British Open 2016: Can Anyone Catch Phil Mickelson?

July 15, 2016

Each night during the British Open, writers, producers and editors from the Sports Illustrated Golf Group give their opinions on the hot topic of the day at Royal Troon. Agree with our takes? Disagree? Leave your answers in the comments section below or tweet us at @golf_com.

1. Phil Mickelson still holds the lead at Royal Troon entering Saturday’s play. Who has the best chance to catch him this weekend?

Peter Bukowski, associate editor, The guy with the best chance to catch Phil is the guy one shot behind him: Henrik Stenson. That could be done after just one or two holes. But the guy who, if my life depended on it, I’d trust most to beat Lefty and actually take home the title, it’s last year’s winner Zach Johnson. 

Marika Washchyshyn, multimedia producer, If you know me, I hope no one. But if you’re asking me to choose, I’m going with underdog Soren Kjeldsen. He produced a bogey-free round in tough conditions, something none of the other climbers did today.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I predicted in this space on Wednesday that Henrik Stenson would raise the claret jug. Why change now?

Jessica Marksbury, digital editor, I like your pick, Mark. Stenson looks strong, and I can’t see Phil’s momentum continuing through the weekend. But I’ve also always thought of Sergio winning his first major from behind, so I could definitely see him posting a solid score under par tomorrow and a really low one on Sunday, allowing him a clubhouse victory without all that pesky final group pressure.

Sean Steinemann, social media editor, Henrik Stenson is the only player I can see hanging with Phil Mickelson over the weekend at the Open. Whoever is paired with Phil on Sunday will not only have to deal Royal Troon, but also with a loud, biased crowed pulling for Lefty. Stenson is experienced enough to block that out and competitive enough to feed off of it. 

Alan Bastable, executive editor, I predicted in this space on Wednesday that Zach Johnson would again raise the claret jug. OK, no, I didn’t — I picked two guys who barely made the cut. But if I’m Phil, ZJ is the guy I’m sweating. He’s five back, as gritty as they come, and doesn’t have the added pressure of trying to get a proverbial monkey off his back, like Stenson, Sergio, et al. Watch out for Zach.  

Peter Madden, senior producer, If I were Phil, I’d be looking over my shoulder at defending champ Zach Johnson, who snuck up on the leaders and stole the claret jug from a bunch of bigger names at St. Andrews last year.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Henrik, of course! When you can hit long irons like he can, you are made for links golf.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Henrik is a ballstriking mofo so, theoretically, the worse the weather the better for him. But I still don’t trust his short game on Sunday. Whereas we know that Zach is gonna maximize every opportunity. Little man is my pick. 

Jeff Ritter, digital development editor, It has to be Stenson, who’s overdue to win one of these and take himself off the “Best Without” list, as Dustin Johnson did recently. Stenson fired Friday’s low round and looked totally in control — no bogeys on the back 9 at Troon is phenomenal in any weather, and especially today. It’ll be a blast to see Phil-Henrik go at it in the final group on Saturday.

Cameron Morfit, senior writer, GOLF Magazine: Tony Finau has a great chance to play his way to the top. He’s as physically gifted as anyone tee to green, and he got to feel the nerves of being in the mix at last summer’s PGA at Whistling Straits. No one expects him to do much because he’s young, blah, blah, blah, but no expectations are sometimes the golfer’s best friend. BTW, I’m the only guy who can’t mention the guy I picked earlier in the week, because it’s Phil, and that would be me saying Phil has the best chance to catch Phil. Which is too meta.

Josh Sens, contributor, GOLF Magazine: The golf gods have made Sergio suffer enough. His reward comes Sunday when he posts a low number that no one matches.

Sean Zak, assistant editor, How about the no. 2 player in the world, who battled back to a 69 Friday. DJ is eight back, but has been the best player on Tour this year with a wedge in hand. If he’s a little straighter off the tee Saturday, it’s wedge game all day for him, and he can jump up the leaderboard. 

Joe Passov, senior editor, GOLF Magazine: I picked Sergio in this space on Wednesday, because I mistakenly thought it was “Be Kind to Aging, Whiny Spaniards Week.”  And here he is, in the hunt! I’ll stick with him–for now. Check back tomorrow.