SOUTHPORT, England — Austin Connelly is making a name for himself at the British Open this week.
Just not to Jordan Spieth.
Connelly birdied his last two holes for a 66 on Saturday, leaving him six shots out of the lead and in the penultimate group with U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka.
The 20-year-old Texan, who plays under the Canadian flag because of dual citizenship, earned one of 15 spots from the 36-hole qualifier on links courses in Britain two weeks ago. And he’s clearly not spooked by the big stage at Royal Birkdale.
Spieth has known Connelly for several years, and they share the same swing coach in Cameron McCormick.
“He’s got a great head. He’s got a killer instinct,” Spieth said. “He’s a guy that’s not afraid of the moment, as you can tell. And it will be a matter of time.”
It’s only fitting that Connelly is playing the final round with Koepka.
Connelly, who turned pro instead of taking a scholarship to Arkansas, has been toiling on the Challenge Tour in Europe. That’s where Koepka was four years ago until he worked his way up to the main tour, the PGA Tour and then became a U.S. Open champion.
Connelly missed the cut last week in Italy before coming over to Royal Birkdale. He opened with rounds of 67-72, and then started Saturday with a birdie on No. 1 and holing out from the fairway for eagle on No. 2. He played the final 10 holes without a bogey.
As for today?
“I think I’ll feel the same way I felt today — confident,” Connelly said. “I’m just going to stand up there and hit every shot to the best of my ability. ... I’ve believed when I turned professional that I was going to rise and be able to play with the best in the world. And it’s just nice to have confirmed.”
Low scores aplenty
The first player out on the course Saturday shot a 65 and his marker — who works in the pro shop at Royal Birkdale — nearly broke par himself.
By the end of the day 15 players had shot 66 or better. Spieth, at 11 under, was six shots lower after three rounds than anyone in the nine previous Opens here.
Never had Royal Birkdale been so vulnerable to an assault by the world’s best players. One day they were just trying to survive in the rain and wind. The next they were feasting on a golf course that looked like it belonged in the January rotation in Palm Springs.
“There was talk that 62 could be on,” said Paul Casey, an Englishman who is quite familiar with the vagaries of his country’s weather.Poulter displeased
Ian Poulter was the only player in the current top 28 who was over par Saturday.
And he wasn’t happy about it.
Poulter took four questions from reporters after his 1-over 71. All of the responses were brief, and two were interspersed with curse words.
Then he took to Twitter to apologize for his play.
“Amazing fans today. Simply the best set of fans in the world,” he wrote. “I can only say Sorry. Disappointed with my performance today.”
Poulter, who was second at Birkdale in 2008 and started Saturday three shots off the lead, bogeyed three straight holes from No. 11 to slip out of contention. He was tied for 11th, nine strokes out of the lead.
Going for broke
The fifth hole was shortened to 310 yards to entice players to go for the green. Rickie Fowler hit a driver that missed going in by a few inches.
Fowler, however, made nothing else but pars over 14 holes and shot a 67.