Paul Dunne is only 18 holes away from entering the same company as Bobby Jones. The 22-year-old amateur is in a three-way tie for the 36-hole lead at the 2015 British Open. Should he win the Claret Jug, he'd be the first amateur champion since Jones in 1927, per ESPN.
Dunne still has a long way to go, of course. Eleven golfers are within three shots of him, Jason Day and Louis Oosthuizen. You can view the full leaderboard below:
Your heart is pulling for Dunne to win the British Open, but your head is telling you it's probably not going to happen. Oosthuizen is a former champion in this event, while Day has experienced plenty of pressure-packed final rounds at major tournaments.
Plus, Jordan Spieth is only one shot back, while Padraig Harrington—himself a two-time British Open winner—is within striking distance as well. Both present major threats to Dunne's Cinderella story.
Golf Channel's Justin Ray cast further doubt on Dunne's chances by noting how much of an outlier his third-round 66 was compared to his collegiate performance:
The co-leader doesn't appear to be too affected by the weight of the moment just yet, though. His secret is simply looking at this like any other event rather than one of the biggest tournaments on the PGA Tour, per ESPN.com:
It's surreal I'm leading The Open, but I can easily believe that I shot the three scores that I shot. If we were playing an amateur event here, I wouldn't be too surprised by the scores I shot. It's just lucky that it happens to be in the biggest event in the world. Hopefully, I can do it again tomorrow. But whether I do or not, I'll survive either way.
Whether Dunne can keep that cool, calm demeanor in the final round remains to be seen.
Looking at the other potential challengers, it's probably safe to eliminate anybody who's four or more shots back. It's not impossible for Charl Schwartzel to enter the final round at eight under and win, but he has to hope not only Dunne but also Day and Oosthuizen struggle Monday.
Not to mention the 11 other golfers between nine and 11 under. Leapfrogging them won't be easy.
Spieth will be a popular choice given the fact that he has both a Masters win and U.S. Open win under his belt this year.
Writing for Golf Channel, Joe Posnanski praised Spieth's strength of belief and highlighted it as a major reason he could do the impossible—win the Grand Slam:
That's when it really hit home: This kid does not doubt. And this, I think, is the greatest gift in golf. I once asked Dan Jenkins what he thought separated Jack Nicklaus from all the other talented players, and he said this: "You can't compare Jack with anyone else. It was almost as if he felt it was his birthright to win major championships."
Tiger Woods was like that too at his best. He didn't have to fight doubt because he never felt doubt.
And now, there's Spieth. Maybe it's because he’s 21 (he turns 22 next Monday) and simply hasn't learned how to doubt. Maybe it's because of his family, who so obviously raised him to believe without limits. Maybe it's because he’s accomplished so much already.
Posnanski brings up a good point, and if golf were played in a vacuum with the same conditions for everybody, Spieth would probably win Monday. But the sport isn't like that, and luck undoubtedly plays a big factor.
Winning one major in a season is hard enough, let alone two. Winning three? That's downright ridiculous.
Sooner or later, Spieth will have that round where the ball doesn't bounce his way. Don't expect the 21-year-old to come apart at the seams, but don't be surprised if he winds up two or three shots off the champion when all is said and done.
The golfer who should be considered the top guy to beat in the final round is Oosthuizen. His British Open title came at St. Andrews, where he has remained consistently strong in his two trips, per Ray:
The 32-year-old doesn't have a glittering resume when it comes to major tournaments, but his past success on the course will be an added benefit few others—at least those within striking distance of the lead—can call upon.
The battle for the lead will go down to the final few holes, and when the smoke clears, Oosthuizen will be a two-time British Open champion.