Phil Mickelson enters this week’s FedEx St. Jude Classic riding the wave of an up-and-down season that includes a win, two missed cuts, and a T54 at Augusta.
Lefty, who professed to needing competition the week before a major, was not happy about this year’s altered PGA Tour calendar that scheduled an event not to his liking prior to the Masters.
"I like playing the week before," Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday. "I didn't play well at the Masters this year taking the week off. I know that for me to be sharp mentally especially into a tournament where the penalty for missing is so great, like the U.S. Open, it's important that I'm sharp and I'm ready to play."
This week’s contest at TPC Southwind in Memphis apparently suits him better than the "windy and tight" Valero Texas Open course that he claimed was the "exact opposite" type of track on which he wanted to prepare for Augusta.
"This is a great golf course," Mickelson said about the Ron Prichard-designed layout. "The greens are small, they're difficult to get the ball stopped, and there are a lot of cool little shots around the greens. So the precision of the iron shot into the green as well as the importance of hitting fairways here is a similar style of golf that will happen at Merion next week."
Mickelson will try to put the MC at The Players Championship behind him and work out the pre-Open kinks on the 7,239-yard, par-70 track that features a par-3 over water (No. 11) that may have TV viewers recalling Sergio Garcia’s favorite hole, the notorious 17th at TPC Sawgrass. He’ll also, no doubt, look to better the T59 and MC he recorded in his last two appearances (2009 and 2001, respectively) in Elvis’ backyard.
As for Merion, the four-time major winner had a chance to play "the best Open set-up I've seen" on Tuesday and Wednesday,.
"The reason I like it so much is they've made the hard holes more difficult," he said. "They've made them harder, but they did not make the easy holes harder. They gave you birdie opportunities on the easy holes, and they made tough pars a little bit harder, which allows the player that is playing well to separate himself from the field."
For the first two rounds, Mickelson, ranked 10th in the world, will saunter along the fairways with D.A. Points and Padraig Harrington, who also enjoys competition the week before a major.