After missing the cut at last week’s Greenbrier Classic, Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson went their separate ways -- Mickelson to whip his game into shape In Scotland and Woods apparently back to the practice range in Florida. With the British Open set to start Thursday, both golfers talked about how eager they were to return to Royal Lytham & St Annes Golf Club; in fact, Woods said on his website Friday that the upcoming event, which he has won three times, was No. 1 on his hit parade.
“You can have so many different weather conditions. You just don't know,” he said. “That's one of the unique things about the British Open and why it's my favorite major championship. It's the only tournament besides the sandbelt courses in Australia that we can actually use the ground as a friend and bounce the ball into the greens.”
Mickelson, who was struggling with his overall game when he left the Greenbrier, scuffled to an opening-round 1-over 73 at the Scottish Open, but successive scores of 64 and 65 put him in a tie for fifth and in the mix heading into Sunday. While pleased with his position at Castle Stuart, Lefty said he was most excited about his play leading up to next week’s tilt.
“I don't know how many shots I'll be behind heading into the final round, but I just like the fact that I played well these last two days,” Mickelson, who asked to join the Scottish scrum at the last minute to get in some reps, told reporters after Saturday’s round. “Certainly I'll be trying to make a run at the lead but more than that, I feel like my game is starting to improve each day. I'm very happy that I made the decision to play here at the Scottish, and hopefully I'll have a good round tomorrow that will give me some momentum heading into next week as well.”
While trying not to look too far ahead, with third-round leader Francesco Molinari just three strokes ahead of him, it was clear that the four-time major winner who will be seeking his first Claret Jug had Royal Lytham on the brain.
“To shoot some good, low rounds and get in contention and have a chance heading into the final round at the Scottish is exciting and probably the best thing I can do to get me ready for next week,” said Mickelson, who finished second (along with Dustin Johnson) to Darren Clarke at last year’s Open Championship. “The last couple of months, I have not played the way I would like, but I knew that it wasn't that far off and that it wasn't far away from turning. And to play these last two rounds was good, and hopefully I'll play a good, solid final round tomorrow and carry that momentum into next week.”
Woods also mentioned that the British Open had his full attention. He rehashed two of his three 2012 PGA Tour wins (the AT&T National and the Memorial), praised his former Stanford teammate Notah Begay III for helping him with his putting, and paid a back-handed compliment to the Greenbrier’s Old White TPC (“a wonderful golf course” with greens that were “slower than I expected and had a lot of wobble in them”).
But all that was behind him, with the British on the horizon.
“I ... feel good about my game heading across the pond to compete at Royal Lytham & St. Annes in England,” Woods said of the venue where he tied for 22nd as an amateur in 1996 and for 25th in 2001. “Now, I’m focused on the British Open.”
And with good reason. Leg injuries kept Woods out of last year’s championship and he finished T23 at St. Andrews in 2010. His last British Open victory was at Royal Liverpool Golf Club in 2006.