Phil Mickelson had to return the Claret Jug, the trophy that goes to the British Open champion, shortly after his arrival for this year’s tournament at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.
But doing that allowed him to reflect on a year of keeping golf’s oldest trophy, and the confidence he has when he plays links golf.
“It’s a different feeling for me coming over here now having won this tournament,” Mickelson said. “The way I felt was, ‘Am I ever going to break through and play well on links golf and win an Open Championship?' Now I know that I can. I know that I’ve done it, and it takes a lot of pressure off me.”
While Mickelson has confidence playing golf on links courses, his overall game isn’t sharp.
Not even Mickelson would have imagined when he left Muirfield after his victory last summer that he would not have won another tournament anywhere in the world. This is the longest he has gone without winning in five years.
And except for the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship in January, where he was runner-up, Mickelson hasn’t been particularly close. He has missed three cuts, and he withdrew twice after narrowly making the cut because of injuries in San Diego and San Antonio.
Still, Mickelson has a smile on his face as he prepares to play in this year’s Open, which runs Thursday through Sunday.
“Normally, I would be discourage or frustrated, but I’m just not,” Mickelson said. “I feel like I’ve had some good breakthroughs in some areas. I haven’t had the results. I know I haven’t played well. But the parts feel a lot better than the whole right now.
“I don’t know when it will all click together. I don’t know if it will be this week. I don’t know if it will be in three weeks or a month or what, but it should be soon.”
But at age 44, Mickelson might be running out of time.
Mickelson had to overcome arthritis in the middle of the 2010 season, and only eight players older than he is right now have won majors. Mickelson doesn’t see that as an obstacle.
“I feel better than I have in a long time,” he said.
PGA TOUR: British Open. Thursday through Sunday in Hoylake, England. TV: ESPN (Thursday and Friday, 3 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Saturday, 6 a.m. and 6 p.m.; Sunday, 5 a.m.) and ABC (Saturday and Sunday, 2 p.m.).
LPGA TOUR: Marathon Classic. Thursday through Sunday in Sylvania, Ohio. TV: Golf Channel (Thursday through Sunday, 2 p.m.).
CHAMPIONS TOUR: Off until July 24.
WEB.COM TOUR: Boise Open. Thursday through Sunday in Boise, Idaho. TV: Golf Channel (Thursday through Sunday, 4 p.m.).
Players to watch
Woodland, a former University of Kansas golfer, made the cut in each of his previous two British Open starts. His best finish was 30th in 2012.
Ortiz has won twice on the Web.com Tour this year and leads it with earnings of $369,291
Martin gained her first LPGA Tour win last week when she captured the Women’s British Open with an eagle on the final hole at Royal Birkdale.