Of the 11 majors champions who were in the starting field for the Scottish Open, Retief Goosen was the newest addition to the list. Visibly more assured, the US Open winner serenely extended his lead in the third round to three strokes.
This is Goosen's second tournament since returning from Tulsa, perhaps a day later than expected after he missed a two-foot putt for victory on the Sunday night before winning in a play-off, with a very special trophy. Last week in Ireland he finished with a 66, and so far at Loch Lomond he has added rounds of 62, 69 and a 66 yesterday to leave him 16 under par.
To look ahead, something the South African would not contemplate, no one has previously won the Open of America and Scotland in the same season, nor of Scotland and Britain. A triple crown of titles, with the Open Championship at Royal Lytham this week, would match a similar hat-trick achieved by Lee Trevino in 1971, when he sandwiched the Canadian Open title between the two major wins.
But Goosen admitted: "I am expecting to play well and win tomorrow. Three shots is nothing and if there is no wind again then I will have to go low again tomorrow and if I don't and someone else does, then fine. It would be great to win the Scottish Open to add to my French, US and South African Opens. This is a big title.
"But I haven't thought about next week. I'll do that when I get there on Tuesday. I will be very confident and it will be great to play in my first major after winning one. There will be expectations on me but that's part of what I have to deal with now."
Earlier in the week, Nick Faldo, who yesterday was out on his own at the head of the field having only just made the cut and still taking forever, played with Goosen for the first time. "He was very impressive," Faldo said. "He can be as good as he wants to be. He will be right up there."
Temperament has a lot of do with it. Goosen's family think his quiet nature is to do with surviving being hit by lightning as a teenager. At 32, however, he looks like a man who has studied his profession, has learnt what works for him and seeks to avoid unnecessary thrills or distractions.
"Not much seems to affect him or his game," said Jesper Parnevik. "It seems like he just strolls along. At least, that is how it looked at the US Open. He has to come back a bit for the rest of us to have a chance. He's usually awfully strong."
Colin Montgomerie said: "This is a confidence game, all sport is. If you think you can do it, you usually do. To do what he has done here is excellent. You have to ride that wave when you are on it and he is doing just that."
Two birdies on the front nine were followed by another on 11th. Adam Scott, the young Australian playing alongside him, had holed out of a bunker for a two and then Goosen sank a 50ft putt. Then the pair halved the 13th in eagles. Scott rolled in a 30-footer and Goosen followed him in from 20ft. The South African's only dropped shot came at the 16th, where Scott managed to save par form 12ft.
After driving into a bunker at the last, Scott saved par again with an impressive up and down, but Goosen made another short birdie putt to edge further ahead. "It seemed every time I made a move, Retief followed me in," said Scott, who scored a 67. "He looked like he was getting away from me at one point but I played well on the back nine and made a couple of good saves.
"Retief is playing really solid golf. That's how you have to play when you are in front, make no mistakes, don't give anyone else a chance. If he plays like that tomorrow, I don't think he'll be beaten."
Scott, who will be 21 tomorrow, is one of the new breed. Coached by Butch Harmon, when Tiger Woods is not calling on his mentor, Scott won in South Africa at the start of the year, and another win cannot be far away. Only a bizarre collapse now can stop the Australian, who watched his nation's victory over the Lions before teeing off, making it into the Open.
Though Final Qualifying starts today, 15 players here can still get in, either through a current-form order of merit or from finishing high in the tournament itself. "It's looking good at the moment," Scott said, "but I'll knuckle down and plug away at Retief. This is the third time in my last four tournaments I've been in the last group on Sunday, and I'm learning all the time."
Paul McGinley, with a 67, and John Daly, after a 66 in which he eagled the short par-four 10th for the second day running, share third place, five behind. McGinley has been regularly putting himself on the leaderboard this season, while Daly's more immediate concern is simply resurrecting his career after the turmoil of recent years.
Yesterday he was playing with another heavyweight, Darren Clarke, and outscored the Irishman by two strokes. It was the third day running they had been paired together, and the now calmer Wild Thing said: "I have really enjoyed playing with Darren and today we seemed to spark each other off. Tomorrow I still have a chance, but Retief is obviously playing well."
Bernhard Langer withdrew from the tournament to protect his back ahead of The Open, but there was good news for two other players who could do with picking up Ryder Cup points. Jose Maria Olazabal and Parnevik both scored 65s and will be looking for more of the same today. Olazabal did not drop a stroke, while Parnevik is finally striking the ball as he wants to after developing a huge hook last season before he had surgery on his hip.Reuse content