Mighty Mickelson looking for more of the same
Yesterday Phil Mickelson lamented the interference of the golfing gods after being denied a record-breaking 62 at the final hole of his first round of The 145th Open at Royal Troon. Today, he’s calling on them to stick to their guns.
Mickelson kept ahead of the field after a morning round of 69 today, but surrendered some ground to Sweden’s Henrik Stenson, whose magnificent round of 65 moved him to nine under par and within one stroke of the 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year.
When Mickelson’s putt for a record-breaking 62 lipped out in the first round he said in jest that the golfing gods had conspired against him. Now, though, he is looking to them for a little help and taking heart from the fact that The Open has been won by Americans the last six times it has been staged at Royal Troon.
“I think that, again, that's probably due to the gods,” he said with a smile. “And I would expect them to be consistent.”
It was unlikely that the fireworks of the first round would be repeated today, so for Mickelson it was very much a case of consolidation for a round played in persistent rain.
As we have come to expect from this most flamboyant of performers, his performance was peppered with shots that took the breath away. One of them, his tee shot at the Postage Stamp, finished a couple of inches from the hole. Another, a fearsome bunker shot at the par three 17th, guaranteed his par and kept his round on track. “That was a big momentum keeper,” he said.
It took until the 12th hole before Mickelson dropped his first shot in two days, with his only other bogey coming at the 15th. Those two blemishes apart, his play was near perfect. He went out in 33, with birdies at the 4th, 7th and 8th, and came home in 36.
One of the secrets to his success, he says, is learning to play golf along the ground, an absolute necessity in links golf, particularly when the wind is up. He did it to perfection at Muirfield in 2013, and he is repeating the exercise here.
He first got to grips with links golf while playing in The Open at Troon in 2004. That year he opened with a round of 73, then finished 66, 68, 68. His club of choice has been a 2-iron (a rare beast these days) and it has worked to perfection.
“It's really just a specialty club for over here because I use more of a hybrid in the States,” he explained. “At the other majors the greens are so firm and fast I'm trying to bring the ball in higher. Here I'm just trying to get it on the ground. I probably used it on more than half the tee shots today.”