By Larry King
TROON, Scotland (Reuters) – The final round of the British Open began at Royal Troon on Sunday much as it had on Saturday, with Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson pulling away from the field and the weather getting worse.
“Henrik and Phil are sort of playing their own tournament right now,” Rory McIlroy remarked on Saturday, and their scores so far confirm his view.
Mickelson came within a hair’s breadth of shooting a 62 on the opening day to set the record low for a major championship. He has only one round in the 70s, and that just barely, a 70 on Saturday.
Stenson can’t match Mickelson’s remarkable first round, but he is the only player in the field with scores in the 60s in all three rounds — astounding consistency, considering the wind and the rain that set in on Friday.
Since then, the weather has deteriorated. On Sunday morning, rain competed with low-teens temperatures and winds gusting up to 30 miles per hour to see which could make the players more miserable. The wind was the clear winner.
And for the most part, scores have deteriorated along with the weather.
Pre-tournament favorites Adam Scott and Jordan Spieth, for example, earned early starts on Sunday with scores in the 70s in five out of six of their previous rounds; Scott managed a 69 on opening day.
On Sunday, Scott found a birdie on the third hole and both he and Spieth avoided bogeys in the early going. That left each with respectable starts to the front nine, but also left Scott 16 shots and Spieth 17 shots off the lead.
Local hero Colin Montgomerie, who barely survived the 36-hole cut and set off with a marker to begin the final round at 7.40 a.m., notched a bogey every other hole on the front nine.
With his lone birdie on the eighth hole, that left him at 39, three-over, on the outward nine. Things improved only slightly on the inward nine, where he recorded two more bogeys, to finish the round at 76 and the tournament at 17-over.
(Editing by Sudipto Ganguly)