SANDWICH, England -- Phil Mickelson has found himself in an unusual position after 36 holes at Royal St. George’s: in the hunt at an Open Championship. Mickelson, who has just one top-10 finish in 17 previous Open starts, birdied St. George’s two par 5s—the seventh and the 14th—for the second consecutive day to post a one-under-par 69 and pull within three of the lead.
Amazing what a positive attitude can do for a guy.
Mickelson said earlier this week that he was planning to embrace the unique challenges and vagaries of links golf at Royal St. George’s, a topsy-turvy layout that looks more like a motocross track than a golf course. On Friday, Lefty took that new approach a step further, all but doing a rain dance after his round.
“One of the things I’m looking forward to is actually the bad weather,” Mickelson said, alluding to the wet, gusty forecast for Saturday. “Historically, I have not played great in windy conditions and rain, but I welcome the challenge. I’m looking forward to that challenge, and I’m hoping I’ve got the shot now to be effective in it.”
Sloppy, scrappy, gut-it-out golf is not usually Mickelson’s bag. But he says he has added a few shots to his arsenal that should serve him well, in particular a low, boring wind-cheater that he can hit with his driver and 3-wood.
“So when I get a direct crosswind, I get the ball on the ground quicker, and I don’t have that big miss as much because it’s not in the air as long,” Mickelson explained.
Mickelson may have sorted out his long game, but his short game has been shaky—his really short game, that is. In the last two days he has missed three putts from within four feet. At the Scottish Open last week, Mickelson said he was planning to employ a new putting strategy on his British Isles swing.
“The grass is a little bit more coarse, a little thicker, has a little bit more effect, and you need to putt with less break and more aggression, is what I've come to find,” he said. "I'm going to try to do that this week and next week and see if that doesn't combat some of the issues that I've had putting here."
That part of Mickelson’s new links strategy has been less effective.
“I haven’t putted as well as I expect to, but I’m putting better than I have in the past on these greens,” he said Friday. “So it’s getting there.” (Photo: Tim Hales/AP)