Struggling Spieth tied with Kuchar heading to Birkdale back nine

Updated: 

Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar were tied for the lead with nine holes to play in the 146th Open Championship after the former made a miserable start to his final round at Royal Birkdale.

Three ahead of Kuchar at the start of Sunday, with the rest of the field at least six strokes adrift, Spieth was a firm favourite to add the Claret Jug to the Masters and U.S. Open titles he claimed in 2015.

However, the young Texan raised memories of last April's remarkable collapse at Augusta as he started abysmally. After turning in 37, Spieth was level with Kuchar at eight under for the tournament, two clear of Li Haotong, who was in the clubhouse with a 63.

Bogeys at the first, third and fourth from Spieth enabled Kuchar to tie the lead, before the younger man responded by birdieing the fifth and rescuing a fine par on six after tugging his drive left.

Kuchar was initially unable to fully capitalise on his playing partner's woes. Although he made a tap-in birdie at the second following a sublime approach, the 39-year-old bogeyed the third from a perfect position in the fairway and dropped another shot on six when he failed to get up and down from a bunker.

Presentable birdie opportunities also went begging for Kuchar at the seventh and eighth, as Spieth two-putted from distance on each hole amid rising winds.

Yet the final pairing were tied up again through the turn as Kuchar finally took advantage of an impressive approach at nine and Spieth three-putted, his second miss coming from barely three feet.

Li charged up to third at six under, becoming only the fourth man to shoot 63 in the final round of this event.

The unconvincing progress of Spieth meant the likes of Rory McIlroy, Alex Noren, Rafael Cabrera-Bello, Brooks Koepka and Branden Grace could not be ruled out. They were all four under alongside Matthew Southgate and Marc Leishman, who completed fine rounds of 65.