By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Almost lost in the can-Lee-Westwood-finally-win-a-major talk and the can-Tiger-Woods-ever-win-another discussion has been the performance of Hunter Mahan.
The American posted a brilliant 68 on Saturday that included five birdies on putts that ranged from 12 inches to 50 feet. He completed 54 holes in 1 under and will play in the final group on Sunday with Lee Westwood, who leads by two.
It's Mahan's second straight appearance in the last pairing at a major on Sunday so he must be doing something right. He played with Phil Mickelson and closed with a 75 at the U.S. Open to tie for fourth, which was his fourth top-10 in 30 appearances at a major.
So what is the key?
"Probably doing the right amount of practice, right amount of work, right amount of kind of rest and mental kind of preparation," Mahan said. "I'm just trying to play golf. I'm not trying to add to anything and make it more than it is, just enjoying kind of the opportunity of playing in a major. ... You just kind of accept things and appreciate them."
Mahan acknowledged that trying to win a major can be "overwhelming at times." The huge galleries, the topsy-turvey nature of the leaderboard, the expectations -- all serve to heighten the pressure.
"I definitely think you kind of have to believe before you can win," Mahan said. "You've got to have that confidence knowing that I can play well and I can win a major. You have to believe before it can actually happen, because you actually have to see it happening. I think once you start believing and actually trusting yourself, you can go out and do all kinds of stuff."
GULLANE, Scotland -- Muirfield's vexing greens were hand-watered overnight and have been double-cut at a length of 4 millimeters.
The putting surfaces will run at 10 1/2 on the Stimpmeter, and several were rolled to make sure they kept pace with the rest of the greens. With the wind blowing at 15 mph in the afternoon and continued dry conditions, the greens are sure to pick up speed as the day progresses and the leaders tee off.
In addition, Muirfield will play 24 yards in excess of its normal 7,192 yards on Sunday.
GULLANE, Scotland -- The clouds are lingering over Muirfield on Sunday but the local meteorologists assure that the sun will shine bright on the horizon as Lee Westwood and Hunter Mahan tee off at 9:10 a.m. ET (2:10 p.m. local) in the the day's final group at The Open Championship.
The air is heavy and the wind is relatively benign right now but it should increase to 15 mph by early afternoon with occasional gusts to 20. Temperatures will top out in the upper 70s.
GULLANE, Scotland (AP) -- Lee Westwood is the leader going to the final round of the British Open.
Seeking the first major title of his career, the 40-year-old Englishman curled in a 60-foot eagle putt on the way to a 1-under 70 Saturday that put him two strokes ahead of Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan.
Westwood has been a perennial contender in majors, finishing second or third a staggering seven times. But he's never been able to finish the job.
He'll try to do it Sunday at baked-out Muirfield.
Westwood made eagle at the fifth hole, and pulled three shots ahead of the field on the front side. Woods fought back and was even with Westwood going to the 17th. But Westwood made a birdie and Woods a sloppy bogey for a two-shot swing.
Woods carded a 1-over 72 Saturday at Muirfield. (Lewis/Getty Images)
If Tiger Woods is going to win his first major championship in five years, he'll have to do something he never did while winning his previous 14: Come from behind in the final round.
Woods shot a 1-over 72 Saturday and trails leader Lee Westwood by two with one round to play in The Open Championship at Muirfield.
Westwood, who shot 70, grabbed the lead late in the day with a lengthy birdie putt on the par-5 17th. Woods, meanwhile, made bogey for a two-shot swing atop the leaderboard.
Also two back is Hunter Mahan, who tied for the low round of the day with a 68 and will play in the final pairing on Sunday, marking the second straight major that he'll do so.
Woods will play in the second-to-last group on Sunday alongside Masters champion Adam Scott, who is a stroke back of Woods.
It didn't take long for Woods to move to the top of the leaderboard on Saturday. He just couldn't stay there.
Woods birdied the par-4 second before overnight leader Miguel Angel Jimenez made bogey there to fall out of the top spot.
