Both are from the transport cafe end of the tour, journeymen who have occasionally known what it is like to enjoy a champagne breakfast. They are also good friends. 'Nice man,' Mitchell said of Mason. They have both been professionals for 20 years and have a solitary victory apiece.
Mitchell, from Kent, broke the deadlock by winning the Austrian Open two years and Mason, from Surrey, won the Andalucia Open in Jerez last February. Yesterday Mitchell, who led by a stroke going into the third round, retained his advantage with a 65 to stand at 14 under par for the championship. He leads by one from Mason, who regaled the King's Course with a 61.
As it happens, Mason was playing with Paul Curry, who set a course record of 60 here two years ago. Mason, whose career-best round anywhere had been a 63, thinks that a magical 59 is possible at Gleneagles, which says a lot for the modern professional golfer and even more for the vulnerability of the old King's course. It seems certain that the event will not be held here next year - Carnoustie and Loch Lomond have been mentioned - and with Bell's announcing last orders, a new sponsor, possibly Highland Spring, will take over.
The first prize is pounds 100,000, but what Mason and Mitchell also want is one of the five places on offer that will give them exemption to the Open at Turnberry next week. Neither player arrived at Gleneagles with their spirits high. Mason has been in the doldrums since a holiday in Mauritius where he played a little social golf. 'I'd been playing like a tourist ever since,' he said.
He had eight birdies, an eagle and a bogey in the third round and took the greatest pride from his dropped stroke at the fourth. He found himself in an unplayable lie in bracken, took a penalty drop and hit a sand wedge over a bunker, downhill on to the green to eight feet from the flag and made the putt for a five. 'It could easily have been a seven,' Mason said.
Mitchell's shot of the day came at the 12th, where he drove into rough and hit a wedge from 151 yards to within 16 inches of the hole. Unlike Mason, who opened with three successive birdies, Mitchell got off to shaky start with bogeys at the second and third holes. 'I only had two wheels on my wagon,' he said. 'I didn't know what to expect.'
His caddie helped with some shrewd club selection. They have a little arrangement. If Mitchell gets a birdie, he buys his caddie a beer; if he gets a bogey, the drinks are on the caddie. As for today Mitchell, who has never led a tournament going into the final round, said: 'It could be any one of seven or eight players on the leaderboard.'
John Daly, following a 69, is 12 strokes behind Mitchell on a course that is clearly not suited to his aggressive game. On the ninth, dissuaded from using his Killer Whale driver, he hit a two-iron into a bush and had a double bogey six.
When he began his round Ken Brown, Sky's roving reporter, rushed up to Dave McNeilly, Daly's caddie, to confirm his suspicion that the American had gone to the first tee without hitting any practice shots. Practice shots? Daly didn't even have a practice swing.
BELL'S SCOTTISH OPEN (Gleneagles) Leading third-round scores (GB or Irl unless stated): 196 P Mitchell 67 64 65. 197 C Mason 67 69 61. 199 H Twitty (US) 64 70 65; J Parnevik (Swe) 70 65 64. 200 M A Martin (Sp) 70 65 65; D A Russell 68 65 67; A Oldcorn 70 63 67; J Lomas 66 66 68. 201 M James 73 65 63; P Broadhurst 67 69 65; M A Jimenez (Sp) 68 68 65; D Clarke 67 67 67; E Romero (Arg) 69 64 68; P-U Johansson (Swe) 66 66 69. 202 P Fulke (Swe) 70 68 64; V Singh (Fiji) 68 70 64; P Senior (Aus) 69 69 64; L Clements (US) 66 68 68; R Alvarez (Arg) 69 64 69; C Montgomerie 67 66 69. 203 H Clark 69 69 65; P Jacobsen (US) 71 65 67; M Springer (US) 70 67 66; P Curry 72 64 67. 204 A Hunter 69 70 65; T Price (Aus) 72 67 65; B Ogle (Aus) 72 66 66; G Nicklaus (US) 69 69 66; D Feherty 67 69 68; J McGovern (US) 71 65 68; W Westner (SA) 68 66 70; S Luna (Sp) 67 67 70; D J Russell 70 63 71. 205 M Sunesson (Swe) 70 69 66; A Sherborne 73 66 66; M Mouland 72 66 67; A Murray 70 68 67; B Marchbank 68 68 69; M McNulty (Zim) 67 69 69. Selected: 207 S Torrance 73 66 68; I Woosnam 66 71 70. 208 J Daly (US) 68 71 69.Reuse content