It’s getting very congested at the top of the Muirfield leaderboard. The 142nd Open Championship has proved a difficult edition of the prestigious tournament with only a handful of players finishing round three below par.
With the course seeming to favour those who go out early, a host of outsiders now have a chance of winning the Claret Jug on Sunday. Let’s break down the unlikely challengers.
Sergio Garcia (3 over)
After the Spaniard carded a third round of 68 it looked as though he had an outside chance of a top-10 finish. But given the developments at the top of the leaderboard, it is not unconceivable that Garcia could claim a maiden major title.
If he can replicate his impressive showing over the front nine, and iron out the bogeys that have plagued his rounds, he could find himself at level par at the turn. That would normally be the cue for him to collapse, but given so many players remain in the hunt the tension might not get the better of him.
He was involved in a high-profile row with Tiger Woods earlier this year and you can be sure he would love nothing more than to beat the American to Muirfield success. Expect Garcia to be the clubhouse leader at some stage.
Phil Mickelson (2 over)
By his own admission, Mickelson is not overly fond of links courses. He appears though to have put that loathing to one side at Muirfield and after three rounds he’s safely nestled in the chasing pack.
A damage limitation score of 72 on Saturday kept Mickelson in the hunt and the leaders’ inability to put daylight between them and the American may come back to haunt them.
He would desperately like to add the Open Championship to his haul of four majors and if he can master the conditions on the final day for 18 holes, success could yet be his. Mickelson is renowned for feeding off a crowd's energy, so don't be surprised to see him geeing up his British audience.
Brandt Snedeker (3 over)
What a crazy three days for the American who is yet to enjoy a peaceful round. Scores of 68, 79 and 69 have made Snedeker rather enjoyable to follow.
But the fact he’s twice snuck under par is a good omen heading into the weekend. If he can forget about his triple bogey at 15 in round two, and focus instead on the eagle he shot at nine on Saturday, then there’s no reason he can’t get himself amongst the action near the top.
Snedeker has marched up the rankings in 2013 to firmly establish himself as one of golf’s elite players. To make the next transition though he must etch his name in the history books by winning a major and he has a slim chance to do exactly that on Sunday.