Sport Golf

Monday 26 February 2018

Stenson and Mickelson surge while McIlroy blows top

Disappointed: Rory McIlroy shows his frustration at Royal Troon yesterday. Photo: PA
Disappointed: Rory McIlroy shows his frustration at Royal Troon yesterday. Photo: PA

Dermot Gilleece

Rory McIlroy gave vent to his frustration by wrecking an errant three-wood in disgust in the third round of the 145th Open Championship yesterday. It was reflective of Irish fortunes overall, as Sweden's Henrik Stenson, on 12 under par, claimed a one-stroke lead over 2013 champion Phil Mickelson.

The four Irish survivors were all blown in the wrong direction in winds gusting to 30mph. Yet testing though it was, we would have killed for comparable playing conditions in recent Irish Opens, not least at The K Club, where McIlroy triumphed over far worse weather two months ago.

Though his anger was due largely to a disappointing return with the blade, it found real focus after a three-wood second shot into the wind was blocked short right of the long 16th. And having severed the head, he proceeded to par in for a 73.

Read more: British Open Day Three: As it happened

Recurring putting problems this season re-surfaced for McIlroy as early as the first, where he missed from less than three feet for an opening bogey. And he was similarly errant for another bogey on the third.

When asked afterwards if the club-throwing was a reflection of his overall frustration, he replied: "That club-head had come loose earlier in the week and I had to get it re-glued." Then he added with a half-smile: "So it was probably partly to do with that and partly the throw." Either way, the club was to be re-shafted last night.

Watch: Rory McIlroy smashes club as frustration gets the better of him at Royal Troon

Pádraig Harrington, Darren Clarke and Graeme McDowell also had unavailing battles with the elements. They faced a daunting task, however, in attempting to challenge the dominance of Stenson and Mickelson who, in the final pairing of the day, swept relentlessly clear of the pack, much to the delight of enthusiastic galleries.

Meanwhile, cynics among us might have seen Colin Montgomerie's survival into the weekend as softening the frightening prospect proclaimed by a headline in the local Ayrshire's Open - "Our Big Monty will replace national treasure Alliss". As it happened, Monty swept into vocal action in the afternoon following a third-round 79.

Read more: Stenson and Mickelson to go head-to-head in Open shootout

Though the decision was made some time ago, there is still acute disappointment in the BBC at having lost this golfing gem. But it seems they haven't lost viewer appeal.

Initial figures suggest that their highlights programme, headed by the inimitable Peter Alliss, has been attracting roughly 1.2 million viewers per night, compared with 250,000 for live broadcasts on Sky.

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