x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Unpredictability of Phil Mickelson adds to the excitement at British Open

Phil Mickelson is Houdini one minute, Homer the next. And it is anybody's guess which version tees it up at British Open on Thursday.

Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open, but that does not even begin to tell the story of his unpredictable performance,
Phil Mickelson won the Scottish Open, but that does not even begin to tell the story of his unpredictable performance,

Call it mercurial, maddening, or simply Mickelson. This was quintessential Phil condensed into 30 manic minutes on the same Castle Stuart green last Sunday.

Golf's most excitable exponent had 20 feet to negotiate on the final hole at the Scottish Open; two putts to add a regular European Tour victory, finally, to the 47 other titles he has gathered in 22 years as a professional.

But Mickelson somehow took three prods with the flat stick, gifting a play-off to Branden Grace before the American gunslinger returned to the same stormy saloon and blew the lights out with one of the most imaginative shots into the same 18th green that you could witness.

The trophy was his, or so he thought.

At the presentation on 18, Mickelson preceded to spill his latest prize, splitting it into three pieces and extracting the sort of facial expressions from his family that suggested they had just clapped eyes on the Loch Ness Monster. D'oh.

But then, that is Mickelson. Houdini one minute, Homer the next. And it is anybody's guess which version tees it up today at the British Open. Should the game's lead conjurer amass an unassailable lead, would you be falling off your chair in astonishment? Ditto if he missed the cut.

In 19 previous attempts to bring the claret jug back across the Atlantic, Mickelson has a measly two top 10s, a scoring average of 72.38 and a giggle-inducing average finish of 54th place. Remember, this is a guy with four major championships already stashed away.

The reasons for his struggles in the game's oldest major are well worn: tendency to locate different post codes off the tee; an inability to alter his aerial, American style; even an unwillingness to make the sacrifices required to win the tournament. If there is one Open Lefty craves, it takes place every June, more than 6,000 kilometres away – he finished second for a record sixth time at the US national championship last month at Merion.

However, there has been a change of tack. It has foundation at Royal St George's in 2011, when Mickelson seriously threatened a Darren Clarke-sized fairytale before settling for tied second – his best British Open result. He began to embrace the event and links golf, and these four days at Muirfield could just represent his greatest chance of success.

The world No 5 said on Sunday that he is comfortable, at last, on the Scottish fescue, that he has adapted his Jackson Pollock brushstrokes to the game's most natural canvas. Well, almost. A 64-degree wedge, designed to fly above any the bumps on the road, will add plenty of colour.

He said: "My relationship with links is hate-love. I used to hate it and now I love it."

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