Saturday, July 16, 2016

British Open -- Day Three Wrap-Up

The two guys who started off in third place -- Soren Kjeldsen and Keegan Bradley -- both struggled all day, so the tournament quickly turned into a match play battle between Henrik Stenson of Sweden and Phil Mickelson of the good old U.S. of A.  If you've watched any Ryder Cup matches since Phil started participating, way back in the mid-1990's, you pretty much knew how this was going to turn out.  Phil was spraying the ball all over the place, while Stenson was pretty much knocking it straight down the middle.  Nevertheless, through sheer pluck, determination, and great putting skill, Phil hung in there for almost the whole round.  In fact, going to the 17th hole, he still led by a single shot.  But then, as almost always happens to the Americans in the Ryder Cup, disaster struck.  Phil hit yet another disastrous approach shot, and this time he couldn't save par.  Meanwhile, as the Europeans always do in these situations, Stenson rolled in his birdie putt at the most devastating moment possible -- slingshotting past Mickelson and taking over the lead.

It was a glorious performance from Stenson, whose 68 was the low round of the day and one of the best rounds I've seen at the British Open.  If not for Phil's genius around the greens -- he just kept making one amazing save after another -- Stenson would have buried the rest of the field today.  As it is, Mickelson's wizardry gets him one more chance tomorrow.

Mickelson is not a great bet in these situations -- he has finished first or second 15 times in major tournaments:  5 firsts and 10 seconds.  (By contrast, Tiger had 14 firsts and 6 seconds).  Mickelson's game is too eccentric for grinding; he is like a great basketball player who you can always count on to make some key turnovers down the stretch.  And, in fact, the oddsmakers agree that Stenson is the favorite:

Stenson:  4 to 6 (60 percent chance of winning)
Mickelson:  11 to 8 (42.1 percent chance of winning)

(It adds up to more than 100 percent because the odds have to be somewhat less than reality in order for the bookies to make money.)

That sounds about right to me.  On the other hand, here are the latest odds to win the White House:

Hillary Clinton:  4 to 9 (69.2 percent chance of winning)
Donald Trump:  7 to 4 (36.6 percent chance of winning)

So Phil's chances of winning the British Open tomorrow are better than Donald Trump's chances of winning the White House.  For a 46-year-old guy who struggles to hit the ball straight, that's not too bad.

And I will make one other point in Phil's favor.  Whatever you think of him -- and my thoughts have been all over the place in the last 25 years -- he is a big-time star, one of the greatest golfers who ever lived.  Mickelson has won 42 PGA Tour events, including 5 majors.  Henrick Stenson is a great golfer -- but at the age of 40, he has never won a major tournament, despite nine top-10 finishes.  Down the stretch, those facts could make a difference (although they didn't save Phil against Justin Rose a few years ago in the U.S. Open).

1.  H. Stenson (SWE):  -12 (68+65+68=201)

2.  P. Mickelson:  -11 (63+69+70=202)

3.  B. Haas:  -6 (68+70+69=207)

4.  A. Johnston (ENG):  -5 (69+69+70=208)

5.  J.B. Holmes:  -4 (70+70+69=209)

T6.  T. Finau:  -3 (67+71+72=210)
T6.  S. Kjeldsen (DEN):  -3 (67+68+75=210)
T6.  S. Stricker:  -3 (67+75+68=210)

T9.  K. Bradley:  -2 (67+68+76=211)
T9.  S. Garcia (ESP):  -2 (68+70+73=211)
T9.  P. Reed:  -2 (66+74+71=211)
T9.  C. Schwarzel (RSA):  -2 (72+66+73=211)

107 comments:

  1. I'm rooting for the story of the day being either a J.B. Holmes 62 or Phil Mickelson match-play victory over Rio 2016 gold-medal-favorite Henrik Stenson.

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  2. Replies
    1. Scotland won't be in the EU for much longer, so Colin should enjoy it while he can.

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  3. Leaders are scheduled to tee at 8:35 a.m. Central/2:35 p.m local time.

