Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 23 July 2014

The Open: Mickelson prepares with Faldo quiz

Phil Mickelson took the opportunity to quiz Sir Nick Faldo at the Home of Golf yesterday — and was told one thing he found truly staggering.

The Masters champion would take the world number one spot off Tiger Woods by winning the Open Championship at St Andrews on Sunday, and warmed up for his bid by playing alongside three-time champion Faldo.

“I had a chance to play with Nick and I asked him a bunch of questions,” said the American.

“He's got a lot of great thoughts on St Andrews — avoiding bunkers and shots into the greens and what allowed him to win and be so dominant in 1990.

“He played some of the best golf you've ever seen there. And he had no three-putts — that's just mind-boggling.

“It's challenging because the greens are huge and you don't know where the pins will be, so it's hard to prepare thoroughly other than just get a good feel for the course, a touch around the greens and get a good feel on those 150-foot lag putts.

“You laugh, but there's going to be a lot of them.”

In 16 appearances at the event, Mickelson (pictured) has had only one top-10 finish — third at Royal Troon in 2004 — but, despite that and missing the cut at the Scottish Open last Friday, he is full of confidence about the forthcoming championship.

Mickelson describes Faldo, a five-shot winner 20 years ago, as “one of the most strategic golfers that you can imagine”, but the left-hander also points out that the last three champions on the course were John Daly and Woods twice.

“I do take note of what's gone on. They've been the longest players in the game at that time.

“St Andrews doesn't limit you on ways you can win — all players can win — but I do think there are distinct advantages to length out here.

“This place is an incredible place. It's a spiritual place as well as a wonderful course and (Jack) Nicklaus has said it — a career just doesn't feel complete unless you've won here.

“As somebody who loves the game of golf, with this being the home of golf, you can't help but feel emotion and feel this sense of spirituality come over you as you play this course, knowing that this is where the game began.

“If it were up to me I would play this championship here every year. As much as I love all of the other golf courses, there's something so special about St Andrews.

“I expect to play well here, I really do. I expect to be in contention.

“If I were able to win, it would be great to be able to get that (number one) ranking, but what I care more about right now is trying to win the Open Championship.”

Last week at Loch Lomond, where he needed a top-two finish to topple Woods, Mickelson was reticent to talk about the possibility.

But yesterday he commented: “Whether it was for one week or a month or a year, however long, just to be able to say you did it, especially in Tiger's era, it would be incredible.

“I know that my window of opportunity is small because Tiger is going to start playing some of his better golf here soon, so I've got to get my butt in gear.”

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