Bill Elliott: A blizzard of birdies

Players are making the most of benign conditions at St Andrews

St Andrews Links Old Course Pictures
St Andrews Links Old Course
(Image credit: Getty Images)

The players are making the most of benign conditions during the early part of the third round. Birdies are going in from everywhere and the average score so far is almost three-under-par.

Suddenly this blighted Open Championship has moved from survival of the fittest to a putting competition. Flat calm again for the morning group there was a tranquillity that was only interrupted by the occasional downpour, the Old Course was a benign and welcoming place.

You wanted birdies, you got them. Eddie Pepperell, already an eccentric sort of chap at only 24, was going nuts in a very good way and constructing the round of his young life. Aussie Marc Leishman doing to St Andrews what his cricketing pals are currently doing to England.

But if you're a bit into nostalgia and like rooting for the good guys then no-one's round pleased more than David Duval's. Five under par 67 was not much below the notional par today but it was still good to see the 2001 champion back in some sort of groove.

Who was to know that his victory 114 years ago at Lytham was not only to be his sole major but the last time he was to win anything anywhere. He even lost out during the financial crash when the value of the mansion he bought for 12million bucks halved in value and meant a lot of serious talking to a bank.

That was then, however, and what Duval needs now is more golf. At 43 he is steadily edging towards the older man's tour and potential millions but he has to remain competitive and that is difficult for a man who is qualified for little or nothing outside his past Open champion status.

This is his fourth tournament this year so no wonder he admits he suffers from "constant competitive rust". The good news is that he grins when he says this.

So why did he fall so far so swiftly after his Lytham triumph and probably the most elegant winner's speech I've ever heard? Well he is a blisteringly intelligent bloke and I suspect that having climbed to the top of the mountain and surveyed the view he then thought "is that it?". It didn't help that he suffered serious back and knee problems.

Somehow the intensity that Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods always enjoyed has not embraced David but what he has reignited is his enthusiasm for the game. "I can still hit some wonderful shots and I believe that if I could get into some more events then I could be competitive."

Well, he was competitive in this third round, rocking up the leaderboard not many hours after he came up with the birdie he needed at the last to make the cut and enjoy the peace and calm of the old lady today.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?