By Alistair Tait, Golfweek
INVERNESS, Scotland - Even the Eternal City couldn’t lift Phil Mickelson’s spirits. Lefty departed Rome for Scotland hoping to find some inspiration, divine or otherwise, ahead of next week’s Open Championship at Royal Lytham.
The search continues.
Mickelson shouldn’t be at Castle Stuart for this week’s €2.5 million Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open. He should be in Rome with his wife and family doing the touristy things around the Vatican. However, his game is in such dire straits that he had to cut the family holiday short to get in some competitive golf.
The World No. 16 took the last sponsor invitation into the Scottish Open after missing the cut at The Greenbrier Classic last Friday. He shot a couple of 1-over 71s in West Virginia and headed to Italy for some relaxation. However, on reflection, he knew he needed to work on his game rather than brush up on Roman history.
He turned up at Castle Stuart late Wednesday night, spent four hours on the practice ground before the first round and went out and shot another 1-over score. His 73 puts him 11 shots behind leader Francesco Molinari, and in a tie for 124th place out of the 156-man field.
“The last couple of months I’ve played very poorly, and I added this week because I need to play a bit more,” Mickelson said. “I’m hoping to get a good round tomorrow so that I can play on the weekend, because I think this course is a great course to play links golf and get ready for the British Open.”
Mickelson won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in February. He lost a playoff to Bill Haas in the Northern Trust Open a week later. He seemed set for a great season.
It hasn’t panned out that way.
He arrived at the Memorial Tournament with three top 10s in his five previous events but withdrew after an opening 79. He then finished 65th at the U.S. Open.
Mickelson finished T-2 in last year’s Open Championship at Royal St. George’s and would have been looking to go one better next week. Needless to say, he is nowhere near his best form a week before the third major of the year.
“We all go through this in our career. I’ve only played three events in the last 6-8 weeks, but when I have played, I haven’t been in a very good tournament frame of mind. That’s what I’m working on now.
“I’ve got to go play more and try to shoot a score. It doesn’t feel like any one part of the game is off. It just feels as if I’m not putting it together on the golf course. The more I play, the better it seems to get.”
The four-time major champion had to put career over family to try to help him get back on track at Lytham.
“My oldest daughter (Amanda) is very big into Greek and Roman history, and so we’ve been over in Rome the last few days. They were at the Vatican today. I was supposed to stay with them today, but I needed to get a little more play time in.”
Aside from last year, Mickelson’s record in the Open Championship is poor. He finished third in 2004 but has never featured in any of the other 17 he has played.
“I really have come to enjoy links golf, and I’ve come to play better and better at it throughout my career. But I’ve got to start executing, because it doesn’t matter how well you know a golf course or how comfortable you may feel on a course. Unless you’re executing and hitting the shots, it doesn’t matter.
“That’s why I’m here. I’ll see if I can get it dialed in. I think the best way for me to get through this is to play more.”
Scoring was low on the first day at Castle Stuart, with two thirds of the field under par. The left-hander has to go low in Round 2 or he’s not going to get the competitive practice he needs ahead of the Open Championship.