When Phil Mickelson struggled to an opening 1-over 73 and 123rd place in the standings, the rust in his game made it clear why he decided to cut short a European vacation and seek late entry into this week’s Scottish Open. Lefty, who arrived at Castle Stuart Golf Links in Inverness too late Wednesday night for a practice round, looked as if he may be rejoining his family earlier than hoped, which led a reporter to wonder if Mickelson could have benefitted from some “divine help” from the Vatican, where he originally planned to be.
“You know, I've never been a big fan of that,” replied Mickelson, whose birdie binge in Friday’s second round helped him rebound with a 64. “I just think that everybody is looked on equally, and so you've got to make your own destiny.”
Mickelson did that on Friday, as eight birdies in the first 15 holes had him looking forward to the weekend from a position of strength. His stellar play ended a streak of seven consecutive rounds over par, got him the competitive play he sought, and put him in contention at a tourney he had not expected to play until Saturday.
Mickelson, who carded three bogeys and a double on Thursday, wasted no time on Friday leaving his scratchy play behind him. A wedge shot from 60 feet found the bottom of the cup for an eagle-2 on the par-4 10th hole, his first of the day. He made a string of pars until he carded a birdie on 16 and then made four in a row starting on No. 18. He parred his way in after a final birdie on the 568-yard, par-5 sixth.
Mickelson put the Scottish Open on his calendar after finishing 65th at the U.S. Open and then missing the cut at the Greenbrier Classic. Add to that his withdrawal from the Memorial Tournament in June after an opening-round 79, and Mickelson determined that he needed what Tiger Woods refers to as "more reps" before he teed it up in the Open Championship.
''I've only played three events in the last six to eight weeks. I haven't been in a competitive frame of mind and that's what I'm working on now,'' he said Thursday. ''I've got to go play more ... and try to shoot a score because it doesn't feel like any one part of the game is off, it just feels like I'm not putting it together on the golf course. The more I play, the better it seems to get.''
It could get even better, as Mickelson heads into Saturday’s tilt at 7-under, just five shots back of early clubhouse leader Alexander Noren.
As to whether he believed he would find his game in time for the British, Mickelson was relying more on drills than divine intervention.
“I'm working on it," he said. "That's why I'm here. I got out here at nine o'clock to get a three‑ or four‑hour practice session in, and I'll be doing that the next few days to see if I can get it dialed in."
“I think the best way for me to get through this is to play more,” Mickelson concluded.