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Mickelson Adjusts Game for US Open

U.S. OpenMAMARONECK, N.Y. -- Phil Mickelson will talk about most anything in relation to golf. Hell talk about the current state of his game, his selection of clubs, his method of preparation.
What he wont talk about, however, is anything in relation to a Grand Slam or MickelSlam.
To hear him talk, youd think that Mickelson was in search of his first major championship victory since his first major championship victory. That, of course, is not the case. He is, in fact, in search of his third consecutive major triumph.
Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson's major run began with his victory at the PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
Just dont tell him that.
Im not trying to win three; Im just trying to win one, Mickelson said, explaining his mental approach to this U.S. Open at Winged Foot Golf Club.
All Im trying to do is be successful on this golf course at this one event.
Mickelson has been prepping for this one event ever since he won his second green jacket two months ago at the Masters Tournament. That marked his second straight major title, as he also won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol.
In his four starts since leaving Augusta National, he has but one top-10 finish. That could be because his mind as been elsewhere ' like upstate New York.
His body has also spent a good deal of time in this Mamaroneck section of the woods.
Ive been here a decent amount. I came here two weeks after the Masters and came here three or four weeks ago for five days ' came here last week for a day. So Ive been here, I guess, three different occasions for probably a total of nine or 10 days, he said.
Along with caddie Jim Mackay, swing instructor Rick Smith and human putting aid Dave Pelz, Mickelson has been fine-tuning his game specifically for this tournament.
Its a routine that hes exercised since the 04 Masters. That worked out well for him, as he won his first major, and its paid off equally as handsomely since then. He has seven top-10s in his last nine majors played, including three victories and a handful of other opportunities to win.
No longer are we talking about major-less Mickelson, Futile Phil or Mr. 0-fer; were talking about the favorite to win this week. And he credits much of that to his exhaustive, pre-tournament preparations.
Having the success at Baltusrol or in the 04 Masters, it makes it all worthwhile. Ive come to the point where I enjoy the challenge of trying to be successful in these very difficult tests of golf, he said.
In addition to Phil getting a feel for each opposing layout during major competition, he has taken to tailoring his equipment to suit certain venues.
At Augusta this year, he brought with him and used two drivers ' one that favored a fade, and one that favored a draw.
This time, on Winged Foots West Course, which plays 7,264 yards but has a significant amount of doglegs, Mickelson is hoping to use just one driver.
I had a special driver made for the U.S. Open that was a little bit shorter and had a little bit more stable head. But I think Im going to end up using the fade driver that I used at Augusta, said Mickelson, who added that distance isnt really a factor for him this week and that he is comfortable using a 4-wood off the tee when necessary.
I wont be using a longer driver trying to get distance like I did at Augusta; Ill be using a driver that hits that controlled cut and keeps it in play.
That strategy could change, though, depending on the course conditions.
I think that its supposed to rain Wednesday and Thursday, and if thats the case, I wanted this 45-inch fade driver that I feel comfortable with in the bag. As its heating up Friday, Saturday, Sunday, theres a good chance that I may go to a 43-inch driver that we designed, and its kind of right in between a driver and a 3-wood, he said.
Mickelson said that he hits the 43-inch driver about 15-20 yards shorter than the fade driver, but that, because of the narrow U.S. Open fairways, he wants to make sure he doesnt hit the ball too far and have good shots run into the thick, graduated rough under drier conditions.
Mickelson has taken the 3-wood out of his bag and put in a 3-iron, which he figures to use on a lot of the par-4s, as well as the short, 515-yard, par-5 fifth hole.
He will have four drivers in his rotation from which to choose ' not in his bag all at once, of course. But he will have four wedges in play come Thursday.
Mickelson plans on carrying a pitching wedge, gap wedge, lob wedge, and a specially designed 64-degree wedge that he used at the Memorial Tournament two weeks ago. He took out the sand wedge, saying that the 64-degree version will play just fine from the bunkers and the thick rough.
Because the bunkers are so deep here and theres so much undulation on the green, I want (the ball) coming in as soft as possible, he said.
Though hes never won a U.S. Open, Mickelson has had great success in the seasons second major championship. In 15 prior starts, he has six top-10s, including three runner-up finishes. The last two times an Open was contested in the Empire State, in 2002 at Bethpage and in 2004 at Shinnecock, he took silver medal honors.
Mickelson is a noted New York darling and will undoubtedly receive the lions share, if not Tigers share, of support from the fans. They would dearly love to see their guy win this title in their state. And, as hes done at each major championship over the last 2 years, Mickelson has prepared himself mentally and physically to do just that.
But even Lefty knows that being ready doesnt always equate to being able.
I feel as though I know the course as well as I can, he said. But I still have a great challenge, and the challenge is executing, hitting the shots. I may know where I want the ball to go, I know how the putts break, but I still have to hit them ' and thats the toughest part.
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