It’s Oosthuizen’s to win or lose.
Louis Oosthuizen, the 38-year-old South African, will take a one-shot lead into Sunday’s final round of the 149th British Open at Royal St. George’s in Sandwich, England.
If Oosthuizen, who is at 12-under, can close the deal — which will be a chore with Collin Morikawa one shot back and Jordan Spieth trailing by three — he would hoist the Claret Jug for the second time in his career. He won in 2010 at St. Andrews.
He, too, will have set a record for longest time between British Open victories — 11 years.
Oosthuizen has finished runner-up in the past two major championships, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island and the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, and he has finished runner-up six times in his career.
“Finishing second isn’t great, so I will play my heart out [Sunday] and see if I can lift the Claret Jug again,’’ Oosthuizen said after shooting 1-under 69 in the third round Saturday.
Oosthuizen now has led in six of the past 10 major championship rounds this year.
“There’s lots of golf left,’’ Oosthuizen said. “[I’m] happy with the lead, and need to play some good golf [Sunday].’’
The 24-year-old Morikawa, who shot 68 in the third round, is chasing some history of his own. He won the 2020 PGA Championship at Harding Park in San Francisco, the first time he ever had played in that major. This is his first British Open, and a win on Sunday would make him the first men’s player ever to win two major championships in his first try.
A Morikawa win would also put him in some gaudy company. He would join Tiger Woods as the only players to win both the PGA Championship and British Open before the age of 25.
“I don’t have much experience on links golf, and pretty much all the highlights in my head are from this week,’’ Morikawa said. “Hopefully, we can just use that momentum from the first three days and just bring it into the last 18. It’s going to be a grueling 18, but I look forward to it.
“It’s position you want to be in. As an athlete, a golfer, you want to be in this position. I love it.’’
Oosthuizen and Morikawa also are trailed by Spieth, who shot a third-round 69 and is 9-under, Corey Conners, who shot 66 and is 8-under and Scottie Scheffler, who shot 69 and is also 8-under.
Jon Rahm, the reigning U.S. Open champion and the hottest player in the world, cannot be counted out at 7-under after he shot 68 in the third round. Mackenzie Hughes, who was in final-round contention at Torrey Pines, and Dylan Frittelli are also 7-under.
Both Oosthuizen and Morikawa had shaky moments on Saturday.
Oosthuizen cruised effortlessly through his first nine holes, making the turn in 2-under for the day and opening up a three-shot lead at one point. Then he bogeyed Nos. 11 and 13 and his swing appeared to wobble a bit.
When Morikawa birdied the par-5 14th hole, he was in a three-way tie with Oosthuizen and Spieth. Oosthuizen recovered from his mid-round slump in time to birdie 16 and get back to 12-under and the lead.
“I had a few loose swings before that on my iron shots and sort of needed that little boost and made a really good swing on 16 and a few good ones coming in,’’ Oosthuizen said. “Look, I was 13-[under] at a stage. Probably a good back nine could have gone to 14- or 15-[under].’’
He never got there, though, and that kept a few more of the chasers in the mix for the final round.
“He’s going to take some catching in the form he’s in right now,’’ Frittelli said of Oosthuizen, his South African countryman. “Three-under through the front nine [Sunday] would be a good goal. And from there, who knows what happens of if I make a few putts?’’
Scheffler’s thinking was similar.
“Those first five, six holes on this golf course are pretty difficult, so if I can get a few birdies there early, I think I’ll be right in the middle of it,’’ said Scheffler, who’s still seeking his first PGA Tour win of any kind.
“In mathematical terms, I feel like it’s likely [to chase Oosthuizen down]. I feel ready. I’m going to be a little bit behind starting tomorrow, but I like where my game is at. I feel comfortable in this position.’’