Stenson leads by two as Mickelson predicts shoot-out in Scotland

Gareth Maybin three strokes off the lead after stunning 64 at Castle Stuart

 Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland tees off on the 15th hole during the third round of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links  in Inverness. Photograph:  Andrew Redington/Getty Images

Gareth Maybin of Northern Ireland tees off on the 15th hole during the third round of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness. Photograph: Andrew Redington/Getty Images


Sweden’s Henrik Stenson will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the Scottish Open that Phil Mickelson believes will be a 20-man shoot-out.

Stenson carded a third round of 66 at Castle Stuart to finish 16 under par, with Mickelson also returning a 66 to share second place with South Africa’s Branden Grace, England’s John Parry and Denmark’s JB Hansen.

Northern Ireland’s Gareth Maybin is in a share of sixth position on 13 under along with France’s Raphael Jacquelin and rising young American Peter Uihlein after he matched the best score of the week with a 64.

Twenty one players are within six shots of Stenson, 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, who will be paired with Mickelson tomorrow.

“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 world rankings 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 ideal winner if Mickelson can overhaul Stenson, the world number eight 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 shoot-out 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.”

Damien McGrane failed to make a move after carding a level-par round of 72 that left him on eight under, while Shane Lowry and Paul McGinley are both on seven under after carding 70s.