Hunter Mahan finished fourth at this year's U.S. Open. (Redington/Getty Images)
Hunter Mahan shot a 68 Saturday at Muirfield that has him in contention in a second consecutive major. He's the first player at The Open Championship to complete 54 holes under par, finishing at 1-under 212.
Mahan played alongside Phil Mickelson in the final group of this year’s U.S. Open, shooting a final-round 75 to finish fourth, four shots behind winner Justin Rose. Mahan started this week with just one top-10, a sixth-place finish in 2007, in eight previous Open Championship starts.
“I'm just trying to play golf,” Mahan said. “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, playing in a British. I enjoyed it playing at the U.S. Open. I enjoyed playing with Phil. I didn't think that was a distraction or a hindrance or anything. You just kind of accept things and appreciate them.”
Mahan, a five-time PGA TOUR winner, is still seeking his first major title. When asked what’s kept him from claiming a Grand Slam event – his fourth-place finish at this year’s U.S. Open was the best of his career in a major – he replied, “Not being good enough, I guess. Probably my short game hasn't probably been as strong as it needed to be. But I'm chipping and putting, I think, great and doing all the right things. So I feel comfortable with my game and excited about the opportunity and just have to go out there and trust it and let it happen.”
The Open Championship’s penultimate pairing is tied for the lead as it heads to the back nine at Muirfield. Tiger Woods and Lee Westwood are both 2 under par for the tournament after making the turn in even-par 36. They’re one shot ahead of Hunter Mahan and Rafael Cabrera-Bello.
Westwood had a three-shot lead after a birdie on the par-3 seventh hole, but made bogeys on Nos. 8 and 9. He also made an eagle on the par-5 fifth hole after holing a putt from off the green.
Miguel Angel Jimenez, the 36-hole leader, two-putted from 15 feet for birdie on the par-5 ninth to shoot 3-over 39 and sit at even par for the championship.
The 2013 Masters champion and runner-up -- Adam Scott and Angel Cabrera -- are two shots off the lead, as are 2009 THE PLAYERS Championship winner Henrik Stenson and Jimenez.
Paul Lawrie won The Open Championship in 1999. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Good thing Paul Lawrie had paid for all seven nights at the Greywalls Hotel, the stylish Edwardian country house that has stood for more than a century overlooking he ninth and 18th greens at Muirfield.
So when the Scotsman drove home to Aberdeen Friday afternoon, thinking he had missed the cut at The Open Championship, his room was waiting when he had to literally reverse course.
"Just phone back up and your room is all serviced and ready to go," Lawrie said.
The Scotsman, winner of the 1999 Open Championship, had shot 69 in the second round but when added with that opening 81, Lawrie felt like there was no chance he'd play the weekend. So he headed home to Aberdeen, which is about three hours north of Muirfield, and his caddy took off for Glasgow.
Once he got home around 5 p.m. local time, Lawrie watched some of the Open on TV, with his iPad nearby on the sofa, presumably pointed toward the leaderboard. Then it was time to walk Bobo, his West Highland Terrier, and while they were gone, the texts started arriving telling Lawrie he was safe for the weekend.
So he grabbed a quick dinner, packed his bag, albiet a smaller one this time, and headed back to Muirfield. Thankfully, the roads were quiet and he was back at Greywalls by 11:20 p.m. local time.
"I don't think I've ever had to do that before," Lawrie said. "And thankfully it's just up the road. ... I can't believe nobody went overseas home on 8 over. I mean, that's incredible, really. ... When I came off the course, 6 over was 79th or 80th when I came off. How is 8 over gonna get in?
"It shows you how tough the course is."
Lawrie teed off at 9 a.m. local time (4 a.m. ET) on Saturday with Geoff Ogilvy and ended up shooting his second sub-par score of the week, a 70 that included four birdies and just two bogeys. It was a far cry from that opening round of 81.
And Saturday's 70 could have been even better for Lawrie, who made up 10 strokes in 1999 when he beat Justin Leonard and Jean van de Velde in a playoff at Carnoustie to claim the Claret Jug.
