“Hey, not too long ago Phil won both of them, why not?” said the world No 1, who didn’t need to be told that Mickelson had won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2013 before adding The Open seven days later at Muirfield.
Englishman Matthew Fitzpatrick, who won the Silver Medal as leading amateur on that occasion, and Belgian Thomas Detry share the lead on 14-under-par after 54 holes at The Renaissance Club, but Rahm is lurking ominously.
“Hey, I compete to win,” he replied to being asked if he’d be happy with a high finish rather than a win, almost to keep his powder dry for the season’s final major in Kent next week. “If I didn’t want to win, I wouldn’t be here. Is it like we have a limited amount of wins (laughing)? You can win as many as you want.”
Rahm, who started the day in a share of the lead, missed short putts at both the first and third in running up bogeys. It was more like it as he then picked up five birdies in eight holes around the turn before looking on in horror as a missed two-footer led to a bogey-6 at the 16th.
“Just a couple errors,” he said after signing for a 69. “Whether it's me mentally or technically, it is unfortunate that it's been happening quite a bit the last few days. I'm usually very, very solid inside five feet. That's usually my comfortable range. It's definitely unusual.
“But I'm making it up with a couple other longer putts and hitting really, really good shots out there. My iron play was exceptional today and it was great off the tee. Hopefully I can keep that going tomorrow and clean up the little mistakes and come out on top.”
Fitzpatrick covered the last six holes in three-under in carding a 67 to set up the chance of another notable success in East Lothian. “Is it a special part of the world? Yeah, I guess so,” said the 26-year-old Sheffield man. “Muirfield is just down the road and I do enjoy playing golf in Scotland, although only when the weather is nice.”
No matter the outcome on Sunday, football fan Fitzpatrick is heading to Wembley to cheer on England in the Euro2020 final against Italy. “I’m going,” he said, despite the fact he’ll face a race against time with the golf action set to finish at around 5.15pm and 8pm being the kick-off time in London.
“Regardless. I’m just going to try. Even if just for the second-half, I’ll get in. My mates will be there. My brother and three of my pals and I’ll just join up with them. I’m going to go on a plane, then a car and it’ll drop me off.”
Detry, who is bidding to land his maiden European win in the $8 million Rolex Series event, illuminated his round with an eagle-2 at the fifth, while his 68 also contained two birdies and a bogey.
“Eventful day,” said the 28-year-old, who is leading the battle for three spots up for grabs in The Open. “Got off to a really good start. Didn't quite make the putts that I wanted to but then got a good break on hole No 5 for an eagle and that kick started the day really.”
Looking ahead to his monumental challenge in the final round, he sounded upbeat. “I've done really well already at some Rolex Series events, including Turkey and Nedbank (in South Africa). I feel like I've been up there a few times and know how to approach it. I'm going to play my game the same that I did today and hopefully the same result.”
Australian Lucas Herbert, who is trying to land back-to-back wins after his success last Sunday in the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open at Mount Juliet, sits two off the lead after a 64, with two of his compatriots, Min Woo Lee and Wade Ormsby, on 11-under along with American Wade Ormsby.
European No 1 Lee Westwood, who was going along very nicely indeed before running up two double-bogeys in the space of three holes on the back nine, sits in a tie for eighth on 10-under in a group that also includes Scottish duo David Law and Richie Ramsay, as well as Dundee-based Frenchman Victor Perex.
“It was really good,” said Law of his day’s work, which included a 30-footer across the green for a birdie at the eighth, in the company of world No 3 Justin Thomas and Ryder Cup talisman Ian Poulter. “I probably hit it the worst I’ve hit it over the first three days, but I putted good again. So, all in all, I was happy with that.
“It was a good three-ball. It was one of those situations that, as good as it was to play with Ian and Justin, I just had to focus on my own stuff and do what I had been doing for the first two days.
“That was one of the main goals today was to think about myself and I am glad that I managed to do that. Without a doubt, it’s the highest-profile three-ball I’ve been in. I’ve played with plenty of big players, but not two at the same time. It was good fun and I enjoyed it and now I’m just looking forward to tomorrow.”
South African Dean Burmester’s 66 for a seven-under total included a run of four straight 2s from the 12th as he went eagle-birdie-eagle-birdie. He lipped out for a hole-in-one at the 12th, holed a 7-iron from 178 yards at the next, nearly slam-dunked a gap wedge at the 14th before knocking in another 7-iron shot, this time from 220 yards, at the 15th.
“It was crazy stuff as and I nearly made a 3 at 16 as it lipped out for eagle,” he said, dedicating the incredible scoring spree to Clare Lipscombe, a European Tour staff member who died on Friday at the age of 43.