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  4. The Golf Channel guys are talking about having baked beans for breakfast. My mom and dad used to eat baked beans on toast for breakfast every so often when I was growing up in Paducah. They heard about the UK doing that from Hughes Rudd or Charles Kuralt or something, so they gave it a try and liked it a good bit. They had it with asparagus.

    Then, in autumn 2001, Mom and I were traveling up in New England, and we stayed at a Best Western in Maine that had all of these pictures of the presidents all over the place. They served baked beans as part of their continental breakfast. It's pretty good. I like baked beans a good bit.

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  5. Donald Trump is doing a one-on-one on the Golf Channel's Feherty program tomorrow evening, and it has been heavily promoted throughout this British Open. It looks like he's going to come off as calm, analytical and self-effacing, and I'm afraid it could turn out to be big.

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    1. My guess is that Feherty will give Bill Clinton equal time.

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    2. Actually, Feherty may also have Obama on.

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  6. And now here's U.S. Olympic golfer Rickie Fowler (3-over/T40) driving to within about 10 feet at par-3 No. 5.

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  7. Golf Channel, so smooth and seductive, runs a promo for NBC's Olympic golf coverage and comes back with footage of U.S. Olympic golfer Bubba Watson (7-over/T61) flailing away with some fairway iron on No. 6. I wish President Obama would give the Olympics to NBC for the rest of my life. NBC really has the spend-some-time/easy touch on low-boil sports events like the Olympics and middle 1980s AFC Championships. CBS is good for getting really worked up over stuff like the Final Four or "looking live" at noon kickoffs from Veterans Stadium, and I like a little ABC/ESPN for introducing me to exotic things like cliff diving, Australian Rules Football and Lee Roy Yarborough. But when it comes to being whisked away for a weekend romp of EU Open golf or two-week fling for Rio 2016, I like NBC's slow hand.

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    1. I couldn't disagree with you more over NBC's Olympics coverage. The Olympics is a big-time event, and it should be treated as such.

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    2. Best Olympics coverage, all time:

      1. CBS: 1994 Winter Olympics
      2. ABC: Any Olympics helmed by Jim McKay

      That's it. That's the list.

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    3. Having said that, NBC has done a great job with this British Open. I haven't missed ESPN/ABC at all, in part because Mike Tirico has joined NBC.

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  8. Over to NBC for the rest of the tournament ... thank you for the love, Golf Channel.

    President Obama is all on me. David Feherty, I hope you're right about President Trump.

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  9. The Cooking Lady finishes up a plate of sausage, grilled pineapple and grits on Channel 6 (looks delicious), and now here we go from Scotland! It would've been great had Frank Morock been on the mike instead of Mike Tirico.

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  10. 32-year-old Daniel Summerhays of Farmington, Utah, (9-over) takes over as leader in the clubhouse, which means that 59-year-old Mark O'Meara of Goldsboro, North Carolina, (10-over) is free to catch his flight home.

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  11. OK, so the deal is that golf is scheduled to return to the Olympics at Rio 2016 for the first time since St. Louis 1904.

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  12. Defending champion is George Seymour Lyon of Richmond, Canada West. It was a match-play tournament. Lyon beat Henry Chandler Egan of Chicago for the gold; Burt Plumb McKinnie of Pleasanton, Kansas, and Francis Clement "Frank" Newton of Washington both were awarded bronze medals.

    There also was a team golf competition at St. Louis 1904, and Team USA swept the medals ...

    Gold: Western Golf Association of Golf, Illinois

    Silver: Trans-Mississippi Golf Association ("Trans-Miss") of Dallas

    Bronze: USGA of Far Hills, New Jersey

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  13. Rio 2016 is scheduled to have two stroke-play tournaments--a men's (Aug. 11-14) and a women's (Aug. 17-20). Ties for any of the medals after 72 holes would be settled by three-hole playoffs.

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  14. Also, it's great to see Jordan Spieth playing better today. He had an eagle on No. 4, and he's 3-under on his final round through 14 holes. He's 2-over and T37 for the tournament.

