x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Mickelson putting strategy to test ahead of British Open

The American has struggled in the major and the world No 6 plans to use Inverness tournament as a testing ground for his short-game troubles.

Phil Mickelson will hope to improve his fortunes on British soil at Castle Stuart this week.
Phil Mickelson will hope to improve his fortunes on British soil at Castle Stuart this week.

Phil Mickelson is banking on a change in strategy on the greens in the next two weeks to break his tournament drought in Britain.

The American has finished in the top 10 at the British Open just once — at Troon in 2004 — and is using the Scottish Open, on a links course at Castle Stuart in Inverness, which starts today, as preparation for the year's third major.

Mickelson acknowledged yesterday that putting was the problem.

"The biggest reason is the greens," Mickelson, the world No 6, said.

"I have not putted well. The grass is a little bit more coarse, a little thicker, has a little bit more effect, and you need to putt with less break and more aggression is what I've come to find.

"I'm going to try to do that this week and next week, and see if that doesn't combat some of the issues that I've had putting here."

With the British Open starting at Royal St George's in south-east England next week, Mickelson will also use the warm-up event in Scotland to try out new strategies in his famed short game.

"Having a week now to be able to see the way the ball reacts, get my mind adjusted to the short-game shots, as well as the full shots, I think is going to play a big effect — a big, positive effect — in my performances," he said.

Mickelson has won four major titles — three at the Masters and one at the US PGA Championship — and is widely considered one of the greats of modern golf despite never having held the No 1 spot. That is mainly because of playing in the Tiger Woods era.

His aim is to win all the four majors, but he also said improving his record in Britain and in links conditions will help him to become a more "complete player.

"It's something that I am really starting to enjoy, the challenge of succeeding over here," the 41-year-old Mickelson said. "The Scottish Open and the British Open mean a lot to me because it's a real challenge for me to overcome the obstacles. I always play high through the air; to be able to play along the ground, keep the ball under control, drive it well through crosswinds, those challenges I've embraced these last few years.

"There's only one year that I played well, in 2004, where I was a shot out of the play-off. I've not performed to the level that I have week in, week out in the States. I want to change that and I'm planning on doing that."

In other news, South Africa's Tim Clark is the latest player to withdraw from next week's British Open.

Like Woods, who pulled out on Tuesday, Clark has not played since the Players Championship in mid-May — in his case because of tendinitis in an elbow.

Also missing is Frenchman Thomas Levet, who fractured his shin jumping in a lake to celebrate his French Open victory on Sunday.

Anthony Kim, the former Ryder Cup player, who was unable to play last year's Open at St Andrews following thumb surgery, was being offered Clark's place after fellow Americans Jason Dufner and Robert Garrigus came in for Woods and Levet respectively.

First reserve now - based on this week's world rankings - is England's Simon Dyson and if there are two more withdrawals then Denmark's Thomas Bjorn will be able to return to the course on which he led by three with four to play in 2003. Bjorn then bogeyed the 15th, double-bogeyed the short 16th and bogeyed the 17th to lose by one to Ben Curtis.

Clark, last year's winner of the Players Championship, has teed off in only two tournaments since finishing runner-up at the Sony Open in January.

* Agencies