Mickelson seeks solitude in effort to end Open pain

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The Independent Online

Just when every other player is taking one last Open practice round on these links today, Phil Mickelson, aka Mr Meticulous, will be nowhere to be seen. After a first recce trip three weeks ago, plus four rounds here last week before most of the field had even landed in Liverpool, then two more days of surveillance, his preparations are done. Almost.

Today he will be seeking a hard, dry course elsewhere - to mimic conditions here - for a spot of R'&'R and a chance to hit a few balls in peace ahead of the one major in which he still craves a genuine title-contending performance. In 13 Opens, he has had just two top-10 finishes.

Yesterday, he asked the assembled press if they could recommend an option firm enough for his purposes. A few suggestions were tossed at him and he nodded thoughtfully. Then one wag piped up: "What about the M6?" This brought just another nod from "Lefty", as he is popularly known. He is not au fait with British road names. If you can have a K Club, why not an M Six?

If you're driving up or down that stretch of road today and see a guy in cap letting rip up the central reservation or chipping off the hard shoulder, he could be your man.

"I think the reason that I've been going elsewhere on Wednesdays most of the time [before majors] is that it just gives me a little bit of a relaxed state of mind to ease into the tournament day," said Mickelson. He has won two of the last three majors, adding the Masters in April to last August's USPGA before having a Monty-esque blooper at the US Open at Winged Foot, where he needed only par on the final hole to win but double-bogeyed instead.

Explaining why he eschewed the Scottish Open this year to spend more time here, he said: "I haven't had the success in this tournament that I would like. So I felt as though I would spend a little extra time and see if I could learn some of those nuances in the golf course and maybe perform better."

Listening to him talk in detail about how each hole is playing, from the difficult second shot on the 10th hole, a par five, to the dilemma of the falling greens on the 12th, it seems no player here will know the course better.

Mickelson said yesterday that even the most studious prep still requires excellent execution on the day: "Until you win a major championship, you're never 100 per cent sure you're going to win it, even though you're confident that you will."

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