"(I made) so many poor shots (in the first round). Around a the golf course set up as tough as that and good as that, you're not going to do anything else," Lawrie said, "It's impossible to shoot anything else, but the score I shot, that's the worst I've played in a long time.
"Friday played beautiful, played magnificent. And went back to think a rhythm. Didn't get too technical. And today was the same thing, just played beautiful out there. Struggled a bit with the putter. Should have been quite a few less today."
Scotland’s hometown hero, Martin Laird, may have had his Open Championship hopes derailed at Muirfield’s third hole. Laird took two unplayable lies on the par-4 and scored a quintuple-bogey 9. Laird had birdied the second hole to reach 2 under par.
It started when Laird shanked his approach shot out of the thick rough. He took an unplayable lie, then chunked his next shot into more rough right of the green. He took another unplayable after his next swing failed to move the ball. He finally reached the green with his seventh shot and two-putted for nine.
Laird's problems didn't end there. He was informed on the 16th hole that he'd incurred a one-stroke penalty on No. 10 for not properly informing fellow competitor Dustin Johnson that he was marking and lifting his ball in order to identify it. "I said I'm going to identify my ball, but I didn't shout it across the fairway loud enough so he could hear," Laird said. A "deflated" Laird made bogey on No. 16 and double-bogey at the 17th to shoot 81 and fall to 51st. He started the day in sixth place.
Laird was still having the best Open Championship of his career. The Scot missed the cut in his first three Open Championships and finished 72nd last year.
Sergio Garcia is looking to win his first major championship this week. (Lewis/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- When he finished off a round of 68 on Saturday at Muirfield, Sergio Garcia had jumped 29 spots on the leaderboard into a tie for 20th.
Where he'll stand after everyone has completed three rounds in The Open Championship remains to be seen. But at least Garcia, whose round of 3 under was one of just three sub-70 scores among the first 40 posted, said he "finally felt like I knew what I was doing out there."
Garcia's 68 matched Richard Sterne as the low of the day -- so far. It included six birdies and just two bogeys as the Spaniard stalks his first major in 60 starts.
"And it wasn't easy," Garcia said. "It was definitely breezier than it was yesterday. Very similar wind. But I finally was able to hit some good shots and was able to trust my shots a little bit better. And thanks to that, I was able to score nicely."
Padraig Harrington, who played with Garcia, was impressed. "He played very well," the Irishman said. "You've got to think was quite unlucky to only shoot 3-under par.
Garcia said he knew he needed a good round to have a "slight" chance. At the same time, he can't afford to have players in front of him duplicate -- or exceed -- that kind of score.
"I can't tell you what's going to happen this afternoon," Garcia said. "... But if someone at 2- or 3-under shoots, 3- or 4-under par, it's going to be too far back."
Garcia said the pins were more accessible on Saturday than they'd been earlier in the week. The greens were watered overnight, as well, and overcast conditions early in the morning kept conditions more palatable.
"I'm not going to say it was soft, because it wasn't," Garcia said. "But it was definitely not as firm, and ... if you drove the ball well, you were able to hit some good shots at it. But it's definitely breezier than it was yesterday."
As the contenders begin to tee off at The Open Championship, here’s some interesting notes from the opening 36 holes at Muirfield:
-- Miguel Angel Jimenez, who holds a one-stroke lead, had just two top-10s in 20 Open Championship appearances before this year. Both top-10s came at Royal Lytham, a T-3 in 2001 and T-9 last year.
-- Jimenez will be 49 years, 6 months and 16 days old on Sunday. The oldest Open Championship winner is Tom Morris Sr., winning in 1867 at the age of 46 years and 99 days.
-- Darren Clarke (2011) is the last 36-hole leader to win The Open Championship. The 36-hole leader has won 17 of the past 42 Open Championships.
-- This year’s cut came at 8-over 150 with 82 professionals and two amateurs advancing. By comparison, in 2002 at Muirfield, the cut came at 2-over 144.
-- Masters champion Adam Scott is at 1-over 143, four shots behind Jimenez. A player has won the Masters and Open Championship 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). Scott was runner-up in last year’s Open Championship.
-- Rory McIlroy’s 12-over 154 this week was his highest 36-hole score in 10 missed cuts on the PGA TOUR.
