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The Open: Padraig Harrington not far off pace at St Andrews

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Padraig Harrington is well placed after a seven-under-par 65 in his third round left him just one shot behind Jordan Spieth.

Padraig Harrington put himself bang in contention for a third Claret Jug with a fine third round in the 144th Open at St Andrews.

The Irishman became the first player since James Braid (1905-06) to win back-to-back Open titles when he won at Royal Birkdale in 2008, 12 months after beating Sergio Garcia in a play-off at Carnoustie.

Harrington ended a lengthy winless streak on the PGA Tour when he claimed the Honda Classic title back in March but his form in Europe has been poor since last year's Dunhill Links, where he finished 18th on a return to links golf.

Although there were plenty of players still to finish, Harrington moved into the clubhouse lead on Sunday afternoon with a bogey-free round of 65, four birdies coming on the front-nine and three more on the way home.

"I've been out of it for a while, but I felt comfortable out there," Harrington said. "I've got no issue putting my neck on the line and failing.

"I always wanted to shoot 65 on Sunday at an Open. Unfortunately there's another round to go.

"Today was very, very important. This is not a course that the leaders tend to come back on so you have to be there or thereabouts going into Monday.

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"You're realistically talking 16 or 17 under being a possible winning score and you ain't going to do that from six or seven under.

"The Honda was a really good week for me and I've struggled to emulate that. It's from the Honda that this (form) has come from this week. I'm certainly seeing some really nice things. All day today I felt really comfortable."

Wayward Willett

Meanwhile, England's Danny Willett was left to rue a costly drive at the 14th after he bogeyed three of the last six holes to slip three shots off the pace.

The Yorkshireman, one off the lead at the time, believed he had hit an excellent tee shot on the par-five before being told his ball had drifted on the wind and had cleared the stone wall adjoining the fairway and gone out of bounds.

Willett did well to limit the damage to a six, but he also dropped another shot at 17 and parred the last for a 72, and he said: "I thought it was all right at 14 but it must have kept drifting.

"I don't know how it got there. I picked my peg up and it was riding the breeze a little bit but must have just kept going. It was a good six in the end.

England's Danny Willett on the 4th green during day four of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife.
Image: England's Danny Willett on the 4th green during day four of The Open Championship 2015 at St Andrews, Fife.

"I hit a provisional because they (the marshals) weren't sure. We were a bit semi-unsure of what was going on. It was a bit surreal.

"I was watching to see how people were getting on and it was a bit of a silly day from guys who went out there in the middle of the morning and put in a lot of low scores. You try to gauge what people are doing and try to keep the same trend going because conditions were pretty good for scoring today.

"It got pretty cold down the last few holes and it was a little bit tricky and me and Dustin just couldn't get anything going between us. There were one or two bad swings but just didn't quite score when I had the chance.

"Three shots back in an Open Championship is never too far back is it?"

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