ABERDEEN, Scotland (AP) Phil Mickelson never tires of expressing his affection for Scottish links courses - but he won't be taking away any fond memories of the 18th hole at Royal Aberdeen this week.
The chances of the American retaining his Scottish Open title looked doubtful on Saturday after he bogeyed No. 18 for the third straight round.
That completed a third round of 1-under 70 and left him a long way off the pace in the warm-up for the British Open, which he also won last year for a memorable links double.
''I need a really low round tomorrow,'' Mickelson said. ''It's got to be 8 or 9-under par but I think it's out there and I'll be off early enough to make some noise.
''But I've got to play a great front nine ... I have to get off to a hot start.''
Even if he doesn't go on to win his third straight links title, Mickelson will still be taking a lot out of his latest trip to Scotland ahead of his British Open defense at Hoylake.
Royal Aberdeen has been the ideal test for Mickelson and the rest of the field, with winds swirling in different directions all three days off the North Sea. The low drives into the wind and bump-and-runs into undulating greens will be shots he is sure to be replicating at Royal Liverpool next week.
''I feel like each day my game has gotten a little bit better and I've hit more and more good shots and fewer bad shots,'' Mickelson said. ''And that's a good sign.''
Founded in 1780, Royal Aberdeen is the sixth oldest golf club in the world and has joined Mickelson's lengthy list of top Scottish courses.
''It's certainly a challenging course,'' said Mickelson, who often plays some of the country's unheralded courses during Scottish Open week. ''It's surprising that a course this old is still testing the best players a couple of hundred years later.''