Phil Mickelson emerged as the favourite to claim The 2007 Barclays Scottish Open after a third round of three under par 68 took him into a one stroke lead over Frenchman Grégory Havret at Loch Lomond Golf Club.
As a swirling afternoon wind whipped around the breathtaking Loch Lomond course, World Number Three Mickelson, who is honing is game for next week’s greatest links golf test of all at The Open Championship, coped with the conditions better than anyone of his fellow overnight leaders to take the lead.
Before the gusting winds began picking up, South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen gained seven strokes on the field with a brilliant 64 that took him from the cut mark of one under par to eight under for the tournament – a score that, at the end of the third round, left him in a tie for fourth place alongside England’s Phillip Archer.
Ooosthuizen and Archer lie one behind another Englishman, Steve Webster, who carded a third round 69, with Havret on 11 under after a one under 70.
After an awkward second round performance by his own admission, Mickelson back to his crowd pleasing best, delighting the Scottish galleries of 18,355 with his full range of shot making.
Whether it was a beautifully controlled drive, pin point iron play or his awesome short game, there were points in the third round where Mickelson was a joy to watch.
“Although the score was same as yesterday's round, I felt like I played better today,” said Mickelson.
“I drove the ball very well, and I was able to make a lot of easy pars because I played from the fairway and a couple of birdies here or there. It was a fun round. Tomorrow is going to be a difficult challenge to come out on top. But I'm looking forward to it. I've really enjoyed this tournament in the past. I'm enjoying it very much this year.”
Mickelson is clearly loving every minute of his time in Scotland and is hoping that he can close out victory on Sunday afternoon to improve his winning record outside of the USA. The 38 year old also revealed that he hopes to play outside of his homeland more often in years to come.
“I'm not sure why I haven’t played as well outside the U.S. I guess I haven't given myself as many chances as I probably should, given that it's hard for me to travel with my family outside of the U.S. with three young kids aged eight, five and four.
“But as our children get older, I'm looking forward to traveling and playing more abroad because I want them to experience a lot of great things and cultures from different parts of the world, that we try to do in the different cities in the United States. I would love for them to come here. I think that they would really learn a lot from the culture and seeing some of the great Scottish castles and some of the beautiful land; as well as the pond over here on 13, my girls love to fish, so we would go do that, too.
“I want to also bring them over here because after the British Open, I'd like to go to different part of Europe and let them experience some of the great beauties of the world over here that they haven't been exposed to yet, but they need to be a little bit older for them to understand and appreciate it.”
While Mickelson has been installed as the clear favourite to land the Barclays Scottish Open title, Havret is hoping to banish the memory of a disappointing final round at Loch Lomond three years ago when his countryman Thomas Levet took the title.
“I was very disappointed in 2004 because, of course, when you are leading a tournament as big as Loch Lomond you want to win so much because I really love this tournament, it's just an awesome place, an awesome week for us.
“That's why I want so much to do well. I have to say that clearly a few tournaments are very historic where you really want to do well, because it's not like a tournament that you feel in three years you're not here anymore. Here it is just perfect. You know the field is going to be good, you know the crowd is going to be nice, you know the marshals are going to be nice with you. You know that and you arrive here and you're not surprised. That's a great feeling and such a course, just amazing to play around here. We are really lucky.”