A third round as hilly as the fairways of Royal St. George’s ended as it started, with Oosthuizen fending off Collin Morikawa and Jordan Spieth and three shots separating the trio.
Oosthuizen, a finalist in the last two majors, overcame his first real tournament wobble of the last nine with a key save by the 15th and an 8-foot birdie on the 16th par-3 that led to a 1- under 69 years.
That put him at 12 under 198 as the South African stayed on track to be the first end-to-end winner of the longest-running golf championship since Rory McIlroy in 2014.
Morikawa slipped a 15-foot birdie putt right past the 18th green, settling for a 68 as he offered a second major to accompany his PGA Championship win last year. The American was four strokes behind after 10 holes and made a strong push around the time Oosthuizen showed signs of fading, reducing the difference to one stroke.
Spieth was tied for the lead until he shoved his last two holes – missing a 2-foot putt on the 18th – to complete a disappointing return of nine lost chances. The three-time major champion shot a 69 and is three shots behind, just as he started the day.
Everything looked so different with an hour remaining in the day, with all three players tied for the lead at 11 under with four holes to play a day, the pin positions – not the weather – proved to be the best defense. at Royal Saint-Georges.
The wind didn’t exceed 10 mph, and a cloudless sky with bright sunshine looked sure to bring another low scoring day. However, the pins were hidden, sometimes near the slopes, while the firmer fairways brought deep bunkers and pot bunkers into play.
This made it possible for some big names not to be able to challenge.
Top-ranked Dustin Johnson started four strokes ahead but plunged out of the competition with five bogeys in his first 11 holes. Two late birdies could only give him a 73, leaving him eight shots behind.
Four-time major champion Brooks Koepka was one shot farther after hitting a round of 72.
McIlroy started much further but made it to the 4 under turn for the Championship after registering five birdies. The last nine were another story, and McIlroy threw an iron to the ground – he called it a “little throw” – on a series of three five-hole bogeys on the way to 69, his first lap in the 1960s at Royal Saint-Georges. This left him at 1 penny and with no chance of a second Claret Jug.
Instead, Corey Conners (66) and Scottie Scheffler (69) entered the contention at 8 cents while Jon Rahm – looking to add the Open to his US Open last month – shot 68 and had 7 cents in the game. alongside Mackenzie Hughes and Dylan Frittelli.
Marcel Siem, who qualified for the second level of the Challenge Tour in Europe last week, rebounded from an 8 after going out of bounds at the 14th par 5 with two birdies in his last three holes. He was tied at three for ninth place, six ahead.
All are chasing Oosthuizen, who won at St. Andrews in 2010 and has since won a career Grand Slam finishing second. That includes the US Open last month, where he led with two holes remaining until Rahm’s birdie-birdie finish. He was also a PGA Championship finalist behind Phil Mickelson.