Jordan Spieth stood dead center in the middle of Royal Birkdale's 18th fairway Saturday afternoon, some 40 yards ahead of Matt Kuchar. Spieth watched his playing partner take aim at the flagstick and nearly hole his approach for eagle. He then hit his own shot, one he figured was destined for the bunker but instead hung on the right edge of the green.
As they walked together down the fairway, serenaded by shouts of their names and raucous applause, Kuchar turned to Spieth and said, "This is pretty cool."
They soaked it in, two competitors, yes, but two buddies enjoying their roles in the scene.
Until Spieth stole that scene for himself.
Leading by 2, from 20 feet above the hole, Spieth rolled in his birdie attempt. Kuchar missed his from just a few feet away. Instead of a potential 1-shot lead entering Sunday's final round of The Open, Spieth had solidified a 3-stroke advantage.
Photos From the The Open Championship
It was exactly the kind of momentum shift that wins major championships.
"I thought, 'This is where I normally capitalize and I kind of make a scrappy birdie,' " Spieth later explained. "It was a good feeling."
It's a feeling to which he has become quite accustomed.
Spieth has led a tournament after each of the past seven rounds he has played. He has converted two of his previous four 54-hole leads at majors. He has never failed to convert a multiple-shot lead going into the final round of a major. And here's the kicker: He has led after 14 major championship rounds since the beginning of 2013.
No other player has done that more than half as much during this span, which leads to a few irrefutable facts. Spieth is really good at getting into the lead, he's really good at holding the lead, and he's really good at converting the lead into victory.
"It's a different feeling and one that's harder to sleep with than the other way around, because you feel like you've got to almost change the way you do things," he said. "You control your own destiny, and sometimes that can be a big thing on your mind, versus I need help and I'll just go out there and try to play well."