Mickelson headlines depleted Scottish Open field


European Tour

LUSS, Scotland – The Scottish Open has lost some of its chief attractions this year as the warmup event before the British Open.

Only one player from the top 10 in the world has entered the $4 million event which starts at the exclusive Loch Lomond resort Thursday.

However, the fact that it is Phil Mickelson, the winner of this year's Masters, is significant.

For also in the field is Graeme McDowell, the new U.S. Open champion, providing the tournament with the presence of 2010?s two Major winners.

And Mickelson intends to use his first week in Scotland as a launching pad to adding the British Open to his career total of four Major titles.

Mickelson looked slightly out of sorts at his press conference Wednesday with a small cut by his temple.

Initially he joked when explaining it, saying: “One of the other players and I just got in a little tiff”. But then he added: “I don’t know what happened. I just scratched myself accidentally.”

He then got down to more serious matters.

“I always look forward to these two weeks. I really enjoy this tournament and obviously really enjoy next week’s event, too.

“I think the best way to get in playing condition for The Open is to play well, get into contention and compete on Sunday for the title here. Having lost a couple of times in close matches here, I would like to win this tournament. It would mean a lot for me to win here.”

A win on Sunday night could also see Mickelson climb above Tiger Woods to No.1 in the world going into the third major of 2010 at St. Andrews.

However he insisted that reaching the pinnacle of world golf is not his priority this week.

“It would be cool to go to the home of golf as No. 1 but it’s not something I’m thinking about yet.

“I’m just trying to get my game sharp. I always felt like if I play well enough, the results would happen. It would mean a lot to me to break through and finally win.”

The absence of a full-strength field in Loch Lomond can be explained on two counts.

At the start of the week Woods and many top European players assembled at Limerick in Ireland for the two-day JP McManus pro-am.

Many felt that raising around $40 million for charity should be their focus rather than playing six rounds of golf before going to St. Andrews.

McDowell of Northern Ireland, who had not played since his win at Pebble Beach, felt rested enough to take on both.

Meanwhile world No. 3 Lee Westwood is resting while attempting to recover from the calf and ankle injury which severely impeded him at last weekend's French Open.

But among other absentees, Paul Casey of England said the condition of the greens for the Scottish Open would not suit his preparations for St. Andrews.

During the past unusually cold winter in Scotland, the putting surfaces at Loch Lomond were under a sheet of snow and ice without a break for two months, causing widespread damage.

Recently the three worst affected greens were hastily re-laid, but for several weeks the tournament organizers have been e-mailing European Tour members with updates of their progress amid fears that the greens may fall short of the standard required.

After being kept abreast of the situation Casey withdrew from the tournament.

“The last thing you want to do in the week before The Open is to lose any confidence with your putting stroke,” Casey said.