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  15. And we have a new clubhouse leader: 36-year-old Adam Scott of Adelaide, Australia, at 5-over. The television set in my house is now tuned to Disney, so I don't know if Adam Scott is still getting to use his stupid illegal putter.

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  16. So here's what has happened through the first four holes:

    Stenson: bogey, birdie, birdie, birdie
    Mickelson: birdie, par, par, eagle

    That's some pretty good golf.

    Here's your leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -14 (58 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -14 (58)
    3. A. Johnston (ENG): -7 (59)

    So we will have a 14-hole playoff for the British Open Championship.

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  17. To the par-3 fifth hole, with both Mickelson and Stenson putting for birdie. Mickelson has a 30-footer. He putts it brilliantly, but it dies at the lip.

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  18. Stenson's birdie putt, which was quite long, looked good all the way, but ran one foot past. He taps in for par, and remains tied with Mickelson at 14-under par.

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  19. Next up: The par-5 sixth hole, which is 601 yards long. You can see Turnberry from here, which is the course where Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus had their big duel back in 1977.

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  20. Leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -14 (59 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -14 (59)
    3. A. Johnston (ENG): -7 (59)
    4. J.B. Holmes (KY): -6 (60)
    5. S. Garcia (ESP): -5 (62)

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  21. Mickelson surprises the commentators by teeing off with an iron, which goes straight down the middle. And then Stenson blasts a driver well down the fairway.

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  22. Mickelson follows up with a 3-wood, while Stenson takes an iron. They are both about 60 yards from the hole.

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  23. NBC keeps running promos for the Ryder Cup, which merely reminds me that the USA is 2-8 in the last 10 Ryder Cups. We lost four of those Cups by the score of 14 1/2 to 13 1/2.

    The USA has also lost the Walker Cup and the Curtis Cup. As someone has said, we just don't win any more. I can hardly wait for the Olympics.

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  24. The folks on NBC tell us that Mickelson has a better angle than Stenson to the sixth hole, and sure enough Phil hits a lovely pitch shot to about 8 feet. And then Stenson's shot appears to go well past the hole -- but NBC didn't account for backspin. The ball reverses straight toward the hole, and ends up about 4 feet away. That should be another birdie for Stenson.

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  25. With the pressure on, Mickelson makes a huge birdie putt on 6 to move to 15 under. One of the announcers for NBC -- I think it was Roger Maltbie -- bravely comments that if Stenson's game has a weakness, it's within 6 feet. Johnny Miller immediately responds, "Not this week." And indeed, Stenson easily makes his fourth birdie in six holes.

    All tied at 15 under with 12 holes left.

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  26. The seventh hole is a dogleg right, par four, 407 yards.

    This time Mickelson goes with a driver. That's a mistake, as the ball sails off toward the gallery on the left. He was lucky to miss the gorse. Now Stenson takes an iron, and whacks it right down the middle.

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  27. Leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -15 (60 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -15 (60)
    T3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (61)
    T3. A. Johnston (ENG): -7 (60)
    T5. S. Garcia (ESP): -5 (63)
    T5. S. Stricker: -5 (61)

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  28. I asked my kids if they knew about "Mr. Robot," this TV show they keep promoting, but they didn't know anything about it.

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  29. Mickelson's shot ended up on the grass, and he's able to reach the green in two. He's about 30 feet past the hole. Stenson launches a perfect shot that lands about 5 feet from the hole, and then backspins about 5 more feet. That will probably be a fifth birdie for him.

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  30. J.B. Holmes is in third place alone!

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  31. Mickelson makes a great putt, but it just curves past the hole. He taps in for par.

    Stenson misreads his birdie putt, and also taps in for par.

    All tied at 15 under with 11 holes left.

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  32. And now we are at the Postage Stamp, the famous par-3 eighth hole, which is only 123 yards long, but which is surrounded by some of the most dangerous bunkers in the world.

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  33. Mickelson hits a lovely 9-iron that lands hole high, about 12 feet from the hole.

    Now Stenson. His shot actually lands about a foot from Mickelson's ball, and then rolls a few feet back. I can't tell who's away.

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  34. What a great tournament this is!

