Open Championship

Phil embraces links golf

2013-07-16 20:07
Phil Mickelson (AFP)
Gullane - Four-time major winner Phil Mickelson said Tuesday that his hatred of links golf has turned to love as he looks to follow up a breakthrough win in Scotland with British Open glory.

Mickelson's play-off victory on Sunday at the Scottish Open was his first win in Europe since a 1993 title on the European Challenge Tour and he has often struggled to produce his best golf on British links courses.

"I enjoyed the golf course at Castle Stuart and enjoyed finally breaking through and winning the Scottish Open.

"I've been coming so many years and it feels great. I'm looking forward to the British Open.

"I've been playing well for a few months, and I'm hopeful this will be a good week," he said.

Asked to describe his oft-times strained relationship with links golf, Mickelson replied: "It's a hate/love. I used to hate it and now I love it."

"I think to do well you have to have fun with it, you have to enjoy that challenge, because it can get very frustrating because of its difficulty," he added, referring to the wind.

Hugely popular with the galleries, the 43-year-old San Diego native will be cheered on all the more at Muirfield after breaking hearts last month at Merion when he finished US Open runner-up for a record sixth time.

If his national championship is the title Mickelson has long-craved, the British Open has always been his biggest challenge.

For years he took on the wind full-bore and unleashed his driver only to find himself in some unplayable spots. Not any more.

The driver is not even in the bag these days.

A sanguine Mickelson on Tuesday recognised the error of his old ways.

"I just don't see how a driver is going to help me in any areas.

"I'm able to hit that 3-wood on this firm ground every bit as close enough in distance on the holes. And distance on any tee shot is not even in my mind.

"It's avoiding bunkers, avoiding rough, getting the ball in the fairway. And I can do it a lot easier with clubs other than driver," he said.

Mickelson believed his mastery of Castle Stuart's windswept greens would bode well for the British Open, which begins at Muirfield, east of Edinburgh, on Thursday.

"I think that last week was a very positive sign for me, because I putted difficult fescue grasses, and in wind conditions on Sunday, very well. And hopefully that one common thread that's given me problems here, I hopefully have solved."

The mercurial left-hander was captured on camera on Monday on the 17th showing off his exquisite touch by practising a seemingly impossible backwards lob shot.

"I haven't hit it in so long, I just looked at it and thought I'd give it a try.

"I didn't know anybody was filming," he said.

Mickelson acknowledged that the record of golfers following up tour wins with major victories is not good but enjoyed having the last laugh on the questioner.

"It's difficult to win the week before a major and then follow it up winning the major.

"But then again the last person to do it, you're looking at him," he said, referring to the second of his three US Masters wins, in 2006.

World number one Tiger Woods is favourite to win his fourth British Open title this week but has not played competitively since falling away at last month's US Open in Merion, Pennsylvania amid concerns over a nagging elbow injury.

Read more on:    british open  |  phil mickelson  |  golf

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