Phil Mickelson says he expects to "be in contention" at St Andrews this week after finally getting the hang of links golf.
The world No 2 does not have the best record in pursuit of the Claret Jug, with just one top 10 finish in 16 attempts, yet Mickelson is convinced he will be challenging strongly this year. "I expect to play well here, I really do. I expect to be in contention," he said yesterday after a practice round with Nick Faldo, the Open winner at St Andrews in 1990.
"I had a chance to play with Nick today and I asked him a bunch of questions because he's got a lot of great thoughts on St Andrews, avoiding bunkers, 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."
Few players have the mastery of spin, flight and cunning trajectories to match Mickelson, but it is only recently the tall left-hander started to understand the repertoire needed for successful links golf. "It wasn't until 2004 that I started to play in the wind effectively," he said. "Even when I would hit low shots, I would have way too much spin on it. It wasn't until 2004 that I had kind of an epiphany of how to do that by taking more club and swinging easier and so forth."
Despite his poor record in the Open, the Masters champion feels St Andrews offers him his best chance of breaking his duck. "There's no question this one best suits my game because there's so much more room off the tee than other Open venues. I don't feel restrained on the tee at all," said Mickelson, who will become the world No 1 if he wins on Sunday.
"I feel like there's plenty of room to hit it and it's more of a second-shot golf course. It also allows short game to be a factor. This place is an incredible place. It's a spiritual place as well as a wonderful course."