Mickelson looking to
kick start Open chance
Phil Mickelson is hoping a visit to the bonnie banks of Loch Lomond can help
him finally shake off one of the least enviable tags in golf - the best player
never to have won a major.
The American left-hander is one of the leading drawcards in a star-studded
field for the £2.2 million Scottish Open which tees off on Thursday.
And he is hopeful that a good performance on one of the most spectacularly
located courses on the planet can provide a launchpad for an assault on next week's
Open at Royal St Georges at Sandwich.
Mickelson's best performance in the British was in 2000 when he tied for 11th.
"It was also the only time I played Loch Lomond the week before,"
"I know that I play my best when I play the week before a major and that
this gives me the best opportunity to be competitive in this year's Open."
Despite the upbeat tone, the omens do not look good for Mickelson. The wizard
with a wedge has yet to win this year and has even lost his unofficial title as
the world's best leftie - a position now occupied by Canada's Mike Weir, surprise
winner of the US Masters in April.
Unsurprisingly, the bookmakers see Ernie Els as the man to beat. The world
No.2 will play this week refreshed after a two-week break and is relishing the
prospect of getting teed up again on one of his favourites prospects.
"It's absolutely beautiful, even more so if the weather turns out to be
good," Els said.
The South African was not so fond of the course after performing indifferently
in the heavy rain which blighted last year's tournament.
But after going on to win the British Open at Muirfield the following week,
he is happy to be back for another crack at adding to his 2000 triumph.
"Twelve months on, my game is in a lot better shape and I hope to put
in a strong performance. Having had two weeks off I'm feeling fresh and raring
To win, Els will have to beat the strongest field assembled for any European
tour event this season - with the exception of the British Open.
Former US Masters champion Freddie Couples had to withdraw with a back injury
but the field still boasts a total of six major winners - Els, compatriot Retief
Goosen, Jose Maria Olazabal, Sandy Lyle, Tom Lehman and John Daly.
Also looking to find some form ahead of next week will be local favourite Colin
Montgomerie, the 1999 winner, US amateur champion Ricky Barnes and defending champion
The Argentinian became the third oldest winner of a European tour event when
he won a play-off with Sweden's Fredrik Jacobson to win last year.
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