-- Lee Westwood (T-2) carded a second-round 3-under 68, his first round in the 60s at the Open since an opening-round 67 eventually led to a runner-up finish at St. Andrews in 2010.
-- Angel Cabrera (T-6) snapped a streak of three-consecutive missed cuts at the Open Championship. His last made cut led to a T24 finish at Turnberry in 2009.
-- Jason Day enters the weekend T20 after rounds of 73-71, earning his third made cut in as many Open Championship starts (T60-2010, T30-2011). He is the only player with top-10 finishes in the first two major championships this year (3rd-Masters, T2-U.S. Open).
-- Muirfield played to a 74.984 scoring average in the first two rounds. Muirfield’s scoring average was 74.597 in the first round and 75.373 in the second round. There were just four rounds in the 60s in the second round, compared to 14 on Thursday. There were no bogey-free rounds in either of the first two rounds.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
GULLANE, Scotland -- Among the interesting pairings for the third round of The Open Championship is the two-ball of Padraig Harrington and Sergio Garcia.
At the 2007 Open at Carnoustie, Harrington closed with a 67 and ended up beating Garcia in a playoff. Both players owned a one-shot lead on the 72nd hole -- Harrington hitting into the Barry Burn twice on the way to a double bogey and Garcia later unable to get up and down for what would have been the winning par.
Here are some other players PGATOUR.COM is watching this afternoon at Muirfield. Use the comments section below and let us know the players you'll have your eyes on.
Phil Mickelson: Lefty has only had two top-10s at The Open Championship in 19 previous starts. One of those was two years ago, and the man who won the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open on Sunday has become increasingly comfortable with the links game.
Ian Poulter: If nothing else, Poulter always bears watching to see what kind of clothes he's going to break out. But the colorful Brit starts the third round just four strokes off the lead and he has two top-10s in his last five Open Championships.
Adam Scott: The reigning Masters champ suffered bitter disappointment last year at Royal Lytham & St. Annes when he squandered a four-stroke lead on the final four holes Sunday. He's quietly lurking again this year at 1 over so Saturday could be big if he can make a move.
Jordan Spieth: The 19-year-old won the John Deere Classic on Sunday to punch his ticket to his first Open, and he was among the leaders after a 69 on Thursday. If he can shake off the second-round 74 and get headed in the right direction again who knows what this uber-talented teen can do.
Angel Cabrera: The Argentine comes up big in the big events and this week is no exception. His only two PGA TOUR wins came at the 2007 U.S. Open and the 2009 Masters -- and he lost in a playoff to Scott earlier this year at AUgusta National.
Tiger Woods: The world No. 1 hasn't won a major championship in his last 16 starts but he's once again gotten himself in position to make a run. He's been ultra conservative this week and it's paid off with rounds of 69 and 71.
Lee Westwood: The Englishman is 0-61 in majors but he's had top-10 finishes in nine of his last 15 starts. Two of those are runner-ups, including in 2010 at the Open at St. Andrews.
Miguel Angel Jimenez: This cigar-smoking Spaniard bears watching for his warm-up routine, if nothing else. But at 49 Jimenez could become the oldest winner in major championship history.
GULLANE, Scotland -- Once again sunshine has overtaken the skies on the coast of the Firth of Forth, and those with early tee times at The Open Championship on Saturday morning have a fighting chance of posting a good score.
What will transpire as the leaders get their third rounds under way is anyone's guess but it Muirfield plays true-to-form, expect brutal conditions in the afternoon and a scramble on the leaderboard.
With exactly half of the 84 surviving players on the golf course right now just nine are under par with Richard Sterne, who is 3 under through 17 holes, leading the way.
Shingo Katayama has just posted a 69 while Keegan Bradley, Todd Hamilton and Paul Lawrie are also 2 under through nine, 16 and 14 holes, respectively.
Lawrie, you might remember, famously made up 10 strokes on the final day at Carnoustie in 1999 and beat Jean van de Velde and Justin Leonard in a playoff. He's nine behind right now.
