Mickelson Adjusts Game for US Open

By Mercer BaggsJune 14, 2006, 4:00 pm
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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    Four players vying for DJ's No. 1 ranking at Open

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 8:41 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Four players have an opportunity to overtake Dustin Johnson for world No. 1 this week.

    According to Golf Channel world-rankings guru Alan Robinson, Justin Thomas, Justin Rose, Brooks Koepka and Jon Rahm each can grab the top spot in the world ranking.

    Thomas’ path is the easiest. He would return to No. 1 with either a win and Johnson finishing worse than solo third, or even a solo runner-up finish as long as Johnson finishes worse than 49th.

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    Twenty years after his auspicious performance in The Open, Rose can get to No. 1 for the first time with a victory and Johnson finishing worse than a two-way tie for third.

    Kopeka can rise to No. 1 if he wins consecutive majors, assuming that his good friend posts worse than a three-way tie for third.

    And Rahm can claim the top spot with a win this week, a Johnson missed cut and a Thomas finish of worse than solo second.   

    Johnson’s 15-month reign as world No. 1 ended after The Players. He wasn’t behind Thomas for long, however: After a tie for eighth at the Memorial, Johnson blew away the field in Memphis and then finished third at the U.S. Open to solidify his position at the top.

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    Punch shot: Predictions for the 147th Open

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 4:00 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – In advance of the 147th Open Championship, GolfChannel.com writers sound off on burning questions as players ready for a fast and firm test at Carnoustie. Here’s what our writers think about myriad topics:

    The Monday morning headline will be …

    REX HOGGARD: “Survival.” This one is easy. It always is at Carnoustie, which is widely considered The Open’s most demanding major championship test. Monday’s headline will be that the champion - pick a champion, any one will do - “survived” another dramatic Open. You don’t dominate Carnoustie; you endure.

    RYAN LAVNER: “DJ Bashes Way to Victory at Carnoustie.” If somehow a two-win season could be disappointing, it has been for DJ. He’s first in scoring average, birdie average, par-4 scoring, par-5 scoring, strokes gained: tee to green and proximity from the rough. Those last two stats are the most important, especially here at Carnoustie, with these dry conditions. The game’s preeminent long-and-straight driver, there’s a better-than-decent chance he rolls.

    MERCER BAGGS: “Rahm Tough: Spaniard charges to Open victory.” Jon Rahm will claim him maiden major title this week by powering his way through the winds and fescue at Carnoustie.

    JAY COFFIN: “Thomas wins second major, ascends to world No. 1 again.” Shortly after The Open last year, Thomas rolled through the end of the PGA Tour season. This is the time of year he likes best. Despite a poor Open record the last two years, he’s not remotely concerned. He’s a tad miffed he didn’t win in France two weeks ago and comes to Carnoustie refreshed, with a gameplan, and ready to pounce.

    Who or what will be the biggest surprise?

    HOGGARD: Style of play. Given Carnoustie’s reputation as a brute, the surprise will be how the champion arrives at his lofty perch. Unlike previous editions at Carnoustie, this week’s dry conditions will promote more aggressive play off the tee and the winner will defy the norm and power his way to victory.

    LAVNER: Tiger Woods. This is Woods’ best chance to win a major this year, and here’s believing he contends. His greatest strengths are his iron game and scrambling, and both aspects will be tested to the extreme at Carnoustie, helping separate him from some of the pretenders. With even a little cooperation from his putter, he should be in the mix.

    BAGGS: Padraig Harrington. He had a good opening round last week at the Scottish Open and has some good vibes being the 2007 Open champion at Carnoustie. He won’t contend for four rounds, but a few days in the mix would be a nice surprise.

    COFFIN: Alex Noren. Perhaps someone ranked 11th in the world shouldn’t be a surprise, but with so much focus on some of the bigger, household names, don’t be surprised when Noren is in contention on Sunday. He hasn’t finished worse than 25th since early May and won two weeks ago in France. He also tied for sixth place last year at Royal Birkdale.

    Who or what will be the biggest disappointment?

    HOGGARD: Jordan Spieth. Although he was brilliant on his way to victory last year at Royal Birkdale, Spieth is not the same player for this week’s championship, the byproduct of a balky putter that has eroded his confidence. Spieth said giving back the claret jug this week was hard, but his finish will be even tougher.

    LAVNER: Weather. This might sound a little sadistic, but one of the unique joys of covering this tournament is to watch the best in the world battle conditions they face only once a year – the bone-chilling cold, the sideways rain, the howling wind. It doesn’t appear as though that’ll happen this year. With only a few hours of light rain expected, and no crazy winds in the forecast, the biggest challenge for these stars will be judging the bounces on the hard, baked-out turf.

    BAGGS: Jordan Spieth. The defending champion is still trying to find his winning form and Carnoustie doesn’t seem the place to do that. As much as he says he loves playing in strong winds, there should be enough danger around here to frustrate Spieth into a missed cut.

    COFFIN: Rory McIlroy. I hope I’m wrong on this, because the game is better when Rory is in contention at majors. Putting always has been his issue and seemingly always will be. While there isn’t as much of a premium placed on putting this week because of slower greens, he may still have to hit it close. Super close.

    What will be the winning score?

    HOGGARD: 10 under. The last two Opens played at Carnoustie were won with 7-under and 6-over totals, but this week’s conditions will favor more aggressive play and lower scores. Expect to see plenty of birdies, but the great equalizer will come on Sunday when wind gusts are forecast to reach 25 mph.

    LAVNER: 15 under. An Open at Carnoustie has never produced a winner lower than 9 under (Tom Watson in 1975), but never have the conditions been this susceptible to low scores. Sure, the fairway bunkers are still a one-shot penalty, but today’s big hitters can fly them. The thin, wispy rough isn’t much of a deterrent. And the wind isn’t expected to really whip until the final day.

    BAGGS: 12 under. We aren’t going to see the same kind of weather we have previously witnessed at Carnoustie, and that’s a shame. Any players who catch relatively benign conditions should be able to go low, as long as they can properly navigate the fairway rollout.

    COFFIN: 14 under. Walked into a local golf shop in the town of Carnoustie wearing a Golf Channel logo and the man behind the counter said, “It’ll take 14 under to win this week.” Well, he’s been here for years and seen Carnoustie host The Open twice before. He knows more about it than I do, so I’ll stick with his number.

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    Watch: Na plays backwards flop and practices lefty

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 3:16 pm

    Fresh off his victory at The Greenbrier, Kevin Na is taking a quite-literally-backwards approach to his Open prep.

    Caddie Kenny Harms has been sharing videos of Na's early work at Carnoustie.

    This one shows Na standing in a bunker and playing a flop shot over his own head (as opposed to someone else's):

    While it's unlikely he'll have a need for that exact shot this week, it's far more likely a player may have to think about turning his club over and playing from the wrong side of the ball, like so:

    Na has made 4 of 6 cuts at The Open and will look to improve on his best career finish, currently a T-22 in 2016 at Royal Troon.

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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

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    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.