Calm returned to St Andrews after the weather-related mayhem of the first two rounds with a birdie buffet fuelling a burst of low-scoring in the belated British Open third round on Sunday.
Australian Marc Leishman helped himself to eight birdies in an eight-under par 64 to move within a stroke of 36-hole leader Dustin Johnson while England’s Eddie Pepperell briefly shared the lead before driving out of bounds at the 17th.
With the 50mph blasts of Saturday, which caused a 10-hour delay and forced the first Monday finish since 1988, replaced by light breezes, the soft greens and fairways proved irresistible to several major champions out early.
American Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion produced a flawless six-under 66, to surge into contention, four shots adrift of compatriot Johnson who starts later.
“In those conditions there were going to be a lot of low scores,” he said. “That’s as good as scoring conditions as I have ever seen here.”
David Duval, Open champion in 2001 but more often found in The Golf Channel commentary booth these days, carded seven birdies in a five-under 67.
Also enjoying himself on a tranquil Old Course, was South African double Open champion Ernie Els with a three-under 69.
Northern Ireland’s Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, was kicking himself though after a round of two-under 70 which included eight birdies, but two double-bogeys.
With the soft, receptive greens, lush fairways and gentle breezes offering plenty of scoring opportunities, the leaders will be eyeing up their later rounds.
Johnson, who tees off at 1400 GMT, had set the halfway pace and is on 10 under 134 with England’s Danny Willett a shot behind while grand slam chasing Jordan Spieth began five back in the chasing pack, but picked up two strokes early in his round.
A head-spinning start to the third round also saw Ricky Fowler push himself again into contention for a first major.
The 2014 runner-up steadily accumulated birdies to sign for a 66 and move to within three shots of Johnson.
Leishman was the biggest mover though.
He went out in 32 and looked set to break the record for the lowest round at the British Open but could only par the last four holes to narrowly miss out.
“I was definitely trying to make it, and you’re right, it did look really good,” Leishman, who missed a good birdie chance at the 16th, said. “It was disappointing not to go a couple better, but still, 64 gets me right back in it.”
British Open debutant Pepperell moved into a tie for the lead at the 16th but at the next hole a wild drive saw his ball land in the Old Course Hotel’s garden.
He hit another tee shot and eventually wrote down a six.
English amateur Ashley Chesters leads the race for the silver medal at six-under after a round of 67 although Ireland’s Paul Dunne began his third round at six-under.
Saturday’s high winds meant only the conclusions of the second rounds were completed, with R&A organisers pushing the third round to Sunday and the conclusion to Monday.
Tickets are available for 10 pounds for the extra day and with the tournament beginning to bubble, they will be the best bargain in town.