Jordan Spieth hits from the rough on the 13th hole on Sunday at St. Andrews. Reuters

Jordan Spieth roared up the British Open leaderboard in ominous fashion with a burst of birdies helping the American catch leader Dustin Johnson on Sunday.

The 21-year-old, bidding to become the first man to win the first three majors of the year since Ben Hogan in 1953, began the delayed third round at five-under but the putts began to disappear on a perfect day for low scoring.

Apart from a bogey five at the ninth, Spieth was unstoppable while Johnson opened with four consecutive pars.

Spieth responded to that setback with three consecutive birdies at the 10th, 11th and 12th to move into a tie with Johnson and 2010 champion Louis Oosthusien.

Australian Marc Leishman finished with an eight-under 64 -- one off the record round for British Open -- and is nine under.

Twice Open champion Padraic Harrington also feasted on the birdie buffet as he made up six shots to reach nine under near the end of his second round.

With flags hanging limply and the greens and fairways soft and lush -- quite a contrast to Saturday's gales that forced the third round to be moved to Sunday and prompt a first Monday finish at the British Open since 1988 -- a procession of players tucked in with relish to the Old Course's offerings.

American Jim Furyk, the 2003 U.S. Open champion produced a flawless six-under 66, to surge into contention.

"In those conditions there were going to be a lot of low scores," he said. "That's as good as scoring conditions as I have ever seen here."

David Duval, Open champion in 2001 but more often found in The Golf Channel commentary booth these days, carded seven birdies in a five-under 67.

Also enjoying himself on a tranquil Old Course, was South African double Open champion Ernie Els with a three-under 69.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, winner of the 2010 U.S. Open, was kicking himself though after a round of two-under 70 which included eight birdies, but two double-bogeys.

A head-spinning start to the third round, with birdie putts being rolled in left, right and center, also saw Ricky Fowler push himself into contention for a first major.

The 2014 runner-up steadily accumulated birdies to sign for a 66 and move to within three shots of Johnson on a congested leaderboard in which 25 players were within three of the lead midway through a the afternoon.

Leishman went out in 32 and looked set to break the record for the lowest round at the British Open but could only par the last four holes to narrowly miss out.

"I was definitely trying to make it, and you're right, it did look really good," Leishman, who missed a good birdie chance at the 16th, said. "It was disappointing not to go a couple better, but still, 64 gets me right back in it."

British Open debutant Eddie Pepperell moved briefly into a tie for the lead at the 16th but at the next hole a wild drive saw his ball land in the Old Course Hotel's garden.

He hit another tee shot and eventually wrote down a six.

English amateur Ashley Chesters leads the race for the silver medal at six-under after a round of 67 although Ireland's Paul Dunne began his third round at six-under.

(Reporting by Martyn Herman, editing by Pritha Sarkar)