Let battle commence: Stenson and Mickelson set for final day shoot-out at Open
Swede bidding to become first Scandinavian to win the title, but history is on American’s side
Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are set to battle it out with one another for victory on the final day of the British Open at Royal Troon on Sunday.
Sweden’s Stenson stands at 12 under par, a lead of one shot from Mickelson, after an excellent third-round score of 68 in cool and blustery conditions on Scotland’s west coast on Saturday.
Mickelson had led at the halfway stage and still shot a one-under-par 70 on Saturday, but bogeys at the 14th and 17th holes allowed Stenson to overtake him.
“He’s one of the best to play the game in the last 15, 20 years for sure, and it’s going to be a tough match,” said Stenson after his third round.
“But I’m looking forward to the opportunity. I’ve worked hard these first three days to put myself in this situation and, once again, going to try my hardest tomorrow to finish the job.”
The duo will go out in the final pairing of the day at 2:35pm local time (9.35pm HKT) on Sunday, with their nearest challenger Bill Haas of the United States sitting at six-under.
England’s Andrew Johnston stands at five under par and will go out with Haas in the penultimate pairing 10 minutes earlier.
Stenson is bidding to win his first major at the age of 40 after several near misses – he has had seven top-four finishes in majors and was the runner-up to Mickelson in the British Open at Muirfield in 2013.
“It would be great to hand one back to him tomorrow, absolutely. As we know it’s going to take some good golfing to do that, but I’m certainly willing to give it a try,” Stenson said.
If he does triumph, Stenson will become the first Scandinavian man ever to win a major and the first player from continental Europe to lift the Claret Jug since the late, great Seve Ballesteros of Spain in 1988.
However, history, and Mickelson’s favoured “Golf Gods”, are on the side of the 46-year-old left-hander, and perhaps Haas too.
After all, there has been an American champion in each of the last six Opens played at Troon, from Arnold Palmer in 1962 up to the unheralded Todd Hamilton in 2004.
Mickelson has put the so-called ‘Big Four’ of Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy in the shade this week. If he triumphs, he would become the oldest winner of the Claret Jug since Tom Morris Senior down the road at Prestwick way back in 1867.
Mickelson equalled the lowest score at a major championship with a 63 in the first round and then shot a 69 on Friday but was less pleased with his third round.
“I’ve been hitting it so good for so long, that I just think one day is an anomaly and hopefully I’ll get dialled back in tomorrow,” he said looking ahead to the last day.
“I’d love to play the final round the way I did the first two and give myself a shot.”
Mickelson is looking to win his sixth major to go with his three Masters, the US PGA championship in 2005 and that Open at Muirfield.
Troon has seen just about everything in terms of weather so far this week, with glorious sunshine on Thursday followed by wet and windy conditions on Friday and then more gusts on Saturday.
Sunday is set to see a cloudy and damp start but the afternoon, when the leaders go out, is expected to remain dry and the wind is not forecast to blow any more strongly than on Saturday.