Phil Mickelson lost his rag with trigger-happy photographers as well as the lead in the third round of the 145th Open Championship at Royal Troon, writes Martin Dempster.
The five-time major winner, who rarely has a smile off his face on the golf course, expressed his displeasure after hearing a camera click at the top of his backswing as he hit his approach to the 18th. “It’s so shitty to do that,” he said. “I can’t believe that. I get you’ve got to cover it. But why interfere with it?”
Mickelson’s mood probably wasn’t helped by losing his overnight advantage to Stenson, who has set up a golden chance to turn the tables after finishing runner-up to the American at Muirfield three years ago.
“There’s always revenge,” admitted Stenson, smiling. “Phil won it very deservingly at Muirfield with a great finish, making four birdies on the last six holes, so it would be great to hand one back to him tomorrow.
“It’s going to take some good golfing to do that, but I’m certainly willing to give it a try. I’ve got a second and two thirds at the Open, so there’s only one thing that matters tomorrow. 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.” After doing little wrong on the first two days, Mickelson said he’d lost his rhythm in the wind. “When I tried to play a little bit more aggressive down the downwind holes, I started to get a little jumpy with my swing. I started to get a little bit anxious,” he said.
According to third-placed Bill Haas, the two leaders are going to be difficult to reel in. “With those two quality players in front of you, I pretty much know I’ve got to go shoot a (low) score and hopefully that will work out,” said the American.
Asked by Scotland on Sunday if becoming Open champion in the home of golf would be a special achievement, Stenson, showing exactly why he’s one of the most popular figures in the sport for his engaging personality, smiled before replying: “Aye!”