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    1. There have been times where Mickelson has lost through his own mistakes. This is not one of those times. Stenson is playing one of the best final rounds I've ever seen.

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    2. That's what I thought, too. I didn't see the final round after about 8:30 yesterday morning, but, throughout the tournament until then, it felt like people were playing really, really well against a really, really challenging course.

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  35. Stenson's away. Miller says that Stenson's putt is straight, Feherty thinks it may break to the right. Stenson has the correct read, as he makes his fifth birdie in the last 7 holes. Miller points out that Stenson's putting has not been a problem this week.

    Now Mickelson, who needs to make birdie to stay in a tie. He pushes it just off to the left. Given how Stenson is playing, Mickelson must feel like he's playing against Tiger's ghost.

    Stenson leads by one with 10 holes left.

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  36. Stenson has the honor -- or "honour" -- on the 422-yard par 4 ninth hole. He whacks an iron that drifts toward the edge of the fairway. Mickelson responds with an iron straight down the middle.

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  37. Mike Tirico tells us that this is as good a show as major golf can give you, and he's right.

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  38. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -16 (62 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -15 (62)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (63)

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  39. Stenson has a blind shot to the 9th green, but his approach is still almost perfect, leaving him with an 18-footer for birdie. Mickelson matches him with an excellent approach that stops about 15 feet away.

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  40. Oh, the Canadian Open is next week! I love the Canadian Open.

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  41. Here's Stenson for birdie. It just goes past on the right, and he taps in for a four-under par 32 on the front nine.

    And now Mickelson has a chance to tie for the lead. His putt looks good, but breaks to the right at the last moment. He's also out in 32, but that's not enough to catch Stenson.

    Stenson leads by 1 with 9 holes to go.

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  42. Johnny Miller says that if Stenson plays the back nine in even par, he will win the Claret Jug.

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  43. Miller says that 10, 11, and 12 are as difficult a stretch as anywhere in the world.

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  44. The 10th hole is a 451-yard par four. Stenson whacks his usual drive right down the middle. Mickelson gets ready to hit as Miller warns him not to hit any loose shots. And then Mickelson's drive drifts off into the rough on the right side of the fairway.

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  45. The 10th hole is close to the ancient course of Prestwick, which hosted the first British Open in 1860. So NBC gives us a feature on that.

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  46. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -16 (63 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -15 (63)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (64)
    T4. S. Stricker: -5 (64)
    T4. A. Johnston (ENG): -5 (64)

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  47. From the rough on 10, Mickelson hits what Miller describes as "a crazy great shot," a 7-iron that leaves him with another 15-footer for birdie.

    Stenson hesitates over his shot for awhile -- Miller thinks Stenson may feel like he's between clubs -- but then he rifles another perfect shot that stops about 12 feet from the hole.

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  48. They're both about 12 feet away. Stenson goes first -- and makes his SIXTH BIRDIE IN THE LAST NINE HOLES.

    Someone -- I think it was Miller -- says that Phil must feel like he's up against Tiger. But Phil matches Stenson's birdie, and moves to 16 under par.

    Stenson leads by 1 with 8 holes to go.

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  49. So now we come to the famous "Railway" hole -- a 483-yard par 4 with railroad tracks running all down the right side of the fairway. I think Miller believes that this is where Mickelson's somewhat erratic driving could end his chances.

    Stenson whacks a 3-wood that drifts into the fringe on the left side of the fairway.

    And now here's Mickelson with the most important shot of the day -- he could lose the tournament right here. He crushes a perfect drive right down the middle, and Miller can exhale.

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    1. I think that's my favorite-looking golf hole of all time.

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  50. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -17 (64 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -16 (64)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (65)

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  51. Stenson has another blind approach on 11. He hits a shot that looks to be right on line, but it doesn't bounce -- it just dies on the green, about 50 feet from the hole.

    Mickelson hits his approach too hard. It lands near the hole, but rolls through the back of the green.

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  52. Stenson's long birdie putt dies about five feet short.

    Now here's Phil from the "collection area" at the back of the green. He chooses to putt, and leaves himself with a 3-footer for par.

