For the second week in a row Phil Mickelson finds himself the defending champion on foreign soil — This week at The Open Championship as he was last week in the Scottish Open.
Although the five time major winner was not able to successfully defend his title in Scotland. He now turns his focus to The Open Championship at Royal Liverpool. A major that has not seen Lefty’s best game.
In this his 20th appearance at The Open Championship, Mickelson has only three top-10 finishes in his previous 19 starts in golf’s oldest major. Two of those coming within the last three years [2011 (T2) 2013 (1)].
With so much focus on the San Diego native this week returning the Claret Jug to the R&A, Mickelson discusses his focus heading into this week, in a season that has yet to see him in his best form.
“Well, it obviously hasn’t been a good year”, said Mickelson. “Normally I would be discouraged or frustrated, but I’m just not. I’m not frustrated and I’m not discouraged. I feel like I’ve had some good breakthroughs in some areas. I haven’t had the results, I know I haven’t played well. But the parts feel a lot better than the whole right now.”
“And I don’t know when it will all click together. I don’t know if it will be this week. I don’t know if it will be in three weeks or a month or what, but it should be soon. I feel like it’s really close to being good. And rather than trying to force it or press the issue, I’m going to be patient.”
When asked to discuss his spotty history in The Open Championship. Mickelson as usual had his own self diagnosis to share if he had at any time lost faith in his game on a links style course.
“I didn’t, and as I look back on it, again, like my own self-analysis over the last ten years of links golf, I’ve played very well tee-to-green. I’ve played very effective on the ground, keeping the ball low, playing in crosswinds, downwind. Where I’ve struggled here is on the greens. I’ve putted the fescue grasses, the native grasses very poorly.”
“Last year I had a very phenomenal putting week. I felt like I kind of keyed in on something on some of these greens. Giving it a much better roll that helps hold the line, and I putted these greens much better. And I think that was the difference, not the challenge of links golf. Certainly the first ten years of my career I did not play it well from tee-to-green. But the last ten I felt like I was close, and the last key was on the greens. I didn’t feel like the ball-striking was the issue. I felt like it was the putting on these greens. Last year I certainly solved that.”
Mickelson also went into his bag and equipment set up when he approaches The Open Championship, discussing what is different for him in a links course event.
“I have two clubs that are specific to this tournament; it’s a 2-iron and a 64 degree wedge that has very little bounce. Those two clubs I basically put away after this event and I bring them back out in July again. But they’ve been very important and instrumental in my success here, 2- or 3-iron. This week it will be a 2-iron.”
While Mickelson’s success to this point in the season has been lack luster to say the least. You still have to like his chances after showing good form in the Scottish Open; minus his second round of course, with a strong finish in his title defense.
Can the now 44-year old rekindle that same form he showed in his final round last season to capture the Claret Jug?
Will Mickelson become the first player since Padraig Harrington in 2007 and 2008 to successfully defend his Open Championship crown?
Many eyes will be following one of the biggest fan favorites at Royal Liverpool this week looking for those answers. Just to see if Mickelson can find that magic again as he did on Sunday in 2013.