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Phil Mickelson in final preparations for US Open

Phil Mickelson says playing this week's Barclays Classic is perfect preparation for the U.S. Open five miles away at Winged Foot, where next week he will try to win his third major championship in a row.

"I don't think there's a better way to learn how to win a U.S. Open than to compete for a championship the week before," Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday at Westchester Country Club.

Mickelson, ranked second in the world, leads a large contingent of top-rated players in the Barclays, which starts on Thursday.

One notable exception is world No. 1 Tiger Woods, who has been absent from the tournament scene since his father died on May 3 and has not competed since the Masters in April.

Mickelson said he could not imagine teeing it up for a major after two months off from tournament golf when asked about his chief rival's lack of preparation.

"For anybody else on tour, I think it would be a real challenge," said Mickelson. "But for him I don't think the same rules apply. I don't think it's going to be a problem for him -- unfortunately."

Mickelson, who won the PGA Championship last August at Baltusrol in the season's final major, won his second U.S. Masters green jacket in April when Woods tied for third.

Prior to Augusta, Mickelson won the U.S. PGA Tour stop in Atlanta by 13 strokes.

"Feeling the pressure and importance of each shot and trying to play at a high level and make a lot of birdies and try to get up on the leaderboard is a great way to prepare for trying to do the same thing next week," Mickelson said.

All the other top 10 players were set for the Barclays until late withdrawals by Jim Furyk (5) and Ernie Els (6).

Mickelson, as well as Woods and other leading contenders, has already played rounds at Winged Foot for an advance look.

The long-hitting lefthander said the rough is severe at Winged Foot, where the 1974 Open was dubbed "Massacre at Winged Foot," with Hale Irwin winning with a seven over par total.

"It is so thick that the grass grows over the ball. You could be standing right over it and often times not see it," said Mickelson.

He forecast: "I'm going to make a prediction that somebody hits a wrong golf ball in the rough.

"The reason is there have been a lot of members that have been playing and when they hit balls into the rough, you can't find it.

"There are, I think, not just hundreds, but I think there are thousands of golf balls in the rough that you just can't see and I think guys are going to hit the wrong ball."



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