The lead didn't last long for Woods. He bogeyed Nos. 4 and 7 before bouncing back with another birdie at No. 9.
Westwood, meanwhile, erased an early bogey on the third with an eagle on the par-5 fifth and a birdie on No. 7. The Englishman added two more birdies and made just one bogey over his final five holes.
As a result, Westwood has the 54-hole lead into the final round of a major for the first time since the 2010 Masters. He went on to finish second.
While Westwood is looking for his first career major, Woods is seeking his 15th and first since the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- One of the putting drills Phil Mickelson made famous has him putting 10 balls in a circle around the cup, each about 3 feet away.
He works his way around and around and around, trying to make 100 in succession. The way Mickelson talked after shoot a 72 in the third round of The Open Championship, though, he'd better back the distance up a tad prior to Sunday's decisive finale at Muirfield.
"I feel like the only hole that is kind of a -- I don't want to say gimme birdie, but a hole you should birdie -- is No. 9 and everything else you've got to make a 20, 30-footer," Mickelson said. " You're very lucky if you hit it close. ...
"You just need an element of luck. You're going to have to make 20, 30-footers. I didn't make really any today and subsequently only had three birdies. And I think the pars are very manageable. I don't think there's any hole that if you hit good shots, you should be able to par every hole out here."
Mickelson, who won his first event in the UK last Sunday at the Scottish Open, needs more than pars, though, if he is to win the third leg of his career Grand Slam. The four-time major champion will start the final round at 2 over, which puts him five strokes off Lee Westwood's lead.
Mickelson felt he struck the ball better than he had in Friday's 73 after a practice session with his long-time coach Butch Harmon. He certainly didn't make as many putts as he would have liked, but there weren't any three-putts, either.
"I thought today was excellent," Mickelson said. "It was set up very well. We saw a few scores under par. We saw quite a few over par. If you manage your game well, I thought you could make pars, and an occasional birdie here and there. ...
"Anything around par today was a good round. I think that I'll have to play a good round tomorrow, but I think it's right there."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- On a day when several groups were put on the clock, Hideki Matsuyama was assessed a one-stroke penalty for taking too long over his second shot at the 17th hole.
As a result, the 21-year-old ended up with a bogey at the par 5 and a third-round 72. So Matsuyama, who tied for 10th at the U.S. Open, will start the final round of The Open Championship six strokes off the lead.
Matsuyama's first bad time came on the 15th green when he took 1 minute and 12 seconds over his first putt. His second bad time of 2 minutes and 12 seconds was on his approach from the rough at the 17th hole. The group ahead of Matsuyama and Johnson Wagner, Tom Lehman and Mark O'Meara, was also on the clock, as were several other twosomes during the third round.
David Probyn, European Tour tournament director, assessed the penalty. The chairman on the Japan Golf Association was an observer with the group and he handled the translation.
Wagner said he thought it was "terrible" the three-time winner on the Japan Tour was penalized. He said Matsuyama played a little slower than he did but that overall he felt the twosome kept up with the group ahead throughout the day.
"I don't like slow play, either," Wagner said. "But given his position in the tournament, and given the shot he faced on 17, laying it up out of the fescue over gourse and pot bunkers, I don't think he took too long. I think he executed a really good shot and under the situation, I think it's tragic, and I think The R&A should use better judgment in the penalizing of it."
In fact, Wagner said he spent five minutes in the scoring trailer making an appeal.
"I feel like I let the official know how I felt about it as gentlemanly as I could, but it infuriated me that he got a penalty," Wagner said. "If they had tried to penalize me, I would have gone ballistic. So I tried to represent Hideki as good as I could, and couldn't get it changed."
According to David Rickman, the R&A's director of rules and equipment standards, Probyn said he gave Matsuyama time to deal with the errant shot, which had traveled into the crowd, as well as walk up and back to assess his shot before the timing began.
"So we feel that we were appropriately liberal with the starting of the timing procedure," Rickman said.
