Henrik Stenson (Getty Images)
Henrik Stenson will take a two shot lead into the final round of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open after a third round 66 at Castle Stuart Golf Links.
The Swede came home in a brilliant 32 to reach 16 under par, but will have to fend off American World Number Eight Phil Mickelson in the final round.
The left-hander matched Stenson’s 66 to secure a place in the last pair out on Sunday, sitting level with South African Branden Grace, Dane JB Hansen and England’s John Parry in second place.
Twenty one players are within six shots of Stenson – Mickelson exclaimed that the final round could become a 20-man shootout - but the 37 year old is relishing being the man with a target on his back as he seeks an eighth European Tour title.
"I always prefer to be in front than one behind because if I shoot a decent score the guys are going to have to play even better to beat me," said Stenson.
"It's great to be back in the mix and getting the adrenalin going again. I have always enjoyed playing with the best players in the world and trying to measure myself against them.
"I've played with Phil a few times and against him in The Ryder Cup so I will need to bring my good game again. But it's not just about the two of us, there are a lot of other players and if someone gets hot on this course they can shoot, six, seven or eight under. I have to keep my head and my foot down."
Stenson won his first European Tour title in 2001 but then went through the first of two career slumps, the second coming in 2011 and leaving him 230th in the Official World Golf Ranking at the start of last year.
"I had a lot of experience from going through 2001-03 so the slump in 2011 was nowhere near as bad," he added.
"I found some form at the end of last year and it was good to get back in the winners' circle in the South African Open at the end of the year.
"The biggest difference is that I have put down some long-term goals; when you are struggling you go for the quick fix. I still think I have a few good things in me and winning a major would be one of them. I have won so much more than I could have dreamed of but there is one thing missing so that's what I am striving for."
The first regular European Tour event being shown live on American television could have an appropriate winner if Mickelson can overhaul Stenson, the four-time Major winner recovering from a slow start with six birdies in his last 11 holes.
"The last 11 holes were a lot of fun," the 43 year old left-hander said.
"The first seven holes I got off to a bit of a slow start and I was really behind when I needed to make up ground.
"On the eighth I tried to slow it down and be patient, got one putt to drop and that seemed to ignite the rest of the round. I think I will be a couple back (at the end of the day) but I've got myself in a good position for tomorrow and I am really looking forward to it."
Victory tomorrow would be Mickelson's first individual win on British soil - he was part of the American team that won the Dunhill Cup at St Andrews in 1996 - but he added: "Any victory over here would be terrific but we are getting ahead of ourselves.
"There's a packed leaderboard so it will take one good round of a shootout between 15 and 20 guys that are right there. Being in position and shooting that good round today feels terrific but I've got to go out tomorrow and duplicate it.
"I haven't thought about (the TV coverage). I've wanted to play well here because I want to play well, I love playing links-style golf and this is a great start for me to play a style that I want for The Open Championship."
Overnight leader Chris Doak struggled to a 73 that left him five off the lead, with England's Matthew Southgate one shot better off despite getting his round off to a nightmare start.
The 24 year old lost his opening tee shot in heavy rough to run up a double-bogey six, but battled back to return a 71.
"That showed character and I am proud of myself for that," said Southgate, who was working in a local snooker club just three years ago.
"I really enjoyed myself and the goal has to be to learn as much as possible and finish as high as possible.
"It was a bit of a sad finish with bogeys at the last two holes - I nearly hit a couple of policemen on the 17th and said to my caddie that would have been an unusual way to get nicked - but I am still in a good position in the tournament."