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  53. Mickelson makes his par, and now Stenson has his par putt. I really think this is four feet, not five feet.

    Once again, the NBC guys suggest that putting could be Stenson's weakness. And this time, they are right -- the ball hits the cup and spins out.

    All tied at 16 under with 7 holes left. What a tournament.

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  54. Now we're at 12 -- a 429-yard par 4. Phil's drive slices into the fescue down the left side.

    So the momentum swings back to Stenson, who pounds an iron right down the middle of the fairway.

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  55. Leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -16 (65 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -16 (65)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (66)

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  56. Mickelson is 200 yards away, and is in the fescue. He takes a 6 iron, and whacks at it. But the fescue grabs the club, yanking the ball off to the right. He ends up in the rough well short of the green.

    Now if Tiger were here, he would assume that Phil would make a bogey, and would concentrate on getting his next shot on the green. That's what Stenson does -- lofting a shot that lands safely on the putting surface, about 25 feet from the flag.

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  57. Mickelson's ball is in all sorts of trouble, and it takes all of his skill to just blast the ball onto the green. He'll have a 20-footer to save par.

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  58. NBC tells us that Stenson's birdie putt is 38 feet. Remembering the last one, he gives this putt a good whack, and it stops about a foot from the hole. That will be a par.

    Now here's Mickelson trying to save par. AND HE DOES! A glorious 20-footer that was good all the way. What a putt.

    All tied at 16-under with 6 holes left.

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    Replies
    1. OH, MY GOSH!

      I know how this thing turns out, and it still terrific reading this report. Thanks for doing it, Go Heath.

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  59. The 13th hole is a 475-yard par 4. Mickelson, looking confident, hammers his drive down the middle. Stenson's drive rolls into the fringe on the left side of the fairway.

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  60. Leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -16 (66 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -16 (66)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (68)
    4. S. Stricker: -6 (68)
    T5. R. McIlroy (NIR): -4 (72)
    T5. T. Hatton (ENG): -4 (71)
    T5. A. Johnston (ENG): -4 (67)

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  61. Mickelson's 6-iron ends up about 25 feet from the flag. Stenson's 7-iron stops about 35 feet away.

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  62. Stenson's birdie putt is right on line, but it dies about five inches short. He taps in for par.

    So Phil has a birdie putt to take the lead. It's about 25 feet, and I thought it was going in, but it stops one inch to the right of the hole.

    All tied at 16-under with 5 holes left.

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  63. After all those par-fours, it's time for something different. The 14th hole is a 178-yard par three.

    Mickelson takes a 6-iron, and lands safely on the green, but about 40 feet from the hole.

    Stenson takes a 6-iron, and lands safely on the green, about 25 feet from the hole.

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  64. Leaderboard:

    T1. P. Mickelson: -16 (67 holes)
    T1. H. Stenson (SWE): -16 (67)
    3. J.B. Holmes: -7 (68)
    4. S. Stricker: -6 (68)
    T5. R. McIlroy (NIR): -4 (72)
    T5. T. Hatton (ENG): -4 (72)
    T5. S. Garcia (ESP): -4 (70)
    T5. A. Johnston (ENG): -4 (68)

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  65. OK, so here's Mickelson with his long birdie putt. It runs about two feet past, and he will want to be careful with that par effort. He decides to putt out, and does so.

    Now Stenson can take the lead. He won the FedEx Cup a few years ago, but in golf terms this is the biggest day of his life. He's been close on his last two long putts, and this one IS GOOD ALL THE WAY! He makes his SEVENTH birdie of the day, and he moves to 17 under par.

    Stenson leads by 1 with 4 holes left.

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    1. Oh, man, that one hurts. Stenson's really great.

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  66. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -17 (68 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -16 (68)

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  67. The 15th hole is a 499-yard par four.

    Stenson whacks his usual perfect drive straight down the middle.

    Mickelson matches him. One of the NBC commentators says that this looks like golf on a video game.

    If both Stenson and Mickelson par out, they will both shoot 66. That's amazing.

