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A crowd at the top

ST. ANDREWS, Scotland – While Jordan Spieth was playing himself into position for a historic final round, golf balls were flying into holes all around him in the British Open here Sunday.

The tri-leaders were Louis Oosthuizen of South Africa, Jason Day of Australia and Paul Dunne of Ireland and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

Oosthuizen and Day shot 67s and were at 204, which is 12 under par. They are seasoned pros and not surprising leaders. Oosthuizen won the last time they played the Open on the Old Course here, in 2010, and Day has been a frequent contender in majors. He has finished second in both the Masters and U.S. Open.

Dunne is not a seasoned pro. He is not even a pro. He is a 22-year-old amateur in his second British Open. He qualified both times to get in. He expects to turn pro later this year, and on Sunday put together a flashy round of six birdies and no bogeys. He had eight 3s on his card.

Asked if he could actually win a major, which would make him the first amateur to do so since Johnny Goodman won the 1933 U.S. Open at North Shore Country Club near Chicago, Dunne said, “I don’t see why not. I’m well capable of shooting the scores I need to win.”

The strong scoring day, with 63 of the 80 starters besting par and the weather holding mostly calm – there was one downpour lasting about half an hour – had Spieth alone in fourth at 205, one shot back after his six-under 66, and three-time major winner Padraig Harrington alone in fifth after his sizzling 65 for 206.

Harrington, of Ireland, won British Opens in 2007 and ‘08 and also the PGA in ‘08.

In Monday’s weather-delayed closing 18 holes (6 a.m., ESPN), Spieth will attempt to become the first golfer since Ben Hogan in 1953 to win the first three majors of the season.

Another amateur, Jordan Niebrugge of the Milwaukee suburb of Mequon, Wis., shared sixth place with Sergio Garcia, former major winners Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Zach Johnson and Ratief Goosen, veteran Marc Leishman and two others. Leishman, a 31-year-old Australian who finished fifth last year, shot the low score of the day, an eight-under 64.

Also in that group at nine under were Kansas State player Robert Streb of Chickasha, Okla., and England’s Danny Willett, who played in the final twosome and began the day one shot off the lead but slipped to even-par 72.

Niebrugge made it into the tournament as a qualifier, but plans to remain an amateur until his graduation from Oklahoma State next year.

The leader going into the third round, which had been delayed by all-day gusting wind Saturday, was Dustin Johnson. He began at 10 under and faded to seven under with a 75. That was not only the second-worst score of the day, but included a bogey-bogey-bogey finish. He was one of only four players to bogey the relatively easy closing No. 18 Sunday.

Among other notable scores were Rickie Fowler’s 66 for 209 and Jim Furyk’s 66 for 210.

Eddie Pepperell, a 24-year-old English pro in his first British Open and first major, had an eventful day before posting his 66 for 208.

He birdied five of the first six holes and had three more birdies on the back nine. He was eight under par as he stood on the tee at No. 17, the Road Hole. Then, instead of driving the ball over the Old Course Hotel, the prescribed route, he drove it onto the hotel grounds, took a penalty and made six.

“I probably put that kind of tee shot down to why maybe I haven’t won in the past,” Pepperell said.

Phil Mickelson hit his tee shot on No. 1 into the narrow creek that cuts across the first and 18th fairway, an unusual miss on an easy starting hole.

But he recovered to shoot 70 for 212, eight off the lead.