Mickelson defends one-shot lead in British Open third round

Troon (United Kingdom)—American Phil Mickelson will defend a one-stroke lead in the British Open when he begins his third round at Royal Troon later on Saturday.
The left-hander shot a 69 on Friday in wet and windy weather to sit at 10 under par and lead the championship by a single shot from Sweden’s Henrik Stenson.
Mickelson is looking to win the Open for the second time following his victory at Muirfield, on the other side of Scotland, in 2013.
He built on his major championship record-equalling low round of 63 on Thursday with a solid showing in far less favourable conditions on Friday.
Stenson, meanwhile, shot the best round of the day on Friday with a 65 and that duo will go out last on Saturday, teeing off at 3:20pm local time (1420 GMT).
Just before them, American former PGA champion Keegan Bradley and Denmark’s Soren Kjeldsen will play together, with the pair sitting joint-third on seven-under for the championship. Rory McIlroy knew what Jordan Spieth was about to experience in 2016, coming off a two-major year. You see, McIlroy had just put the finishing touches on a zero-major 2015, a year after winning the British Open and PGA Championship to rack up his third and fourth career major titles.
“It will feel completely different for Jordan,” McIlroy told the Telegraph in December 2015. “If you look at the stats at how those who have had a double-major season have performed the next year … well, it’s hard to back up. It just is. There’s so much expectation, so much attention and focus. And I think it is more self-inflicted pressure really as your expectations are so high.”
And as Spieth put the finishing touches on a 1-over 72 at Royal Troon on Saturday, the Ulsterman, on the fringes of contention in this British Open, seemed prescient. Spieth has failed to break par in his last 10 major championship rounds, ever since he opened the Masters in April with a 6-under 66 that set the tone for his run at a second consecutive green jacket. 74-73-73-72-72-70-75-71-75-72. He’s 18 over par in that stretch. It’s the sign of a guy chasing to live up to one of the best major seasons in golf history, at the age of 21 – what could turn out to be his best season, all told. Because of it, the expectations are exceptionally high, and so when he doesn’t win, well, the questions come. And that’s got Spieth a bit frustrated.
“I think it’s been a solid year,” a frustrated Spieth said after Saturday’s round. “I think had last year not happened I’d be having a lot of positive questions. Instead most of the questions are comparing to last year and therefore negative because it’s not to the same standard. So that’s almost tough to then to convince myself that you’re having a good year. … So I think that’s a bit unfair to me, but don’t feel sorry for me. I’ll be OK. “… So it seems a bit unfair at 22 to be expecting something like that all the time.” What Spieth is chasing on the course are guys in Jason Day, Dustin Johnson and McIlroy who hit the ball 30 yard farther off the tee. He’s chasing a more consistent tee-to-green game, making changes with teacher Cameron McCormick. He’s dealing with the reality that he is the face of American golf, even as Johnson realizes his potential. It didn’t help that, this week, his putter let him down.
On Thursday, he hit 16 greens in regulation and took 33 putts to get around Royal Troon. The greens are slower at the Open, and that didn’t help. However, when Spieth’s short game doesn’t shine, even if he’s otherwise playing well, it’s difficult to contend on a PGA Tour that is and in major fields that are deeper than ever. Your browser does not support iframes.
By no means does Spieth’s 2016 run in the majors suggest he’s a flash in the pan. He’s not done.
He’s won twice this year and was a better swing on No. 12 at Augusta National away from a third major title. Spieth decided the mechanical changes weren’t enough, vowing to appeal to critics and play faster and talk to the golf ball and his caddie, Michael Greller, less.
Now the question is, when will the transformation pay major dividends? He has showed some signs this week of a looming return to major form. In two weeks, he can demonstrate more progress at the PGA Championship.—AFP

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