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  68. NBC tells us that Stenson has missed only one of 14 greens today. His 4-iron from 218 yards away drifts into what Mario Golf always called "Green Edge," about 45 feet from the hole.

    Mickelson aims straight at the flag -- and thought it looked good -- but the ball doesn't bounce, and it stops about 30 feet short.

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  69. NBC tells us that Stenson is 51 feet away, and that long putts have been his only problem today. But this putt is not a problem, AS STENSON HOLES IT! FIFTY-ONE FEET! And it was in all the way. He moves to 18-under par.

    Here's Mickelson now with his own 40-footer. To his credit, he does not leave it short, but it drifts off to the right. He takes a par.

    Stenson leads by 2 with 3 holes left.

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    1. Oh, my word, that is phenomenal. Well, seriously, congratulations to Henrik Stenson.

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  70. The way these guys were playing, it would take something spectacular to separate them. On the last two holes, that's what Stenson has done.

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  71. The 16th hole is a 532-yard par 5. Stenson, who probably just needs three pars to win, whacks an iron safely down the fairway.

    Mickelson, who probably needs to play the last three holes in 2 under par, is also taking an iron -- to the disappointment of the NBC guys. He's safely on the fairway.

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  72. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -18 (69 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -16 (69)

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  73. From the fairway, Mickelson pulls out the 3-wood and whacks a glorious shot that rolls onto the green, giving him a putt for eagle.

    And now Stenson's 3-wood sails off to the left and lands in the rough. He will still have a chance to get up and down for birdie.

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    1. Not having actually seen this, and just having read about it here, it looks like this was all great thinking by Mickelson. All weekend long, I felt like Mickelson managed himself and his game so well. I've never followed golf as closely as you have, but I've seen him win a couple of his majors. Anyway, this weekend was still the most I've ever been impressed with Mickelson.

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  74. Mike Tirico says that this may be as good a major Sunday as we've seen in years. It's hard to argue about that.

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  75. Stenson makes a wonderful shot from out of the rough, and the ball rolls about seven feet past the hole. That will probably be another birdie.

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  76. So now Mickelson pretty much has to make this eagle putt, which is around 25 feet. He gives it a great run, and it just curves at the last second. He taps in for birdie.

    And here's Stenson for his third birdie in a row. This is a much shorter putt than the last two, and he rolls it in without too much difficulty.

    Stenson leads by 2 with 2 holes left.

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  77. Leaderboard:

    1. H. Stenson (SWE): -19 (70 holes)
    2. P. Mickelson: -17 (70)

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  78. The lowest score ever shot at the British Open was 267, shot by Greg Norman in 1993. If Stenson pars out, he will finish with a 265.

    The lowest score relative to par in a British Open was 19-under par, shot by Tiger Woods in 2000. Stenson is tied with that mark.

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  79. The 17th hole is a 221-yard par three. If Stenson can reach this green, he will win the title.

    He not only reaches the green, he hits it to within about 12 feet. That's your ballgame.

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  80. Mickelson, who spent most of his career watching Tiger Woods play like this, shows his first sign of discouragement. His 4-iron misses the green, and drifts off into the rough.

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  81. Well, congratulations to Henrik Stenson, who played in real life the way he always plays in my mind. And congratulations to Phil Mickelson, who played well enough to win almost any other tournament.

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  82. Stenson pars 17 and birdies 18 to finish with an 8-under par 63, and that may be the greatest final round in any major since Johnny Miller's famous 63 at Oakmont in 1973.

    As for Mickelson, he finishes with a 65 that would be one of the most famous rounds in history if not for Stenson's unbelievable performance.

    Stenson becomes the first golfer in history to finish a major tournament at 20 under par. His four-round total of 264 is also a record for major tournament play. (Mickelson's 267 ties the old record for low score in a major).

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  83. Here's how good Mickelson was: he beat the third-place guy -- J.B. Holmes, of Campbellsville, Ky. -- by 11 shots.

    And he still lost by three.

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  84. Good for Holmes, too!

    This was really super, Go Heath. Thanks again for the report. It was a lot of fun reading it.

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