Stenson sneaks ahead in Troon duel with Mickelson

Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are set for a thrilling final-round duel at Royal Troon after pulling clear of the field in the third round of The Open.

Phil Mickelson Henrik Stenson - cropped

Phil Mickelson and Henrik Stenson during round three of The Open.

Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson are set for a thrilling final-round duel at Royal Troon after pulling clear of the field in the third round of The Open.

Stenson will take a one-shot lead into Sunday, the Swede and playing partner Mickelson having fared better than most as gusting winds made scoring tricky.

Five-time major champion Mickelson, the leader after rounds one and two, held a one-stroke advantage after 16 holes on Saturday, a two-horse race involving the final pair having long since developed as other leading contenders faltered.

However, it was Stenson (68) who ended the day in front at 12 under after a two-shot swing on 17, where he made birdie and Mickelson (70) dropped his second shot of the day.

Bill Haas is six shots off the lead in third, meaning the battle for the Claret Jug appears likely to come down to the two men who finished first and second in the 2013 Open at Muirfield, Mickelson having got the better of Stenson on that occasion.

The left-hander looked to have made a decisive move when he followed a stunning par save on the 12th by holing a lengthy birdie putt on the next to open up a two-stroke advantage.

Yet Stenson, who had initially hit the front by picking up shots at three of the first four holes before bogeying the sixth and eighth, responded with a birdie on the 14th and was back level when his rival three-putted the same hole.

Mickelson reclaimed sole possession of the lead at the 16th, making birdie as Stenson - who is still seeking a first major title at the age of 40 - scrambled to save par following an errant approach.

Another shift in momentum followed at the 17th, however. Mickelson went left off the tee, as he had on 12, and could only make bogey at the long par-three, while Stenson rolled in a 20-foot birdie putt to get back to 12 under.

Both men then got up and down from off the green at the last to ensure Stenson retained a slender advantage.

Haas, who made five birdies in his 69, will be joined in Sunday's penultimate group by England's Andrew Johnston. Both men holed out from off the green during their respective third rounds, Haas pitching in from a greenside bunker at the iconic eighth and the ever-smiling Johnston chipping in at 13 en route to a one-under 70 that left him seven off the pace.

JB Holmes matched Haas' 69 to climb into fifth at four under. However, the likes of Sergio Garcia (73), reigning champion Zach Johnson (75), Soren Kjeldsen (75) and Keegan Bradley (76) all lost significant ground and would appear to have too much to do.

The top four in the world rankings - Jason Day, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy - remained way off the pace. The latter broke his three-wood in frustration during a round of 73.