British Open Field 2014: Players to Watch on Day 3
Saturday is moving day at The Open Championship, and that has nothing to do with the wind, rain and unpleasant conditions expected to descend on Royal Liverpool.
It's the day when players who make the cut try to position themselves for a run at the title on Sunday.
And there will be plenty of those to watch in the third round.
Rory McIlroy seems very much in control of himself and the tournament. Sergio Garcia is playing as well as he has in years and has a chance. And long-hitting Dustin Johnson should not be overlooked.
Here's a list of players to watch as the third round unfolds.
Phil Mickelson is like a box of chocolates. You never know exactly what you're going to get with him.
He was nearly perfect on the back nine on Sunday last year at Muirfield to win his first British Open title.
In his first two rounds at Royal Liverpool, the big left-hander has hit the ball all over the lot. Yet he's managed to post rounds of 74-70 and is a good round away from putting himself in the hunt Sunday.
“I played really well today, but there were a couple of loose shots,” Mickelson said (via Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard). “I ended up giving four or five shots away, but I played really well. There was like a mental barrier to get it back to even par, so that putt on 18 was big.”
By getting back to even par through two rounds, the defending champion puts himself in position to hang near the top of the leaderboard for the final two rounds. If the weather turns ugly Saturday afternoon, finishing early could be very beneficial heading into the final round.
But that's the magic and mystery of Mickelson. Who knows what he'll bring to the course for Round 3?
Playing in only his fourth Open Championship, South African George Coetzee gave himself quite a nice birthday present Friday: a three-under-par round of 69.
The 28-year-old finished 15th in 2011 in his first appearance and followed that up with a missed cut and T71 the last two years.
But Coetzee had it going on Friday. He sits at five under par heading to the weekend.
Coetzee, who played golf at the University of San Diego, has one European Tour win and five on the Sunshine Tour. But there's no doubt as to which tournament he'd most like to win.
"This is definitely my favourite major," Coetzee said (via Golf Channel's Ryan Lavner). "It's always going to be my birthday week. It's nice to play well, obviously, in a very prestigious event. And to have my birthday coincide with it is also nice."
Don't be surprised if Coetzee hangs in when and if the weather turns foul on Saturday.
Sergio Garcia hit the shot of the day Friday, holing out a 6-iron from the middle of the second fairway for an eagle on the way to a round of 70. That has him in a tie for third and in contention in a major for the first time in years.
The Open Championship has long been thought to be the major that Garcia was best suited to win, but all he has to show so far is a second-place finish and three top-five finishes.
Garcia would have been happier starting out more evenly, but he went 5-2-5. He eagled the same hole in the third round of the 2006 Open, by the way.
Garcia has always been popular with European fans, and he appreciates how that popularity manifests itself every time he tees it up there.
“For me at this championship they want me to do well every time and to be able to keep it under par today it wasn’t easy to do,” Garcia said (via Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard).
Garcia is tied for third at six under par.
He will need to continue tapping into his vast links-golf experience if he expects to catch tournament leader Rory McIlroy.
Rory McIlroy is thrilled, no doubt, to have a four-shot lead after two rounds of The Open Championship.
He was dominant Friday. His tempo, his swing, his putting, all were in great shape, and he looked like the guy who has won a U.S. Open and PGA Championship since 2011.
With back-to-back 66s, he is halfway to winning the third of the four major titles that comprise the career Grand Slam.
He might have been equally as happy with how he responded to a bogey on the first hole of his second round. Considering how much attention to the horrid second rounds he's had in big events recently, those thoughts could have started creeping back into his mind.
But the 25-year-old came back with three straight pars and then birdied three of the next four holes to get rolling toward his 66. He looks a lot like the guy who won those two majors, and he says he feels like that.
“I don’t know if I can describe it,” McIlroy said (via Golf Channel's Jay Coffin). “It’s just like I have an inner peace on the golf course. I’m very comfortable in this position. I’m very comfortable doing what I’m doing right now. It’s hard to describe.”
When Tiger Woods posted an opening-round 69 on Thursday, the excitement level at The Open Championship rose, and the whispers started about Tiger being back.
Well, those whispers increased in volume after Woods ballooned to a 77 in the second round. Woods is back, well back from the leaders, that is.
He barely made the cut and will get to play two more rounds of golf, as he continues his comeback from back surgery.
Woods got off to another lousy start, posting a double bogey and bogey on the first two holes. He went with his driver on the first tee, yanking it almost into the 18th fairway. And it got worse as the day went on.
“Yeah, I didn’t hit driver very good today,” Woods said (via Golf Channel's Jay Coffin). “I was trying to be a bit more aggressive. With the wind the way it was, I could take some of the bunkers out of play and get it down where I (could hit) sand wedge into the green."
Fourteen shots are a lot to make up, even for a guy who used to post some spectacular comebacks. But this isn't that guy, and until he figures out something with his driver, winning in any tournament, let alone a major, is still a far-fetched concept.
Adam Scott looked forward to good conditions for his second round of The Open Championship, and that's what he got. But he didn't get the kind of score he wanted, posting a 73 that has him nine shots behind Rory McIlroy.
He had a pair of back-to-back bogeys that kept him from getting any momentum going, and his long putter didn't help much, either. Scott had some good looks, but didn't convert much. He did finish his round with back-to-back birdies.
He is well aware of the mountain he has to climb to catch McIlroy and is also aware that conditions are not expected to be good for Saturday's third round.
“If it's tough conditions I'm certainly up for that challenge,” Scott said (via Golf Channel's Rex Hoggard). “I feel like I'm swinging the club really well. So the tougher it gets I think that favors me, if I can keep swinging well.”
If things start to go badly for McIlroy on Saturday, Scott is the kind of guy McIlroy wouldn't be comfortable with closing in, looking into his rearview mirror.
Stop me if you've heard this before.
Dustin Johnson has been in contention in major championships before. And he's in contention at the 143rd British Open after following up his 71 from Thursday with a seven-birdie, no-bogey round of 65 on Friday.
He comes to Saturday's third round four shots behind leader Rory McIlroy and has a chance to redeem himself from past failures.
Johnson shot a final-round 82 in the 2010 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach to blow a three-shot lead.
He was hit with a two-shot penalty on the final hole of the 2010 PGA Championship at Whistling Straits for grounding his club in a bunker. Those shots kept him from getting into a playoff.
In the 2011 British Open, he trailed by one stroke leaving the first tee but didn't make anything happen all day. He shot an unspectacular round of 72, paving the way for Darren Clarke's emotional victory.
Johnson, the second-longest driver by average on the PGA Tour, has given himself another chance. At 30 years of age, it's time for him to take advantage of that chance.