Twosomes are expected to complete 18 holes at Muirfield in three hours and 41 minutes. Rickman said Matsuyama and Wagner were 15 minutes over the time par, "but more crucially in those circumstances, they were four minutes out of position with the group ahead of them."
Wagner, who played with Matsuyama at last year's Masters, said at one point there were four officials walking with their group and "it was extremely frazzling." He said he was in the fescue rough on the right side of the 17th fairway "rushing to play my shots" while Matsuyama was hitting his approach. Once the two met again on the green, Wagner was very sympathetic.
"I just looked at him and gave him (a) this is ridiculous, I'm sorry, look," Wagner said. "And he was like, I know. We don't really speak the same language, but we know what we're talking about. Like I say, I love The R&A and I'm all for fast play, but I think a little better judgment could have been used."
This is the second time an Asian player has been penalized at a major championship this year. Guan Tianlang, a 14-year-old from China, received a one-stroke penalty at the Masters but went on to finish as the low amateur.
Adam Scott is in contention once again at The Open Championship. There’s one major difference this year, though. He arrived at Muirfield as a major champion, having already claimed this year’s Masters. That victory may make Sunday’s task easier for the Australian. Scott is at even-par 213, three shots behind Lee Westwood.
“It's a good feeling to sit here in this position, absolutely,” Scott said after his third-round 70. “It's completely different. I think I go out there tomorrow not carrying the weight of the lead or not having won a major. So it's a different feeling. Hopefully I can play enough quality shots to give myself chances to be in the hunt right at the end.”
Scott made three birdies and just two bogeys Saturday. He was runner-up in last year’s Open Championship after making bogey on the final four holes to finish one shot behind Ernie Els. Scott said he hasn’t lingered on last year’s defeat.
“I think honestly I haven't flashed back (to the Open) since Akron last year,” Scott said. “I haven't thought about the entirety of it at all. I thought it's best not to. Just take the couple of bits that I wanted to and leave it as an experience. And the way I remember it is only as a great week.”
Scott hadn’t finished better than 13th in four starts between the Masters and Open Championship, including a 45th-place finish at the U.S. Open. “Well, I'm satisfied with how I'm playing this week,” he said. “The last few events I haven't really played that hot. So it's nice to put myself back in this position. I worked hard over the last couple of weeks since AT&T. So I'm happy that I'm sitting here and I'm going to have a chance to play a good round tomorrow.”
Now Scott is trying to join a select group of players who have won the Masters and Open Championship in the same season. A player has won those events in the same season eight times: Ben Hogan (1953), Arnold Palmer (1962), Jack Nicklaus (1966), Gary Player (1974), Tom Watson (1977), Nick Faldo (1990), Mark O’Meara (1998) and Tiger Woods (2005).
“I've got, nothing really to lose tomorrow and majors to gain,” Scott said. “So that's certainly a nice feeling, whereas before in some ways it was getting to the point where you're hoping it was going to happen tomorrow. It is absolutely a weight off your shoulders to have the first one.”
Lehman is looking for his third top 25 in the last four years at the Open. (Lewis/Getty Images)
Mark O'Meara's round started promising enough on Saturday at Muirfield.
How it ended was another story.
The 1998 Open champion birdied the first hole in the third round only to follow with seven bogeys over his next 17 holes en route to a 77 that leaves him 9 over and tied for 51st.
His playing partner -- 1996 winner Tom Lehman -- didn't fare much better.
Lehman bogeyed four of his first six holes Saturday and went on to shoot 75. He's 7 over through three rounds and tied for 34th.
Still, the two 50-somethings are looking at their best finish in the Open in years.
O'Meara didn't even play in the Open last year, and he missed the cut in three of the previous four years before that. He hasn't finished in the top 50 there since a tie for 30th in 2004.
Lehman, meanwhile, missed the cut last year. In two of the previous three years, however, he finished in the top 25 with a tie for 14th in 2010 his best finish in the last dozen years.