Day 3: Henrik Stenson leads Phil Mickelson in British Open by a stroke

Day 3: Henrik Stenson leads Phil Mickelson in British Open by a stroke

TROON, Scotland (AP) -- Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson delivered what everyone expects out of a major championship.

They matched birdies and improbable par saves. Momentum could change with any shot. The lead changed four times over four hours of golf at its highest level, played in the cold wind and occasional rain off the Irish Sea. All the British Open lacked Saturday was a winner.

Turns out this was only the preview to a duel at Royal Troon.

Stenson took the lead for the last time with another two-shot swing on an inward par 3, and he kept it with a nifty up-and-down on the 18th for par and a 3-under 68, the second straight day that no one had a better score.

That gave the 40-year-old Swede his first lead in a major, even if it was just one shot over someone who already has five majors and his name on the claret jug.

"There's only one thing that matters tomorrow," Stenson said. "I know he's not going to back down, and I'm certainly going to try to not back down, either. So it should be an exciting afternoon. ... I've worked hard these first three days to put myself in this situation and I'm going to try my hardest tomorrow to finish the job."

Links golf can deliver some strange finishes, though this had all the trappings of a two-man race on Sunday.

Stenson had his third straight round in the 60s - no one has ever won at Royal Troon with all four rounds in the 60s - and was at 12-under 201. He is trying to become only the eighth player dating to Old Tom Morris in 1861 to win his first major after turning 40.

Mickelson, winless since he lifted golf's oldest trophy at Muirfield three years ago, had a 70. His game was nowhere near as sharp as his opening-round 63 that tied a major championship record. Even so, he came up with the rights shots at the right time until Stenson passed him late in the afternoon.

"Some days it's easy and it looks pretty like the first couple," Mickelson said. "Some days it's hard and it looks terrible, like it did today. But either way, I shot three rounds under par."

He made a 25-foot birdie putt on the 13th hole for a two-shot lead. Stenson answered with a 5-iron to 6 feet for birdie on the next hole to tie for the lead when Mickelson three-putted, only his third bogey of the week.

Mickelson regained the lead with a pitch to 4 feet for birdie on the par-5 16th, only for the Swede to answer again, this time with an all-out 3-iron into the wind on the 220-yard 17th hole to 20 feet. Mickelson lost the lead by missing the green to the left and making bogey.

Everyone else felt like mere spectators.

Bill Haas, a seven-time winner on the PGA Tour who is rarely heard from at majors, was solid with a 69 and alone in third. It's his highest position ever in a major, yet he was six shots off the lead. Another shot back was Andrew Johnston, the Englishman with a big belly and beard to match who goes by "Beef." He broke par for the third straight day with a 70.

It was unlikely to matter.

This was all about Stenson and Mickelson, two powerful players with different styles and different credentials, mainly the number of majors - five for Mickelson, none for Stenson. Mickelson spoke earlier in the week about not having as much pressure knowing he already has won them.

Not since Davis Love III and Justin Leonard shared the lead and were seven shots clear of the field in the 1997 PGA Championship has the final round of a major took on the appearance of match play.

"I was happy enough to throw two good punches in there on the par 3s and pick up two shots on either one of them to come back out on top at the end of the third round," Stenson said. "I've always been of the thought that it's better to be one ahead than one behind, because that means Phil's got to play better than I do."

Mickelson finished three shots ahead of Stenson three years ago at Muirfield when Lefty closed with a 66 in one of the best final rounds of a major. He hasn't won another tournament since, and at age 46, it appeared time was running out.

A victory Sunday would give him six majors, same as Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino. He also would be the third-oldest major champion behind Julius Boros (48) and Morris, with whom Mickelson shares a birthday - June 16, albeit 149 years apart. The 1861 Open was played in September.

Stenson was on the verge of falling two shots behind until he holed a 40-foot par putt on the 10th. Two holes later, Mickelson was in danger of losing the lead when he pushed his 2-iron toward trouble and was fortunate the ball deflected off a piece of prickly gorse. He had just enough room to hammer it up the fairway, and then played a shot rarely seen in links golf - instead of running it up along the ground, he spun it back down a ridge to 6 feet for a key par.

"I got lucky that that ball didn't go into the gorse, even though I didn't have a back swing," Mickelson said. "I still had a chance to advance it a little bit. I still hit a good shot to advance it down the fairway like I did, and found a way to get up and down."

Now, they have one more round, this time with a claret jug at stake.

Riding the Metra with five-time major champion Phil Mickelson

Riding the Metra with five-time major champion Phil Mickelson

Five time major champion, Phil Mickelson, was in Chicago on Monday to promote the KPMG Women's PGA championship.

Mickelson took a 45-minute Metra train ride from Millennium Station to Olympia Fields CC, demonstrating how hassle free it is to get to the event.

While on the train, CSN's Pat Boyle interviewed Mickelson. They discussed Phil skipping the US Open, Tiger's dash cam video and how difficult the decision was for Mickelson to part with his longtime caddy, Jim "Bones" Mackay.

Lefty also talked about the revolving door of first time winners at the last 7 majors and what is left on his golf "to do" list.

NCAA Golf Championships and local stars take Rich Harvest Farms by storm

NCAA Golf Championships and local stars take Rich Harvest Farms by storm


The NCAA Men’s Golf National Championships are in full swing as teams have flocked from all across the country to compete at the pristine Rich Harvest Farms, in Sugar Hill, Ill.

The Championships, hosted by Northern Illinois, span from May 19-31 and include both individual and team competition for the men’s and women’s divisions.

In its first ever appearance at Rich Harvest Farms, the tournament will have no shortage of local talent.

The University of Illinois will be making its 10th straight NCAA tournament appearance led by Nick Hardy out of Northbrook, Ill. The Illini have had semifinal finishes in the last two years respectively, establishing themselves as an NCAA men’s powerhouse and looking to finally make it to the final round this year.

Other local golfers include:

Doug Ghim, Arlington Heights. -- University of Texas

Trent Wallace, Joliet. -- Illinois State University

Other top contenders at the tournament for team play are headlined by USC, Oklahoma State, and Vanderbilt. While for individual play Will Zalatoris out of Wake Forest leads the way, followed by Chandler Phillips out of Texas A&M and Travis Trace out of North Florida.

The men’s portion of the Championships began today at 3 p.m., but have dealt with delays due to inclement weather.

Last week saw women’s play wrap up on May 24 with Arizona State not only defeating local favorite Northwestern for their eighth national title in team play, but also saw Monica Vaughn take home the sixth individual title for the Sun Devils as well.

Men's play continues tomorrow through May 31 and can be seen on the Golf Channel along with the highlighted times below.

Golf Channel NCAA Men’s Golf Championships Coverage (all times ET)

Monday, May 29

Individual National Championship

4-8 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 30

Quarterfinals, Team Match Play

11 a.m.-1:30 p.m. (Live)

Tuesday, May 30

Semifinals, Team Match Play

4-8 p.m. (Live)

Wednesday, May 31

Team Match Play National Championship

4-8 p.m. (Live)