Mickelson to mount stern defence

Phil Mickelson is looking to defend his Claret Jug at Royal Liverpool next week.

Last year, the American had never won a tournament on British soil. Added to that, Mickelson arrived at the Scottish Open stilling reeling from his sixth second place finish at the US Open.

Despite low confidence and history being against him, the lefty would return home two weeks later with the Scottish Open trophy and the fabled Claret Jug.

Having won the link-style event once before, Mickelson believes it should be much easier the second time round.

“It takes pressure off,” said the five time Major winner.

“You already have the confidence and knowledge to do it again. I loved the two-week stretch in Scotland last year. It worked out very well and I have always enjoyed playing the Scottish Open. I’ve gone back for a number of years now and feel like it’s a great way to get ready for the Open.

“When the tournament moved to Castle Stuart [from Loch Lomond], I thought that was a real plus. It brought it to links golf and I think Castle Stuart is one of the best modern-day courses I’ve ever seen. I think going to Royal Aberdeen is every bit as good; it’s going to be a great site and venue as well.

“Getting acclimatised to the time change for the week is beneficial to playing well at the Open and I thought it was a big part of my success the following week [last year]. To play well on links golf, to win, gave me a lot of momentum heading into the Open Championship.”

Mickelson turned 44 last month but he feels as fit as he’s ever been and he is confident he can mix it with the young guns.

“I love to compete,” revealed the father of three.

“I love the youth and the great young players that are coming up because it means that golf is in great hands, that we have great young players from all parts of the world to help promote the game.

“But I love to compete against them and feel that the Open Championship requires a lot more than just physical strength. It requires a lot more precision and handling a lot more elements; great flight of the ball as well as control on the ground and touch around the greens. It is just a complete test and that’s why I felt so good about winning the Open last year.”

In his early years, Mickelson was very skeptical about links golf as he struggled to come to terms with the rolling fairways and cavernous bunkers.

“I probably didn’t appreciate it as much,” he added.

“I would get more upset with the crazy bounces and the cross-winds because I would play through the air. “Once I realised about getting the ball on the ground and letting the ground affect it more than the air and wind it was very manageable. I think it took me a while to really appreciate the greatness of it.”

“The thing about links golf is that distance is not as big a factor because you have to avoid the bunkers. You don’t try to overpower links courses, you try to manage them and you don’t need the distance that you need at Augusta.

“You can’t overpower the course the way Bubba Watson did at Augusta. You have to be precise and it doesn’t matter if you are hitting a three-iron iron or a five-iron off the tee, you just have to put it in the right spot.”