INVERNESS, Scotland – If the wind is howling and the rain’s pouring during the British Open at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, expect Phil Mickelson to be wearing a broad grin on his face.
By his own admission, Mickelson has started to embrace the challenge of being a “bad-weather player.” It makes the British Open the ideal tournament for the American.
Mickelson said, “I don’t know where that happened along the way, whether it was last year or whether it was five, 10 years ago.” But he said he started “to really enjoy the tough weather conditions and I hope that it’s that way next week, too.”
The good news for Mickelson is that the long-range forecast is for Britain’s terrible weather of late to continue into next week.
Mickelson tied for second behind Darren Clarke at Royal St. George’s at the 2011 British Open, his best finish at the year’s third major.
That tournament was beset by rain and gusting winds off the southwest coast, forcing players to don oven-style mitts between shots and huddle under flapping umbrellas at times.
The extreme conditions were too much for then-U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy, who slumped away from a soggy Sandwich bemoaning his luck at playing successive rounds in the worst of the weather and saying “there’s no point in changing your game for one week a year.”
That’s exactly what Mickelson has done. Well, maybe two weeks a year if you count his regular appearances at the Scottish Open, the precursor to the British Open.
He is there again this week, displaying his repertoire of links-style shots.
He is three strokes back entering today’s final round of play and has clearly been in his element.
“My mindset has really evolved a lot over the last decade or two,” Mickelson said.
“I’ve learned to get the ball on the ground quick and that’s made playing in the bad weather so much easier because the ground then affects the ball, as opposed to the air.”
The last British Open at Royal Lytham was in 2001. It was won by David Duval and Lefty tied for 30th.
“I thought it was a wonderful course,” the 16th-ranked Mickelson said. “It was a tough driving course, there were a lot of irons off the tee and a lot of bunkers to avoid.”