CARNOUSTIE, Scotland — After Tiger Woods said the British Open was his favorite major tournament, Phil Mickelson was asked if he would care to offer his ranking.
“No, not really,” he said laughing. It seems fair to assume that that the British Open would not come in first.
Unlike Woods, Mickelson is still trying to figure out links golf and the British Open. His record since finishing tied for 72nd as an amateur at Royal Birkdale in 1991 includes only two top 20s, with a missed cut at Carnoustie in 1999. His best finish was third (his only top 10) at Royal Troon in 2004, shortly after he won his first major at the Masters.
“I have really struggled in the past off the tee,” he said. “But I have been working on those low drivers that have been able to keep it in play and not have the crosswinds blow it off line. That’s the key. Missing out on the playoff by one shot at Royal Troon was a big point for me because I finally had a good performance where I felt I could win — and was inches away from doing it.”
But in a game where the diameter of the hole measures just 4.25 inches, success or failure always comes down to fractions. And Mickelson believes he is beginning to solve the unique links conundrum. After missing the cut at Congressional, he jetted into Carnoustie for three days of practice with short game guru Dave Pelz.
So what’s his British Open game plan?
“It changes with the wind,” Mickelson said. “Each hole can go from being a birdie hole to just trying to make par. You don’t know how to attack the course until you get on it. You have to come up with three or four different ways to play based on the three or four different winds that we’ll see.”
So, a piece of cake, then. Ahem. Mickelson’s latest attempt to crack the British links code begins at 9:20 a.m. on Thursday in the company of Japan’s Toru Taniguchi and England’s Lee Westwood.