Phil Mickelson ready to make run at British Open
BY HERB GOULD firstname.lastname@example.org July 16, 2013 12:39PM
Phil Mickelson of the United States plays a shot off the 18th tee during a practice round ahead of the British Open Golf Championship at Muirfield, Scotland, Tuesday July 16, 2013. (AP Photo/Scott Heppell)
At a Glance
Event: 142nd British Open.
Length: 7,192 yards.
Field: 156 (149 pros, seven amateurs).
Prize money: 5.25 million pounds ($7.82 million).
Winner’s share: 954,000 pounds ($1.4 million).
Defending champion: Ernie Els.
The course: Muirfield is considered by many to be the purest and fairest of all the links courses in the Open rotation. The outward nine runs in a clockwise direction on the perimeter of the property, while the inward nine goes mainly in a counterclockwise rotation in the middle. Players most likely will face the wind in every direction during the round. Muirfield is the home of ‘‘The Honourable Company of Edinburgh Golfers,’’ which in 1744 established 13 ‘‘Rules of Golf.’’ The company moved in 1891 to Muirfield.
Key statistic: Every winner of the British Open at Muirfield after World War II is in the World Golf Hall of Fame.
Noteworthy: The British Open is the only major that hasn’t had a winner from the top 10 in the world rankings in the last five years.
TV: Thursday and Friday: 3 a.m. to 2 p.m., ESPN; Saturday: 6 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., ESPN; Sunday: 5 a.m. to 12:30 p.m., ESPN.
Updated: July 17, 2013 12:30PM
GULLANE, Scotland — Phil Mickelson is best known for heartbreaking disappointments at the U.S. Open and heartwarming green-jacket finishes at the Masters.
The British Open? With his love for high balls and flop shots, he’s not really known. His many skills simply haven’t translated well to links courses such as Muirfield, where the British Open begins Thursday.
‘‘It’s a hate/love,’’ Mickelson said of his relationship with links golf. ‘‘I used to hate it, and now I love it.’’
The three-time Masters winner and six-time U.S. Open runner-up has only one second-place tie and one third-place finish to show for his 19 trips across the pond. But after winning the Scottish Open on Sunday, his first victory in Europe since he won an event in Paris in 1993, Mickelson is in the discussion for the claret jug.
‘‘I’m looking forward to this week,’’ Mickelson said Tuesday at Muirfield. ‘‘I’ve enjoyed my time over here, and having [wife] Amy and the kids here makes the week much more enjoyable. And then to start off with a victory last week feels terrific.’’
Despite coming off an elbow injury that he says is a non-factor, Tiger Woods is the 8-1 favorite of oddsmakers. Mickelson, though, is right in the pack behind Woods. And Mickelson, who had the gallery on his side at the Scottish Open, will be a fan favorite if he can win for the second consecutive week.
In the ultra-competitive world of golf, winning back-to-back tournaments is monumental. If one of them’s a major, the chances are even slimmer. But Mickelson has no fear.
‘‘It’s difficult to win the week before a major and then follow it up by winning the major,’’ Mickelson said. ‘‘Then again, the last person to do it, you’re looking at him.’’
Mickelson drew laughs when he reminded his media audience that he won the Masters in 2006 after winning the Bell South Classic in Atlanta the previous week.
Why is the man who felt anguish last month after the U.S. Open at Merion feeling so upbeat and bold about playing in the British Open, which isn’t supposed to suit his game? He thinks he’s ready to conquer his true links-golf nemesis: putting.
‘‘I’ve not putted these greens well,’’ he said. ‘‘But I’m starting to putt as well as I ever have. I feel like I’ve really keyed in on something. I believe I have kind of found the secret to my own putting. Last week was a very positive sign for me because I putted difficult fescue grasses — and in wind conditions on Sunday — very well.’’
What’s the secret? Mickelson’s lips, unfortunately, are sealed.
‘‘I’m not going to discuss it,’’ he said. ‘‘I feel that I’ve kind of keyed in on something, and I don’t really want to share.’’
Mickelson said he started embracing links golf in 2004, when he worked on lowering the trajectory of his shots with U.S. golf guru Dave Pelz in Scotland.
‘‘I developed a shot that feels easy to get the ball on the ground and in play off the tee, getting rid of these big misses when the ball gets up in the crosswinds,’’ he said. ‘‘The shot is kind of a chip — kind of a chip 4-wood, a chip hybrid, a chip 4-iron — where I’m just swinging it almost half-pace, trying to take spin and speed off of it and just get it on the ground.’’
If Mickelson really does add strong putting to a low ball flight, he might be on to something.
And wouldn’t it be a surprise if he were able to drown his U.S. Open sorrows by drinking from the claret jug?