’s his nickname. And, yes, he was wondering why he wore green Saturday, too.
Casey is chattering his way around the course, holing putts and explaining how a one-degree difference in loft on his driver increased his spin rate -- think RPMs -- and gave him a chance to stop the ball in the rain. He’s three shots clear of Germany’s Martin Kaymer, the next player on the board. He’s been there once -- he was one shot back going into the final round at the 2004 Masters. He wound up tied for sixth.
Could this play out like the U.S. Open? Could Louis -- oh, that’s so much easier to read and say -- where Dustin Johnson didn’t at Pebble Beach last month? Johnson was up by three going into the final day and … well, we won’t belabor the story. You know. He knows. So does Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, who started the day in second place and played his way to the U.S. Open title.
That Sunday there was a who’s-who lined up to give chase. Tiger Woods. Phil Mickelson. Ernie Els. Even McDowell, who was known as a great ballstriker.
But here? Glance at the top 17 players on the mustard-yellow Open board and you’ll find two majors -- both belonging to Retief Goosen. Two U.S. Opens. Unless, of course, you count the four majors -- two British Opens and two Masters -- that Henrik Stenson’s caddy Fanny Sunesson won with Nick Faldo.
This is, without question, an international board. And one with more than a bit of street cred to it. Casey, Kaymer, Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy are all in the top dozen in the world. Westwood has nine top-10s in majors and has finished in the top three in three of the last four majors. The fourth? He was 16th at Pebble Beach.
Kaymer tied for eighth at Pebble Beach and shared ninth at last year’s PGA Championship. McIlroy made quite a run in 2009, tying for third at the PGA, sharing 10th at the U.S. Open and tying for 20th at the Masters, and Stenson, who is ranked 33rd, has four top-10s in majors. Sergio Garcia is lurking back there at 4 under with McIlroy and praying for a chance.
Johnson, who closed with an 82 that Sunday at Pebble and finished with a share of eighth, is right there in the hope-and-pray area with Nick Watney, Sean O’Hair and Ricky Barnes, all young guns waiting for the biggest breaks of their careers.
And Tiger? He’s 12 back and, along with everyone else, praying for a St. Andrews miracle. And, yes, a chance at a third Open at the Old Course will likely have to wait until the next time around. Maybe 2015.
Will this turn into a two-man race in the final pairing with Louis and Casey? Will Westwood make a run? Will someone catch fire like McIlroy did in Round 1 and throw out a 63?
Oosthuizen, who grew up playing in the wind, has already heard from former Open champs Els and Gary Player, who’ve wished him luck. He hung in there down the stretch Saturday and widened his lead. He saved par at 17 and birdied 18. He feels a bit like a lesser-known, less-tested McDowell. But who knows?
Casey is fresh off a vacation and a strong week of work with Peter Kostis and wondering if he’ll follow in Nick Faldo’s 2000 footsteps here. He watched Faldo and went straight to the range to work on the same shots. Saturday, he threw out a 31 on the front nine and played par golf on the way back in. He’s been primed for a major for a while, as has Westwood, but with the latter, eight shots may be too much to ask.
Oosthuizen and Casey two are hoping for another glorious day. One where, if one of them throws out a 68, he’ll likely win going away. King Louis? Sir Paul? Neither one is out of the question.
Everyone else? They’re hoping St. Andrews puts on her boxing gloves once again. They want to see her at her best. They want to see everything’s she’s got.
So cue the wind and let it blow off the North Sea. Bring in the rain -- patchy, driving or drizzly. Chill the air. Keep an eye on the Road Hole and the Valley of Sin and the 11th hole that takes tee shots for wild rides.
It’s the final day of the Open Championship.
You’re supposed to be filled with questions. Come Sunday night we’ll all have the answers.