Phil Mickelson ready to do battle in Scotland

Four-time Major champion is aiming to perfect the shots he will need at Muirfield

Pádraig Harrington enjoys an ice-cream while signing autographs during the pro-am ahead of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links. Photograph: Getty Images

Pádraig Harrington enjoys an ice-cream while signing autographs during the pro-am ahead of the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart Golf Links. Photograph: Getty Images

Thu, Jul 11, 2013, 01:00

Phil Mickelson plans to visit the site of the Battle of Culloden as he attempts to conquer links golf in time for next week’s Open Championship at Muirfield.

Mickelson, who posted a record sixth runner-up finish in the US Open last month, is finalising his preparations for the third Major championship of the year by playing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open.

Castle Stuart is just five miles away from Culloden, which in April 1746 saw the final confrontation of the Jacobite Rebellion where English troops defeated those of Bonnie Prince Charlie.

“There are some plans to check out the battlefields of the war back in 1746 between the Hanoverians and the Jacobites,” said Mickelson, whose wife and children are with him in Scotland. “I’m not sure, I’ve got to read up on it.”

Mickelson is certainly not just interested in seeing the sights, with the four-time Major winner still aiming to perfect the shots he will need at Muirfield next week after 20 years of trying.

And the 43-year-old is determined to turn the heartache of Merion – where he took a one-shot lead into the final round but finished two strokes behind winner Justin Rose – into a positive for the second half of the season.

“I don’t want to diminish it, because it takes a while, and it hurt,” Mickelson said of his US Open experience. “But part of professional golf is dealing with losing and dealing with disappointment and being resilient and using it as a stepping stone.

‘Feels better’
“One of the things that came about for me the week before at Memphis and at the US Open is that I started to play really well. My putting feels better than it has in years.

“And so rather than look at it as a failure, I want to use it as an opportunity to take advantage of where my game has got in these last few months and try to have a great second half of the year, starting here in the Scottish Open and the Open as well as the USPGA Championship and our FedEx Cup back in the US.”

Asked if the US Open had increased his desire to lift the Claret Jug next week, Mickelson added: “I don’t know if that’s possible. I really want to play well and try to get an Open Championship.

“I think it would be one of my greatest accomplishments to be able to conquer links golf and to win an Open Championship over here. Although I’ve come close maybe twice (he was third in 2004 and second in 2011), I have not really played my best golf.

“I think I’ve identified a couple of reasons why but it’s time to play now. It’s time to shoot the scores and hit the shots that I’ve spent 20 years working on.”

Mickelson famously replaced his driver with a fifth wedge at Merion and, although he feels that is unlikely at Muirfield, he does think the challenge of Major championships has changed.

“One of the things the USGA and R&A have done is taken the driver out of your hand and made it a long-iron challenge,” he added.

Graeme McDowell and Rory McIlroy have chosen to bypass the event, but there is still a strong Irish contingent, led by Pádraig Harrington and Darren Clarke, both past winners of the British Open.

They will be joined by Shane Lowry, Michael Hoey, Simon Thornton, Peter Lawrie, Damien McGrane, Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley, David Higgins and Gareth Maybin.