Originally created 07/18/02

Lefty looking to shore up record in British Open



GULLANE, Scotland -- Phil Mickelson put a new spin Wednesday on his chances of winning a British Open, the one major championship where he has never contended.

Lefty finally thinks he has the right game.

"If I can win the British Open, it would be the greatest satisfaction to achieve a victory here given the amount of alterations that I've had to go through," he said.

Never mind that it would be his first major championship after 41 tries.

It doesn't matter if he's the guy who stops Tiger Woods from a shot at the Grand Slam.

He's not interested in shutting up past major champions who have ripped into him, Ernie Els, David Duval and others for not giving Woods enough competition.

Mickelson, a regular contender at the other three majors, has never finished higher than 11th in the British Open and usually gets early tee times on the weekend.

"I wanted to change that," he said.

About 18 months ago, Mickelson said he began working on his swing to reduce some of the spin and give himself a better chance at handling the quirky nature of links golf.

It's not that he didn't think he could win on talent alone.

"I feel like I've been ready. I've gotten here and prepared properly and I'm ready to go," he said. "But I've not gone here with the type of shots that I feel I have now."

The problem? Too much spin, which generates plenty of excitement on lush greens often found at regular PGA Tour stops, but did him little good on the brittle links of Britain.

Mickelson offered an easy explanation for his poor record at the British Open, although it sounds a little complicated.

"When I would keep the ball low, it would be low with a lot of spin," he said. "The ball would land short of the green like I would be playing it, but the spin would make it grab and not release back to the hole like I'm expecting."

He tinkered with his swing. He worked on his ball flight. With the British Open in mind, Mickelson also found that it helped him on the PGA Tour.

"Shot that I had in mind originally for the British Open has helped me play on the U.S. tour as far as getting to back pins," he said. "I wanted to compete more consistently under all conditions."

No one can argue with his results.

Mickelson not only has won eight times in the last three years, he has established himself as the clear-cut No. 2 player in the world and chief rival to Woods.

Now comes the hard part.

Mickelson has shown he can compete in the majors - four finishes in the top 3 in the last six majors played. Getting to hold the trophy at the end of the day is another matter.

"It doesn't make me more despondent," he said of his close calls, including a runner-up to Woods at the U.S. Open and a third-place finish at Augusta. "I've found it's much easier to deal with finishing second or third than it is dealing with 25th or 30th and not having a chance to win.

"I've become more determined to do well because I can taste it. And when I do finally get a taste of victory, I anticipate that it would be something I would want even more and would work harder even still."

Mickelson hasn't played since winning the Greater Hartford Open three weeks ago. He arrived at Muirfield over the weekend and played 54 holes, then got away from the activity surrounding major championships by sneaking over to St. Andrews on Monday.

He tees off Thursday afternoon with Hal Sutton and Nick Faldo, who won the last two times the British Open was played at Muirfield, a course Mickelson already calls his favorite among those in the rotation.

He thinks the state of his game is better than ever, too.

"I'm more prepared than I have been for this event," he said. "This is by far my best chance, and it is by far the best golf course for my game."