I can't wait to do battle with Brooks and Jordan says McIlroy

South Africa's Shaun Norris made the most of the best conditions of the day as the third round of the 146th Open Championship got under way on Saturday.

As the odd man out of the 77 players to make the cut on five over par, Norris teed off at 9:20am alongside marker Gregg Pettersen, an assistant professional at Royal Birkdale.

And the 35-year-old from Johannesburg got off to a flying start on a calm, dry morning with birdies on the first, third and fifth taking him to two over par, eight shots off the lead held by Jordan Spieth.

Spieth, who would join Rory McIlroy in having won three of the game's four majors with victory on Sunday, held a two-shot lead over Ryder Cup team-mate Matt Kuchar, with England's Ian Poulter on three under alongside US Open champion Brooks Koepka.

"Jordan and Brooks are two of the best players in the world at the moment and I can't wait to do battle with them," said McIlroy, who needs to win the Masters to complete a career grand slam.

The 28-year-old had been five over par after six holes of his first round and seemed destined for a fourth missed cut in five events until a stern talking to from caddie JP Fitzgerald prompted a back-nine rally.

The world number four came home in 32 for an opening 71 and added a 68 on Friday to climb into a tie for sixth with Richard Bland, Austin Connelly and Gary Woodland, a shot behind Scotland's Richie Ramsay.

''To be in after two days and be under par for this championship after the way I started, I'm ecstatic with that," McIlroy said. "I just wanted to continue with that good feeling from the last few holes (on Thursday) and went out with that positivity and trust in myself and just need to keep that for the next two days. I cant wait.''

Spieth gave himself nine out of 10 following an opening 65, but admitted he needed some good luck to post a halfway total of 134, matching the record in an Open at Birkdale set by Craig Stadler in 1983.

That included a mis-hit fairway wood on the 15th which got just a few feet off the ground, but ended up 15 feet from the hole to set up an eagle for the 2015 Masters and US Open champion.

''We've been here before and we're not going for the first major, but it is the first Open and I'd be lying if I said I won't feel plenty of nerves,'' added Spieth, who missed out on a play-off at St Andrews in 2015 by a single shot.

''But we've been moving in the right direction and I believe we can do this.''

The final pair of Spieth and Kuchar were not due out until 3:55pm, with a 30 per cent chance of a shower forecast from 4pm. McIlroy and Woodland were set to tee off half an hour earlier.

PA


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