As the top golfers in the world look to prepare for the Open Championship, they must first end with a strong performance at the Scottish Open.
We saw a year ago how much momentum can help out at this part of the season. Phil Mickelson finished in first place at the 2013 Scottish Open before parlaying that into a victory at the 2014 British Open, earning his fifth career major title.
Winning at the Royal Aberdeen Golf Club will not guarantee success next week, but having a strong finish will certainly help. These are the players in most need of a strong performance in the fourth round.
After 54 holes, Justin Rose is tied with Marc Warren for the lead at the Scottish Open. This is thanks to a strong finish to Round 3, as noted by Kieran Clark of eDraft.com:
Brilliant back-nine from Justin Rose. There were many disasters there yesterday, but he completed it in just 31 shots. #EuropeanTour— Kieran Clark (@KieranClarkGolf) July 12, 2014
Rose is one of only two players in the tournament with a score in the 60s in each round, with his best coming on Saturday with a 66. No matter what hole he is playing, he finds a way to get to the green in regulation and finish with a low score.
As Golf Channel points out, this strong performance is likely to help him going forward:
This is especially true after his impressive victory in the Quicken Loans National, that came in a playoff. However, a loss after coming this close could end up being devastating for Rose's mentality.
So far this season, Rose has struggled on the final days of big tournaments. He ended with a 74 at the Masters and a 72 at the U.S. Open, both showings keeping him out of the top 10. A good finish in Scotland can help him put these out of his mind, and it will lead to more success in the future.
Few players have been more inconsistent in recent months than Rory McIlroy. All year long, the 25-year-old player has had one great round followed by a poor round to put him out of contention.
He did just that this week when his opening round of 64 was followed by his Round 2 score of 78. The good news is that he was able to come back with a 68 on Saturday to put him in a tie for 13th place.
The key is for him to find a bit of consistency to have four good rounds in a row. Before he can do that, he will have to at least have two good rounds in a row, which could start on Sunday.
On one hand, McIlroy explained to BBC Sport why he was already confident:
I didn't get off to a great start, being one over through two holes when you are looking to be one under, but after that I played very solidly and did not put myself in too much trouble. I have shot 64 and 68 on this course which are two really good scores. Yesterday was just one of those days when nothing went right and I could not get any momentum.
It would be good to shoot another good round tomorrow, but I have seen enough in my game to give me confidence going into the Open.
However, another poor showing could end up being devastating to his ability to be a legitimate contender at the upcoming major.
As previously mentioned, Mickelson had an impressive run through Europe last season as he was able to win his first Open Championship. However, at that time he had already earned a number of top-five finishes, including second place at the U.S. Open (again).
Things have not been as good this time around. He is still yet to earn a top 10 in PGA events in 2014 and did not make the cut in big tournaments like the Masters and the Players Championship.
He noted before the Scottish Open started how important a good performance would be, via the Associated Press (h/t Golf.com):
"I really believe coming here and playing the week before the Open, playing in a great links test like this, is a real asset, an asset for players from overseas to get acclimatized to the time and really get acclimatized to these conditions."
He has gotten off to a good start so far in this tournament, especially on par fives where he is seven under overall. Still, he has slowed down from an impressive Round 1 to move off the leaderboard.
Mickelson does not need to get a win this weekend, but a strong showing in the 60s would certainly help him out going forward.
Follow Rob Goldberg on Twitter for the latest breaking news and analysis.