Henrik Stenson (68) seized the lead from Phil Mickelson (70) in the third round of the 145th British Open at Royal Troon on Saturday, and the big-hitting Swede will now play for the first major title of his career at age 40.
At 12 and 11 under par, respectively, Stenson and Mickelson appear to have run away from the field. Bill Haas (69) is the next closest player at 6 under, and Andrew Johnston (70) is at 5 under. Here are five other things we learned Saturday:
1. For two guys who have separated themselves, Stenson and Mickelson seem wobbly. Stenson answered one question as if he’d already lost. “The sun will come up on Monday anyway, hopefully,” he said. “Maybe not in Scotland, but in other parts of the world (laughter). And I will be back at the PGA to try.” Mickelson said he was “jumpy” and had no rhythm. Hmm. Maybe someone should tell these guys they’re leaving the rest of the field behind.
2. For as bad as Stenson sounded above, indulging in the hypothetical of losing, he also said something smart: “I know I’ve got the game to win one of these championships or a few, hopefully by the end of my career.” Mickelson said almost the exact same thing prior to finally breaking through with his first major at the 2004 Masters. By taking the long view and talking about an entire career, it takes some of the pressure off the major at hand.
3. Andrew “Beef” Johnston, whose beard, belly and guileless smile makes him look like he just got off the set of Game of Thrones, is the new darling of golf. Twitter was abuzz with photos of him mugging over dinner, and suggestions that he be a Ryder Cup captain’s pick. “At the end of the day I’m just a normal guy who happens to play golf,” he said. “I’m no different to anyone else. That’s how I see it. I’ll talk and chat to anyone. It really doesn’t bother me. I like meeting new people and I don’t care where they’re from and who they are, if they’re nice, I get on well with them and I’m going to make friends.”
4. The stress of not winning majors is getting to Rory McIlroy (73, even par). First he makes life hard for himself by saying it’s not his job to “grow the game,” despite having paid lip service to that old chestnut for years. Then, on Saturday, he boils over after flaring a 3-wood right on 16, slamming the offending club to the turf and dislodging the head. Whoa, Rory! Take it easy.
5. The main problem for McIlroy has been short putts, but he should relax. He’s not alone. “I’ve missed four putts maybe inside of five feet today; that’s not normal,” said Jordan Spieth (72, +5), one of the game’s best putters. “A couple from two feet and they’re just straight in the hole. So that’s something that normally doesn’t happen, but I’m just going to put it to this week and forget about it by the time I get to the PGA.” McIlroy should do the same.