By Larry King
TROON, Scotland, July 16 (Reuters) – Henrik Stenson will start the final round of the British Open leading the championship, and trying not to think about how it’s going to end.
“Thoughts of outcome are never really helping you,” he said at a news conference after his third round at Royal Troon, where he gained a one shot advantage over American Phil Mickelson.
“I know what I would like to see tomorrow. There’s no question about it.”
Stenson’s one-shot lead puts the 40-year-old Swede as close as he’s ever been to winning his first major. The last time he got this close was in 2013, when he was edged out of another British Open — by Mickelson. Was revenge on his mind?
“There’s always revenge,” he said, smiling. “It would be great to hand one back to him tomorrow, absolutely. But as we know it’s going to take some good golfing to do that, but I’m certainly willing to give it a try.”
Winning at Muirfield in 2013 gave Mickelson his first British Open. Earlier this week, he said that having already won a Claret Jug had eased the pressure.
Looking from the other direction, Stenson sees some advantages in his own record.
“I’ve got a second and two third (places) at The Open, so it’s not like I’m looking to pick up any more of those finishes,” he said. “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.”
He also has some recent history going for him — he’s broken par on the back nine in all three rounds at Troon, where the final nine is considered more difficult than the first.
“Yeah, I’ll keep that in mind when I’m coming into the back nine tomorrow,” Stenson, whose birdies on 14 and 17, both par threes, on Saturday gave him the lead.
“The key moment was really 10,” he said. “I make a 35-footer for par to stay in the ballgame … then we both had to scramble on 11 and 12, and then I just played really solid from there on, the last six or seven holes.
“Some good striking again, gave myself some good birdie opportunities and took them on the par threes. And I don’t believe 17 was throwing out too many birdies this afternoon.
“So, happy with the way I finished. It’s going to be a tough day tomorrow, long day tomorrow, but I’m looking forward to it.” (Reporting by Larry King; editing by Martyn Herman)