INVERNESS, Scotland – Phil Mickelson probably doesn’t have to play a practice round before the British Open at Royal Troon this week.
Four rounds in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Castle Stuart has given Mickelson the experience of playing in every sort of weather except the one thing missing from this, ahem, Scottish summer: sunshine.
Strong winds plagued the first two rounds while heavy rain the last two days suggests global warming isn’t about to arrive in Scotland any time soon. The weather forecast for Royal Troon this week doesn’t point to heavy sales of sun block either.
Besides, Lefty knows what he has to work on if he’s to land a second old Claret Jug. He needs to get the ball closer to the hole from 90 feet.
Mickelson posted a closing 6-under 66 to finish at 7 under and move into the top 10. The move came too late to trouble the podium places.
Mickelson finished his round nearly an hour before leader Alex Noren teed off in the last group alongside England’s Tyrrell Hatton. Mickelson was five behind and heading to Troon.
He could have been pushing Noren for the title if not for lag-putting problems.
“My lag putting really cost me two or three shots a round because I wasn’t getting it close enough from long distance,” Mickelson said. “That’s an area I’ll have to work on, because it needs to be sharp for next week.
“You’re going to be putting from off the green and from long distances on the green. You’ve got to get those close and make easy pars. I really made it difficult for myself this week. That’s why I really didn’t have a chance heading into the final round.”
One hole encapsulated Mickelson’s long-putting woes.
“On the 12th hole – granted it was from 90 feet – I left it 12 feet short. You have to get those preferably inside 3 feet but certainly inside 5 or 6 feet to have a reasonable chance at two-putting. I got away with it because I made the 12-footer, but you just can’t do that in major championships.
“You’ve got to leave yourself easy pars. That’s an area I’ll focus on the next three days. It’s been a strength of my game the last decade that allowed me to compete in majors, because I gave myself so many easy pars.”
Mickelson’s sodden waterproofs stood as Exhibit A to the horrible rain of the final round. Not that the five-time major winner minded.
“I was able to see such varying conditions,” he said. “I saw such a strong wind the first day, then half the wind, but the rain was added today. That gives me the experience of having the potential conditions you might see next week.
“I love playing in these conditions. I love the challenge. I’ve learned a few tricks over the years that have really helped. Playing with those two all-weather gloves has been really helpful for me because I don’t worry about losing control of the club. I’m also able to get the ball out of the air and on the ground a lot easier, and I’m driving the ball a lot straighter.”
As one wag commented: “Phil’s got two gloves on the Claret Jug.”