Sports

Two-way battle

Mickelson holds advantage over Stenson as Royal Troon bares its teeth

Overnight pacesetter Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson were battling it out at the top of the leaderboard after 11 holes (at press time) of the British Open third round yesterday.

American Mickelson carried a one-shot lead over the Swede at 11 under on a day when Royal Troon was showing its teeth for the second day running, with the winds whipping up to 32kph on the west coast of Scotland and making good scoring tough.

Mickelson, 46, who has led the championship since day one, made an early birdie at the third but that was matched by his Swedish playing partner who also birdied the first.

Stenson then nosed in front of the five-time Major winner when he picked up another stroke at the fourth.

However, a bogey at the sixth for the world No. 6 meant he dropped back to 11 under alongside Mickelson, who carried a five-shot advantage over third-placed Soren Kjeldson at that point.

But Bill Haas produced one of the shots of the day at Troon's signature eighth, splashing out from a greenside bunker at the Postage Stamp and watching his ball dive into the cup. He was lying third on six under.

World No. 1 Jason Day was once again left to lament his struggles on the back nine at Royal Troon.

The Australian had come to Scotland as one the favourites but has never really got himself into contention.

Yesterday, a level-par round of 71 left him stuck at one over for the championship and effectively ended any hopes he had of contending for the Claret Jug today. And yet Day had started superbly, with four birdies and no dropped shots on the front nine.

But his back nine could not have contrasted more starkly, with no birdies and four bogeys including one at the last.

STRUGGLE

Twice Major winner Jordan Spieth suggested the critics were being "unfair" to him and urged everyone to be less negative about his performances after returning a one-over 72.

The young American enjoyed a remarkable season last year, landing the US Masters and US Open crowns as he surged to the top of the world rankings.

The golfing gods have not been so kind to Spieth this year, though he did win the Tournament of Champions in Hawaii in January and the Colonial Invitational in his native Texas in May.

The 22-year-old suffered a late meltdown at the Masters in April, squandering a five-shot lead over the closing nine holes.

"It's been tough given I think it's been a solid year and I think had last year not happened I'd be having a lot of positive questions," Spieth said after finishing with a five-over tally of 218.

Thailand's veteran Thongchai Jaidee moved up 31 spots to 27th after shooting a two-under 69 for a 214 total. - Wire Services.

british openPhil MickelsonHenrik Stenson