GULLANE, Scotland — Fresh off a Scottish Open victory, Phil Mickelson showed up at Muirfield for the first time in 11 years and didn’t take long to figure out his strategy for the British Open. He wants to keep it as simple as possible and try to make easy pars.
“It is fun to come in with a win, but now it’s time to focus on Muirfield and try to learn the nuances,” Mickelson said. “What I’m looking for is how to make easy pars, how to get the ball in the fairway easily, how to get it up and around the greens without a lot of stress, without having to hit perfect shots. Because imperfect shots will be magnified by the wind.”
Mickelson has not had much success in the Open. He finished one shot out of a playoff in 2004 at Royal Troon in what he considers his best week in the British Open. Two years ago, he made a Sunday charge that came up three shots short at Royal St. George’s.
At other majors, it’s not unusual for him to play one full practice round at the course and go elsewhere the rest of the week until the opening round. But he knows those courses. Muirfield requires getting reacquainted.
“This week I’ll spend more time on the golf course,” he said.
FATIGUE FACTOR: Ernie Els has won major championships 18 years apart, and one big difference is the reaction of the media and the time commitments. It can be exhausting, and last year’s win at Royal Lytham & St. Annes was even tougher because he wanted to honor his sponsor’s commitment by playing in the Canadian Open the next week. He never really recovered the rest of the year.
HANSON’S BACK: Peter Hanson has been struggling with a sore back, and he’s still not sure if he’ll tee it up Thursday. The Swede said it was 50-50 he would play. “I thought the disk problem in my back was getting better, but then it starts to feel worse,” Hanson said.
THE FRENCH CONNECTION: Thomas Levet was part of the four-man playoff at Muirfield in 2002, and he went one extra hole of sudden death before making bogey on the 18th hole and losing to Ernie Els. He didn’t qualify to play this year. Neither did the other two from that playoff, Stuart Appleby and Steve Elkington. Levet is doing TV work.
DIVOTS: Augusta’s Charles Howell would have been the second alternate, but he withdrew from the Open on Sunday when Jordan Spieth qualified by winning the John Deere Classic. If Zach Johnson had won the Deere, then Joost Luiten would have gotten in, and Howell would have moved up to the first alternate position.