GULLANE, Scotland -- Tee times for Saturday's third round of the Open Championship at Muirfield (Eastern Time in bold followed by local time in Scotland):
3:10 a.m. ET (8:10 a.m.) - Shingo Katayama, Richard Sterne
3:20 a.m. ET (8:20 a.m.) - Carl Pettersson, Jonas Blixt
3:30 a.m. ET (8:30 a.m.) - K.J. Choi, Chris Wood
3:40 a.m. ET (8:40 a.m.) - Mikko Ilonen, Todd Hamilton
3:50 a.m. ET (8:50 a.m.) - Peter Senior, Mark Brown
4:00 a.m. ET (9:00 a.m.) - Geoff Ogilvy, Paul Lawrie
4:10 a.m. ET (9:10 a.m.) - Richie Ramsay, Thongchai Jaidee
4:20 a.m. ET (9:20 a.m.) - Boo Weekley, Gareth Wright
4:30 a.m. ET (9:30 a.m.) - K.T. Kim, Jimmy Mullen (a)
4:45 a.m. ET (9:45 a.m.) - Josh Teater, Gonzalo Fdez-Castano
4:55 a.m. ET (9:55 a.m.) - Keegan Bradley, Fred Couples
5:05 a.m. ET (10:05 a.m.) - Jason Dufner, Bud Cauley
5:15 a.m. ET (10:15 a.m.) - Bo Van Pelt, Matthew Fitzpatrick (a)
5:25 a.m. ET (10:25 a.m.) - Russell Henley, Tim Clark
5:35 a.m. ET (10:35 a.m.) - Ernie Els, Graham DeLaet
5:45 a.m. ET (10:45 a.m.) - Shane Lowry, Oliver Fisher
5:55 a.m. ET (10:55 a.m.) - Sergio Garcia, Padraig Harrington
6:05 a.m. ET (11:05 a.m.) - Sandy Lyle, Y.E. Yang
6:20 a.m. ET (11:20 a.m.) - Steven Tiley, Ken Duke
6:30 a.m. ET (11:30 a.m.) - George Coetzee, Thomas Bjorn
6:40 a.m. ET (11:40 a.m.) - Brandt Snedeker, Stewart Cink
6:50 a.m. ET (11:50 a.m.) - Matt Kuchar, Fredrik Jacobson
7:00 a.m. ET (12:00 p.m.) - Marcus Fraser, Danny Willett
7:10 a.m. ET (12:10 p.m.) - Martin Kaymer, Eduardo de la Riva
7:20 a.m. ET (12:20 p.m.) - Gregory Bourdy, Graeme McDowell
7:30 a.m. ET (12:30 p.m.) - Stephen Gallacher, Kevin Streelman
7:45 a.m. ET (12:45 p.m.) - Ben Curtis, Bernd Wiesberger
7:55 a.m. ET (12:55 p.m.) - Shiv Kapur, Jamie Donaldson
8:05 a.m. ET (1:05 p.m.) - Branden Grace, Harris English
8:15 a.m. ET (1:15 p.m.) - Tom Lehman, Mark O'Meara
8:25 a.m. ET (1:25 p.m.) - Johnson Wagner, Hideki Matsuyama
8:35 a.m. ET (1:35 p.m.) - Jason Day, Hunter Mahan
8:45 a.m. ET (1:45 p.m.) - Justin Leonard, Phil Mickelson
8:55 a.m. ET (1:55 p.m.) - Ian Poulter, Bubba Watson
9:10 a.m. ET (2:10 p.m.) - Francesco Molinari, Webb Simpson
9:20 a.m. ET (2:20 p.m.) - Adam Scott, Charl Schwartzel
9:30 a.m. ET (2:30 p.m.) - Darren Clarke, Jordan Spieth
9:40 a.m. ET (2:40 p.m.) - Ryan Moore, Angel Cabrera
9:50 a.m. ET (2:50 p.m.) - Zach Johnson, Rafael Cabrera-Bello
10:00 a.m. ET (3:00 p.m.) - Martin Laird, Dustin Johnson
10:10 a.m. ET (3:10 p.m.) - Tiger Woods, Lee Westwood
10:20 a.m. ET (3:20 p.m.) - Henrik Stenson, Miguel Angel Jimenez