Scott holds the aces

  • Last Updated: July 21 2012, 21:02 BST

Less than a year after hiring golf's most successful caddie in a bid to end his long wait for a first major title, Australian Adam Scott hopes he is just 18 holes from achieving his dream at Royal Lytham on Sunday.

Adam Scott: Holds four-stroke lead

But, even though he holds a four-stroke lead going into the last leg of the Open Championship, the 31-year-old knows the toughest part is still to come.

And, despite the quality of those just behind him, Scott also knows the biggest battle is with himself.

Northern Irishman Graeme McDowell, up into joint second with American Brandt Snedeker after a superb 67, came from three shots back on the final day to win the 2010 US Open and only last month was one putt away from forcing a play-off in the same event.

And then there is Tiger Woods one stroke further back in fourth place. He senses a chance to grab his fourth Claret Jug and 15th major four traumatic years after he last tasted success at the highest level.

New Zealander Steve Williams is the man on Scott's bag and he helped Woods win 13 of his 14 majors before being sacked last summer.

Williams made no secret of how angry he was about that after staying with Woods throughout his sex scandal and when Scott won a world championship last August he called it "the best win of my life".

Then three months later at a caddie awards dinner in China Williams aimed what he later admitted could be construed as a racist comment about his former boss.

They have done battle face-to-face since then in the Presidents Cup, with one win for each of them, but not in a major. It could be some day.

Taking advantage of Snedeker running into all sorts of problems following his major-record-equalling first two rounds, Scott moved to 11 under par and back out in front with a 68.

His 199 total is only one outside the championship record set by Tom Lehman on the Lancashire links in 1996.

Snedeker had not been in a single bunker or registered a single bogey in his opening 36 holes - but it was not long before that all changed.

He three-putted the 219-yard fifth from just short of the green and then found sand with his approach to the next.

It cost him another dropped shot after he came out sideways and Scott's six straight pars were good enough to take him back into the lead he had held with his opening 64.

Both birdied the long seventh, but while Scott then added a 25-foot putt for another at the 416-yard eighth Snedeker ran up his third bogey after finding the rough.

That made the gap three and when it became four after Snedeker visited another bunker at the ninth, the Nashville golfer was not even second on his own.

Alongside him was Woods. Six back after bogeys at the first and third he re-ignited his bid with an outrageous 60-footer at the difficult sixth and followed with more birdies at the seventh and ninth.

Snedeker's day got worse when he ran up a six on the long 11th, but Scott was on in two and not far away from an eagle. The tap-in birdie swept him five clear.

He did bogey the next, but six closing pars kept him in firm control and on course to become Australia's first winner of the title since Greg Norman in 1993 and their first major champion since Geoff Ogilvy at the 2006 US Open.

McDowell was only level par for the day with six to play, but then birdied the 13th, 14th and 17th to earn himself a head-to-head with Scott.

It is the second major running where he has been in the final group on the final day. It did not work out as he hoped in San Francisco, but it did at Pebble Beach two years ago.

Snedeker rallied with two birdies in the last three for a 73 that pushed Woods down to fourth - and it ought to be remembered that he has never come from behind to win a major yet.

Joint fifth are 2002 winner Ernie Els and former Masters champion Zach Johnson, who flew to Britain after capturing the John Deere Classic last Sunday.

Collated third round scores and totals (Gbr & Irl unless stated, par 70):

199 Adam Scott (Aus) 64 67 68

203 Graeme McDowell 67 69 67, Brandt Snedeker (USA) 66 64 73

204 Tiger Woods (USA) 67 67 70

205 Zach Johnson (USA) 65 74 66, Ernie Els (Rsa) 67 70 68

206 Thorbjorn Olesen (Den) 69 66 71

207 Thomas Aiken (Rsa) 68 68 71, Bill Haas (USA) 71 68 68

208 Mark Calcavecchia (USA) 71 68 69, Matt Kuchar (USA) 69 67 72, Louis Oosthuizen (Rsa) 72 68 68, Bubba Watson (USA) 67 73 68

209 Dustin Johnson (USA) 73 68 68, Jason Dufner (USA) 70 66 73, Kyle Stanley (USA) 70 69 70, Luke Donald 70 68 71

210 Nick Watney (USA) 71 70 69, Steven Alker (Nzl) 69 69 72, Vijay Singh (Fij) 70 72 68, Greg Chalmers (Aus) 71 68 71, James Morrison 68 70 72, Simon Khan 70 69 71, Anirban Lahiri (Ind) 68 72 70

211 Steve Stricker (USA) 67 71 73, Justin Hicks (USA) 68 74 69, Matthew Baldwin 69 73 69, Keegan Bradley (USA) 71 72 68, Hunter Mahan (USA) 70 71 70, Peter Hanson (Swe) 67 72 72, Alexander Noren (Swe) 71 71 69, Thomas Bjorn (Den) 70 69 72

212 Francesco Molinari (Ita) 69 72 71, Garth Mulroy (Rsa) 71 69 72, Joost Luiten (Ned) 73 70 69, Simon Dyson 72 67 73, Harris English (USA) 71 71 70, Paul Lawrie 65 71 76, Dale Whitnell 71 69 72, Jamie Donaldson 68 72 72, Carl Pettersson (Swe) 71 68 73, Padraig Harrington 70 72 70

213 Toshinori Muto (Jpn) 67 72 74, Greg Owen 71 71 71, Branden Grace (Rsa) 73 69 71, Gary Woodland (USA) 73 70 70, Geoff Ogilvy (Aus) 72 68 73, Rafael Echenique (Arg) 73 69 71, Jim Furyk (USA) 72 70 71, Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spa) 71 69 73, Ian Poulter 71 69 73, Rickie Fowler (USA) 71 72 70, Troy Matteson (USA) 70 72 71

214 Adilson Da Silva (Bra) 69 74 71, Nicolas Colsaerts (Bel) 65 77 72, Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano (Spa) 71 71 72, Thongchai Jaidee (Tha) 69 71 74, Pablo Larrazabal (Spa) 73 70 71, Ted Potter, Jr. (USA) 69 71 74, Sang-moon Bae (Kor) 72 71 71, K J Choi (Kor) 70 73 71, Yoshinori Fujimoto (Jpn) 71 70 73, Lee Westwood 73 70 71

215 Bob Estes (USA) 69 72 74, Rory McIlroy 67 75 73, Retief Goosen (Rsa) 70 70 75, Fredrik Jacobson (Swe) 69 73 73, Brendan Jones (Aus) 69 74 72, Richard Sterne (Rsa) 69 73 73

216 Aaron Baddeley (Aus) 71 71 74, Juvic Pagunsan (Phi) 71 72 73, Andres Romero (Arg) 70 69 77, John Senden (Aus) 70 71 75, Warren Bennett 71 70 75, Lee Slattery 69 72 75

217 Jeev Milkha Singh (Ind) 70 71 76, Chad Campbell (USA) 73 70 74, Ross Fisher 72 71 74, Rafael Cabrera Bello (Spa) 70 71 76, Charles Howell III (USA) 72 71 74

219 Tom Watson (USA) 71 72 76

220 John Daly (USA) 72 71 77

221 Martin Laird 70 69 82