What each contender needs to do (and avoid)
CARNOUSTIE, Scotland -- A little history lesson: Eight years ago this week, at this very location, a man named Paul Lawrie walked off the final green on Saturday having shot rounds of 73-74-76 in the British Open.
Hardly the main story, he wasn't even an afterthought. Lawrie was more like an after-afterthought, well off the radar screen at 10 strokes behind leader Jean Van de Velde.
The next day, Lawrie shot 67, Van de Velde shot 77 and, well, the rest is history as the overlooked Scot won the Claret Jug in a playoff.
It's hardly the only time such an occurrence has happened in golf. At this year's Masters, Zach Johnson was just a face in the crowd after three rounds. He won the next day. At this year's U.S. Open, Angel Cabrera was simply another contender after three rounds. He won, too.
So while many pundits may be ready to hand Sergio Garcia's first major title to him following a stellar round in which he shot a bogey-free 68, we've seen too many of these things to think this one is a done deal.
Garcia leads Steve Stricker by three strokes going into the final round and seven others by six. Here's what each contender needs to do and avoid on Sunday:
Sergio Garcia: 9-under 204.
Needs to avoid ... calling Van de Velde for advice. Ha. In all honestly, though, the 18th hole has played as the toughest on the course this week. Even if the tee box is moved further back, Garcia has to resist temptation at the last and simply repeat his Saturday strategy of iron off the tee, iron onto the green and two-putt. Even though it was eight years ago, this place has seen enough drama on its final hole to last for a while.
Steve Stricker: 6-under 207.
Needs to avoid ... falling apart down the stretch. Or at least failing to maintain momentum. Three times this year -- at the Wachovia Championship, U.S. Open and AT&T National, Stricker has held or shared the final-round lead on the back nine, only to come up 0-for-3. He hasn't won a tournament since 2001, but he needs to believe that he can.
Chris DiMarco: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... finding the rough off the tee. DiMarco's increasingly better scores are in direct proportion to the amount of fairways he's hit during each round.
Paul McGinley: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... putting like he did on Friday. During the first and third rounds -- in which he shot 67 and 68, respectively -- McGinley took only 23 and 26 putts. In Friday's round of 74, he needed 32 putts. If the flatstick stays hot, he'll make more birdies.
Stewart Cink: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... missing the fairway off the tee. Strangely enough on this course, which emphasizes accuracy, Cink is T-57 in fairways hit, averaging only 56 percent through three rounds. He'll need to find the short stuff more often in order to consistently have more birdie chances.
Padraig Harrington: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... wanting it too much. Tough to say about anyone in contention, but Harrington needs to play loose. He wants to win this tournament very badly, but remember, he wanted to retain the Ryder Cup in his native Ireland last year, but failed win a single match.
Ernie Els: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... the big number. Els' third-round 68 could have easily been a 65 or 66 had it not been for the tee shot he hit O.B. on the par-5 sixth hole that led to triple-bogey.
Paul Broadhurst: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... losing momentum with his iron game. Broadhurst currently ranks T-7 in greens in regulation, hitting 70 percent so far. He'll need to keep that going.
K.J. Choi: 3-under 210.
Needs to avoid ... continuing to think about the par-4 18th hole as a par-5. Choi, like many in the field, considers the 499-yard hole to be playing a stroke tougher than the scorecard states, but that hasn't helped matters, as he's carded 5 in each round so far.
The field: 2-under 211 and below.
Needs to ... remember Paul Lawrie. Many of these players may think their chances of winning on Sunday are slim and none, but guys like Jim Furyk, Vijay Singh and Tiger Woods each hold an advantage over the 1999 champ after 54 holes.
Needs to avoid ... hoping for benign conditions. If you're one of these players, you're hoping for gusting winds, heavy rain and brutal conditions, taking your chances with a score of 68 or 69 while watching every other contender blow up down the stretch.
Jason Sobel is ESPN.com's golf editor. He can be reached at Jason.Sobel@espn3.com
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BRITISH OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP
Where: Carnoustie Golf Links, Carnoustie, Scotland
Yardage/Par: 7,421 yards; par 71
2007 champion: Padraig Harrington
British Open leaderboard
• Recap: Harrington wins in playoff
• Wojciechowski: Final-round thrill ride
• Sobel: Harrington completes long journey
• Sirak: Garcia will bear burden of loss
• Harig: Garcia chalks up loss to bad breaks
• Harig: Romero's wild ride
• Harig notebook: No more Carnasty
• Sobel: Round 4 blog
• Round 4 photo gallery
• Round 3 recap: Garcia leads by three
• Harig: Sergio won't have to worry about Tiger
• Sobel: What each contender needs to do
• Wojciechowski: Stricker is America's best hope
• Sobel: Round 3 blog
• Harig: No. 18 is the bitter end
• Harig notebook: Tiger gives himself a "chance"
• Round 3 photo gallery
• Round 2 recap: Garcia up two
• Wojciechowski: Garcia bellies up to the lead
• Harig: Boo gets some cheers
• Sobel: Round 2 blog
• Harig: Woods' run in jeopardy
• Harig notebook: Bye, Phil!
• Sobel: Choi in hunt for first major
• Round 2 photo gallery
• Round 1 recap: Garcia up by two
• Harig: Top players heat up in cold
• Sobel: Sergio continues maturation process
• Wojciechowski: Player's imperfect 10?
• Harig notebook: McIlroy impresses
• Sobel: Round 1 blog
• Harig: Tiger gets a ruling
• Round 1 photo gallery