Harrington backing Phil's short game magic: "It's wearing"

Pádraig Harrington is tipping short game wizard Phil Mickelson to KO Henrik Stenson in today’s heavyweight contest for The Open title.

It could be the 2016 version of the Duel in the Sun and while the weather is not set fair, Harrington thinks Mickelson’s magic around the greens could be key as he trails the Swede by one on 11 under par heading into the final round

The Dubliner is a close friend of the left-hander and while he sees today as “a great opportunity for Henrik” to win his first major, he’s backing ultra-competitive Mickelson to win his sixth grand slam title.

Harrington said: “Obviously Phil is very tough to beat head to head. He loves that sort of thing. But if the two of them are six shots ahead going into tomorrow, it's between them. It's not far off of a 50-50 chance.

“You've got to understand it's only a two-horse race. I think that would help Henrik a lot if he's going out there tomorrow and they're far enough ahead of third place that they're not worried about anybody else. 

“Then it's just a straight match. If the two of them come back to the field and they're a shot or two ahead of three or four guys, I think that would help Phil more in the sense that Phil has been there and done it whereas Henrik has more to think about. 

“It would certainly clear up his mind tomorrow if they're, as I saw at the end there, six shots ahead. He just needs to look at the guy he's playing with and nobody else.”

Harrington regularly plays head to head matches with Mickelson or joins forces with his caddie Ronan to take on Mickelson and his bagman during the off-season. 

Asked what makes Mickelson so good, Harrington said: “Phil likes it. That's what he likes about golf. He loves head to head, he loves playing a match on a Tuesday of every tournament week. 

“He just loves that. He's very good head to head. Plus when you've got that great short game and you can get up and down from places, it does have a bearing in a match.

“When a guy thinks he's got the hole won because he's sitting over a 15-footer and you're in trouble, and you get up and down and all of a sudden he's got a three-footer for a half, even if he holes it, it's still wearing. 

“Phil has got that ability to hit the great shots which does help in match play.”

Harrington is a similar type of player and he admits he’s lost count of who is ahead in their games, just as he’s lost count of who is winning his long running short game battle with Shane Lowry.

He said: “I’ve played the odd game with him out in California at the Titleist Performance Institute.

“I don’t think anybody plays if they think they are losing, put it like that.

“It’s like myself and Shane Lowry play a game as often as we can and both of us are convinced we are cleaning the other guy out. 

“We are both convinced it is easy money. It’s all about creating your own reality.  It’s as Lady Gaga says, the grand delusion.”

As for Haas, he knew he had to play well to keep pace.

After a 69 got him to six under, Haas said: “With those two quality players in front of you, I pretty much know I've got to go shoot a score and hopefully that will work out. 

“I certainly don't think Phil and Henrik Stenson are feeling the pressure tonight sleeping knowing that Beef (Andrew Johnston) and Bill Haas are behind them. 

“So we've got to use that to our advantage and just try to surprise some people.”

“If I go shoot something in the 60s tomorrow and they fall back, you never know what could happen.”

As for “Beef”, the 27-year old is loving his place in the limelight.