ST. ANDREWS, Scotland (AP) — Irish amateur Paul Dunne knows he is good enough to post low scores on the Old Course at St. Andrews. Had this been an amateur tournament, he would not at all be surprised to be leading after three rounds.
But it’s not an amateur event. It’s the British Open.
“It’s just lucky that it happens to be the biggest event in the world,” Dunne said Sunday after a 6-under 66 to share the 54-hole lead with Louis Oosthuizen and Jason Day.
Equally surprising is that the 22-year-old Dunne has company.
Jordan Niebrugge, a 21-year-old who will be a senior at Oklahoma State next month, birdied the last hole for a 67 and was only three shots out of the lead.
This is rare territory for the British Open, not to mention the other majors.
An amateur hasn’t won the claret jug since Bobby Jones rallied from one shot behind in the final round to win in 1930. The last amateur to win any major was Johnny Goodman in the 1933 U.S. Open.
Even having a chance to win doesn’t happen very often.
It has been 44 years since an amateur had at least a share of the lead in a major. That was Jim Simons in the 1971 U.S. Open at Merion. He shot 76 in the final round and finished three shots behind Lee Trevino.
Perhaps the most famous bid was by Ken Venturi in the 1956 Masters until he shot 80 in the final round to finish one shot behind Jack Burke Jr.
Amateurs have been out in force this year.
A year ago, only four amateurs qualified for the British Open and none made the cut. This year, nine amateurs qualified and five made the cut. Last month in the U.S. Open, six amateurs made the cut at Chambers Bay.
Masters and U.S. Open Jordan Spieth — who at 21 is younger than both amateurs in the hunt — is not surprised to see them contending. Spieth had an outside chance to win his hometown Byron Nelson Championship when he was 16. Still, this is a major.
“I think there will be amateur that wins a PGA event or something like that, possibly even a major, at some point in the next decade or so,” Spieth said. “Just because the game in amateur golf across the world now I think is getting more diverse and more intense, and I think it’s awesome for guys to step up and do this.”
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