A last-morning leaderboard featuring two Britons just ahead of a fancied Spaniard, not to mention well clear of some of the world's best, would be a dream scenario a week today at Royal Birkdale. It will be the reality here today when England's Simon Khan and Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell tee off as the final pairing in what is shaping up to be a scramble of a denouement to the Scottish Open.
Both men will start at 10-under-par after McDowell shot the day's best 66 yesterday and Khan hit a 68. Yet both will have much more than a £500,000 winner's cheque on their minds.
McDowell is seeking a priceless berth in Europe's Ryder Cup team and he admitted last night that achieving that would be as valuable to him as a stellar showing at Birkdale. A win here would virtually guarantee him a place in Nick Faldo's team for Valhalla in September.
"I'm certainly going to be at the British Open trying to win next week," said the 28-year-old from Portrush. "But a win or top three or five here is as important to me as a top five or top 10 next week."
Khan has his sights set on a place in the line-up at Birkdale, full stop. There is one qualifying slot available here, to the leading non-exempt player, and Khan is in position to take it if he finishes inside the top five. "It's definitely been in my mind," he said. "Birkdale is going to be a great Open. I played Hoylake two years ago and the fans are fun. My wife's from Liverpool and I appreciate the humour."
Khan's nearest rival for that Open slot – on the board at least – is Jeev Milkha Singh of India, who is one of four men, including Spain's Miguel Angel Jimenez, who will begin the last round at eight-under-par, two shots off the lead. Australia's world No 3, Adam Scott, is in the next group on seven under, along with England's Ian Poulter and Lee Westwood. The tournament's biggest names, Phil Mickelson and Ernie Els, start today at four under and five under respectively.
Ahead of them, on six-under-par after a roller-coaster 68 yesterday that included a remarkable five bogeys, six birdies and an eagle will be the Northern Irish teenager Rory McIlroy. The 19-year-old, the leading amateur in last year's Open at Carnoustie, will be vying with Khan and others for the last Open place.