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Open contenders confident at Loch Lomond

Phil Mickelson and Colin Montgomerie are bracketed as the best current players not to have won a major, but both are in remarkably high spirits ahead of next week's Open.

World number eight Mickelson is confident new golf ball technology can help him at Royal St George's while 21st-ranked Montgomerie says he has never felt more comfortable with his swing.

The two Ryder Cup players are set to play the first two rounds of this week's Scottish Open in each other's company, and both are delighted to be at par-71 Loch Lomond as they prepare for the third of the year's four major championships.

"I played well here in 2000 and had my best finish (tied for 11th) in the British Open the following week at St Andrews," American Mickelson said on Wednesday. "So I decided to follow that path and come back and do it again.

"I find that playing the week before the majors prepares me better for it. This place is beautiful and I really enjoyed it here in 2000.

"I am just trying to get ready for the Open, and getting competitive the week before the Open is the best way to do that."

The left-handed Mickelson, winless in majors despite 17 top-10 finishes in 44 starts, is hoping to take advantage of a recently developed golf ball that spins lower than normal.

"I've found that to hit the shots needed here (at Opens) -- to hit the ball low, to control it in the wind -- I have found that some of the new technology requires less swing adjustment and it makes playing in the wind much easier.

"I am hoping that not having to adjust my swing to control the ball flight will be an added benefit," added the American, who is widely known as Lefty.

Montgomerie, in contrast, has always been able to keep the ball fairly low with his back-foot style of swing.

"I'm quite fortunate in the fact that I don't hit the ball very high anyway," said the seven-times European number one. "It's a links-style shot anyway, so there's no problem (for me)."

The 40-year-old Scot exuded confidence as he spoke to reporters at Loch Lomond, where he won in 1999.

"Over the ball I am as confident as I have ever been, so I am anxious to get going tomorrow afternoon as see what happens," he said. "I feel comfortable over the ball, and I feel comfortable with my putting.

"I haven't really performed well this year, and it's been disappointing in so many ways.

"I have only had three top 10s, but it is coming back and, over the last month, there have been signs of improvement.

"That is why I can honestly say that I feel I can win now. I wouldn't have said that a month ago, but I can say it now."

The Scot added that he always looked forward to playing at Loch Lomond.

"It was nice to win in 1999 and hopefully again this year," he said. "I enjoy this course.

"The driving areas are relatively wide, so it all depends on how your iron shots are and I'm usually quite good at that."

The Scottish Open, which offers 2.2 million pounds ($3.65 million) in prize money, starts on Thursday.


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