Phil Makes US Open Prediction

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HARRISON, N.Y. - Winged Foot's thick rough was still on Phil Mickelson's mind a day after his latest practice round on the difficult U.S. Open venue.
 
'I'm going to make a prediction that somebody hits the wrong ball in the rough,' Mickelson said Wednesday after his pro-am round in the Barclays Classic.
 
'The reason is there have been a lot of members that have been playing and when they hit balls in the rough you can't find it. ... There are, I think, not just hundreds, but thousands of golf balls in the rough that you just can't see.'
 
While the Barclays Classic's Westchester Country Club is an ideal tuneup for the U.S. Open next week, the PGA Tour's setup on the hilly, tree-lined course is far less demanding off the tee than the long and narrow Winged Foot layout.
 
'Even though the rough is up, it's nothing like what I saw at Winged Foot,' Mickelson said. 'I haven't seen rough that thick and dense, I don't think ever.'
 
While Tiger Woods and some other top players rest the week before a major championship, Mickelson prefers to prepare with tournament play.
 
'I think competing for a championship, feeling the importance of each shot and trying to play at a high level ... is a great way to prepare for trying to do the same thing the next week,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson worked the pre-major strategy to perfection in April, following a 13-stroke victory in the BellSouth Classic with his second Masters win in three years. He also won the final major last year, the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
 
'Winning in Atlanta gave me a lot of confidence heading into Augusta,' Mickelson said. 'It was nice to have been able to win by a large number where I wasn't feeling the stress and the pressure on the weekend.'
 
Coming off a fourth-place tie Sunday in the Memorial, Mickelson played in the rain Wednesday morning in the pro-am. Rain also is expected Thursday, Friday and possibly Saturday on the already-soggy course.
 
'The negative is that we're not able to get out and practice and work on it, but the positive is that you get some rest,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson is making his fifth career start at Westchester. He tied for 16th last year, five strokes behind winner Padraig Harrington.
 
'The golf course here at Westchester is just a terrific course,' Mickelson said. 'It's a U.S. Open venue that we get to play every year.'
 
Mickelson used two drivers ' one with a right-to-left bias and the other with a left-to-right ball flight ' in the BellSouth Classic and Masters and said he might put two in his bag again this week and next, depending on the weather.
 
'If it's raining, wet and playing long, then I'll use two,' Mickelson said. 'If it's warm, hot and starts getting fast and drier, I'll probably just use one.'
 
Two-time Westchester winners Vijay Singh and Sergio Garcia also are in the strong field along with Harrington, Retief Goosen, Stuart Appleby, Fred Couples, David Toms and European tour money leader David Howell.
 
Last year, Harrington holed a 65-foot eagle putt on the final hole to beat Jim Furyk by a stroke. Harrington, a playoff loser to Garcia in 2004 in his first Westchester start, was three strokes behind Furyk with five holes to play.
 
'The last two years, it's been very warm and the golf course has been firm,' Harrington said. 'It's a totally different golf course. It'll be interesting to see how I fare on it now. It's a different test of golf.'
 
Divots:@ Furyk withdrew Wednesday because of an upper-back injury after also skipping his charity event Monday in Pennsylvania. ... Mickelson leads the tour in earnings ($3,475,658), scoring average (69.34), putting (1.703 per green reached in regulation) and birdies (4.98 per round). He's also tied for the lead in victories (two) and second in greens in regulation (70.7 percent). ... Ernie Els, the 1996 and '97 winner, withdrew Monday. ... Loren Roberts, a three-time winner this year on the Champions Tour, is making his fourth PGA Tour start of the season. He leads the 50-and-over tour's money list with $1,282,520. ... The tournament is in its 40th season at Westchester. ... The winner will receive $1,035,000 from the $5.75 million purse.
 
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