CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- After a round that he ranks as one of his top 10 in a major, Jordan Spieth admitted the only thing that didn't go to plan for him on Saturday was his morning haircut. It was meant to cost him £9 (a little less than $12), but whoever cut his hair -- Spieth kept that part to himself -- would have been surprised by the generous tip, having given what they call in this part of the world a run-of-the-mill "high-and tight" cut.
"It was intended to be what I normally get, and instead he went a little shorter," Spieth said. "A very British haircut. A little shaved on the sides, a little longer on top. It is what it is."
But when you are at the top of the leaderboard heading into the final day, with a chance to defend The Open title and make it major No. 4, an out-of-the-ordinary haircut can be forgiven. After carding a 6-under round of 65, Spieth has come back from a shaky start of his Open defense to record what he feels are back-to-back rounds that rival the best he has ever put together. He posted 4-under 67 on Friday to get himself back in the mix after his uneven 72 in the first round.
Saturday's round opened with the boldest of calls as he took driver off the first tee to reach the green. An eagle followed, and it gave a wonderful insight into the mind of a champion who is playing with confidence and calmness. A bogey-free round would follow, stringing birdies, while many of the people at Carnoustie were paying attention to Tiger Woods vaulting up the leaderboard.
Since Woods' last major triumph in 2008, the world has searched for his successor. Spieth has perhaps come closest to filling the impossible void, but in his own quiet fashion. But still, he was disarmed by the question about that new haircut. He looked bashful as he assessed the result of his trip to the barber, but he was far more bullish when talking about his current form. He has not won a tournament since his 2017 Open triumph at Royal Birkdale. As he assessed a difficult year, those struggles seeming a world away, he was adamant he would not swap the arduous journey here for anything.
"I think that going through some of the kind of stuff that I was going through in my game allowed me to kind of figure out when I'm off, what are the keys to get over it?" Spieth said. "In the future, I'll be kind of able to kick it back into gear a little quicker and under the gun be able to compensate a little bit better."
His pre-tournament focus here has been on his putting and a few tweaks to his swing. On Friday, he said his swing was barely in the B-class of efforts; on Saturday, though, he was altogether different, as he played with unwavering focus and even managed a birdie on the monstrous par-3 16th hole.
He spoke earlier in the week of the reluctance to give back the Claret Jug, unexpectedly feeling emotional at bidding farewell to an old friend. Then came the "brain fart" round Thursday where he finished 4 over in his final four holes to go from a promising position to one that required intense work. Then came the recovery Friday and the acceleration Saturday.
It resembles the plot of his favorite book -- "The Cat in the Hat." There, the anthropomorphic cat tries to cheer up two bored children, alone at home, by first playing with the fish and then bringing along a box containing two creatures similar to him who then wreak havoc in the house. The children look worried as their mother returns, but the Cat uses a machine that magically returns everything to normal. Much drama, but in the end, everything is back to as it was at the beginning. Spieth would certainly like this weekend to finish that way.
After the haircut ordeal, Spieth's next task is to ensure none of his housemates tamper with his food on Saturday evening to throw him off his final-round stride. He shares a house with six of the other Americans here, fellow contenders Zach Johnson and Kevin Kisner among them.
"Yeah, I'll probably ask chef to [taste the food], make him eat it, just in case Kiz is greasing them," Spieth said.
But jokes aside, Sunday offers Spieth the chance to move up in the pantheon of golf's greats. He was asked Saturday about emulating the feat of "Young" Tom Morris, who is the only other figure in this great tournament's history to defend his title under age 25.
"I don't think he's going to get mad at me," Spieth said.
And he will give as little heed to how his competitors are faring on Sunday -- as he sat in the press conference Saturday, he didn't know Woods' final score -- as he will his standing with the all-time greats.
"What's four [compared to] three?" Spieth said, referring to the opportunity to increase his major title total by one.
Then, though, came that wonderful confidence: "I feel like I'm rolling."
He sounds again like the Spieth of old.
By Sunday late afternoon, as the sun starts to dip back into the horizon of the Angus Coast, there is a chance he will have the Claret Jug back in his possession. If so, then he could be in for another unexpected financial outlay. It is a rule that plugs into the confidence underpinning this group of American housemates: If someone wins here at Carnoustie, they pay for the private jet home. Spieth would take that in a heartbeat, with everything returned to as it was at the start of the week, aside from that slightly more aggressive haircut.