Westwood leads by two going into final round
Englishman shoots third-round 70 to lead Tiger Woods and Hunter Mahan at Muirfield
Lee Westwood after making his birdie putt on the 14th green during the third round of the British Open. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
Tiger Woods of the United States lines up a putt as Lee Westwood of England watches on the 13th green at Muirfiel. Photograph: Matthew Lewis/Getty Images
Darren Clarke of Northern Ireland shot a 76 to drop back to six over par. Photograph: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images
Lee Westwood will take a two-shot lead into the final round of the 142nd Open Championship after a rollercoaster third day at Muirfield.
That means Tiger Woods will have to make history to win his 15th major title and deny the Englishman a first at the 62nd attempt after failing to keep pace with his playing partner on a dramatic afternoon.
Westwood carded an eagle and three birdies in a round of 70 that left him atop the leaderboard on three under par, with Woods (72) and fellow American Hunter Mahan (68) the only other players in red figures on one under.
Masters champion Adam Scott, who 12 months ago squandered a four-shot lead with four holes to play at Lytham, was another shot behind on level par, with Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, Zach Johnson, Angel Cabrera and Ryan Moore another stroke back.
“I know what to expect tomorrow,” Westwood said. “I know what to do, I know what it takes. It’s just a case of believing you are good enough to win. When you analyse it, you don’t want to say it, but tomorrow is just another 18 holes. I’m playing well and putting well and there’s no reason why I can’t carry on.”
Westwood will tomorrow play with Mahan, who insists he is not seeking redemption two years on from his Ryder Cup singles match defeat to Graeme McDowell at Celtic Manor.
Mahan duffed a chip shot to the 17th green and conceded a victory which handed the trophy to Europe, but that day is long gone for the American.
“I don’t need any redemption or anything like that, just playing golf,” the 31-year-old told reporters. “I don’t play golf for revenge or to make up for anything. I’m playing because I really like to play and it’s the ultimate challenge playing major golf. So that’s the only thing I’m worried about.”
Mahan, who finished tied fourth at last month’s US Open, shot 72 in his first two rounds at Muirfield but five birdies sent him shooting up a congested leaderboard on another testing day at the East Lothian links.
“Obviously the course is difficult,” he said. “I don’t know how many guys are under par right now. Any score in the red is good. I played really solid today tee to green. Just two bogeys. But I hit a lot of good quality shots and the putter was obviously very strong, making a bomb on two and a bunch of key putts coming in. It was a total team effort by my game today.”
The Irish challenge faded badly early on, with Shane Lowry, Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell all playing themselves out of contention, before Darren Clarke followed suit with a 76.
Lowry and Harrington both began on six over, nine off the overnight lead of Miguel Angel Jimenez, and in desperate need of early momentum. It never came.
Having teed off 10 minutes ahead of Harrington, Lowry went out in 38 after a birdie at the second was followed by a bogey at the third and a double at six. Bogeys at 12 and 17 followed for a 75 and a three-round 10-over-par total of 223.
Even a birdie was beyond Harrington, who reached the turn in 39 and came home in 38 for a 77 and 12 over three-day score.
Four bogeys and a solitary birdie meant McDowell played the front nine in 39 and dropped back to seven over, but birdies at 12 and 14 saw him move back to five under, before a bogey at the last set him back again.
For his part, Clarke parred the first four holes but bogeyed the next to drop to two over and turn in 37, leaving him six off the lead. But it got worse. A double-bogey at the 14th was sandwiched between to more bogeys and a back nine 39 saw him join McDowell on six over.