PGA Tour Confidential: Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods at the British Open, plus Jordan Spieth and Muirfield controversy

Phil Mickelson and Bones Mackay
Getty Images
Phil Mickelson, with caddie Bones Mackay, Sunday at the Scottish Open, Mickelson's first-ever win the UK.

Every Sunday night, writers and editors from Sports Illustrated and Golf Magazine have an e-mail roundtable. Check in every week for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below. This week PGA Tour pro, British Open contestant and amateur astro-photographer Jimmy Walker joins our panel.

1. Which Phil Mickelson shows up at Muirfield: the one who sloppily three-putted the last to fall into a playoff at the Scottish Open or the guy who played a brilliant chip shot to beat Branden Grace in the playoff?

Jimmy Walker, PGA Tour pro and British Open contestant: Phil is one of the better golfers of all time, and I know he wants to contend and win. I'm pretty sure he will show up ready to roll. Takes serious stuff to 3-putt and then hit the shots he did. That's why he has so many wins.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Both! That's what makes Phil so exciting to watch: you never know what you're going to get from one hole to the next. But clearly he has a new affinity and flair for links golf and I expect him to contend.

Michael Bamberger, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: The question about Phil is, Can he focus for 72 holes at Muirfield? It's asking a lot. You don't have to play genius golf to win there. But you can't call asleep for a moment.

Joe Passov, senior editor, Golf Magazine: The brilliant Mickelson will show up at Muirfield. True, he's still nursing his U.S. Open hangover (to a degree) and has but two lifetime top 10s in British Opens, but you know what? He's played great this year on the PGA Tour -- one smashing win and several close calls. There's truly no pressure on him here. With the weather expected to be mild, he'll contend.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: Sorry, but after seeing what happened at Merion and on the 72nd hole at the Scottish Open, I just don't see Phil winning. He's a lot like Tiger -- he wants to win majors too badly. The three-putt at Castle Stuart was inexcusable. What's going to happen when the pressure is really ramped up?

Jeff Ritter, senior producer, Golf.com: Flip a coin. On the surface, the short-game creativity required to win an Open would seem to favor Phil, but he's only come close in this event once. And yet he belongs on the short list of favorites, because of how well he's currently playing, and for his flair for surprising us when we least expect it.

Mike Walker, senior editor, Golf.com: I think we’ll see Good Mickelson at the Open. It’s taken much longer than it should have, but links golf has finally captured Mickelson’s imagination. More important than his Bad Mickelson moments on Sunday was how he responded, especially on the playoff hole.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: What will Phil do next, in other words? I'm pretty sure both Phils will show up at Muirfield. If he was a hockey player, his plus-minus rating wouldn't be good but you'd never look away when he took the ice.

2. Jordan Spieth outlasted Zach Johnson and David Hearn in a playoff at the John Deere Classic to become the first teenage Tour winner in 82 years. Afterward Spieth said he was excited to punch his ticket to the British Open. Johnson has said that the British Open is his favorite major as well. Is it possible to prepare for a Scottish links on a parkland course six time zones away in Illinois?

JIMMY WALKER: Congrats to Jordan! Pretty amazing. It seems he is at the top every week. As for Zach and preparing for British, Ive never played in one so it is hard for me to talk about preparing. Golf is golf. There is a tee box and a green with a hole. It is about executing shots. So far I can tell there are many more options on how to play a shot in an Open compared to golf played at home.

BAMBERGER: Sure you can, because if you're hot you're hot. Good vibes trumps sleep.

VAN SICKLE: How many players at John Deere are really hell-bent intent on winning the British Open? Not that many because it's better prep to already be over there, adjusting to the firm turf and the surroundings and the time change. Jack's plan was always to spend a couple of days at the course a week before to get the surroundings figured out and that worked pretty well for him. Showing up Monday badly jet-lagged for a couple of days is poor prep for any tourney.

PASSOV: I would think you'd want to have a week in the same time zone and have your links adjustments already made by the time the Open starts. I mean, these guys ARE good, but they're even better with preparation.

GODICH: I don’t think it will be that big a factor. Golf is all about hitting shots and making putts. There's no reason Zach can't take the momentum he built across the pond.

MIKE WALKER: There are many quirks in the PGA Tour schedule, but the Illinois-to-UK jump is one of the strangest.

SHIPNUCK: Obviously it's not ideal, but Zach is supporting his hometown tournament and that's never going to change. The bottom line is good golf is good golf regardless of the playing field. He just needs to get over there and get used to the turf and the time zone change and he will be fine.

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