Mickelson using a familiar equipment strategy at Royal Birkdale
The tinkering continues for Phil Mickelson as he seeks a second stint as Champion Golfer of the Year. Now he just hopes the wind will blow.
Mickelson began his preparation for The Open on Saturday at Royal Birkdale, opting to skip the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open in favor of some extra work on the Southport links. While players have been bathed in sunshine over the past two days of practice, Mickelson saw the course in more difficult conditions over the weekend and now hopes that the forecast calling for stiff winds and intermittent rain comes to fruition.
"I really hope that the weather comes in and we can all experience what The Open Championship is famous for. It looks like that’s going to happen,” Mickelson said. “If that happens, I believe that the ability to get the ball on the ground, avoid bunkers, use short game and get up and down could really be a factor to help get up in the leaderboard and in contention."
Mickelson has often been willing to make changes to his equipment based on the demands of a specific tournament venue, and this week is no exception. Perhaps the most notable of those changes is his decision to leave driver in the bag, instead opting for the same "hot" 3-wood he used en route to lifting the Claret Jug at Muirfield in 2013.
"We came out here and spent Saturday and Sunday in the conditions and the winds that we’re going to see, and there really wasn’t a driver even potentially until we got to 15 for me, the way I felt I wanted to play the golf course and avoid the bunkers,” he said.
But the similarities to Mickelson’s Open triumph four years ago don’t stop there. He’s also adding a 64 degree lob wedge, just as he did at Muirfield, in an effort to combat the tight lies he expects to encounter around the greens.
Mickelson also plans to carry two different 3-irons this week as he looks to improve upon his runner-up finish last year at Royal Troon. The first is the standard club he uses each week on the PGA Tour, but the second is a new weapon designed to keep the ball on a lower trajectory and with less spin.
"I’ve been really working on hitting that 3-iron head-high, and getting it down quick,” Mickelson said. “It’s been something I’ve been working on the last couple weeks, and that shot’s not going to be affected by weather."