Date: July 15, 2014
Author: Martin Blake /

Mickelson nearly in sync for defence

<image="1" align="left" />Phil Mickelson likes to fiddle with his equipment, and he famously took two drivers out at Augusta National a few years ago — one for the fade and one for the draw. So it is no surprise that he has two specific clubs in his bag for his Open Championship defence this week at Royal Liverpool, those being a two iron and a 64-degree wedge.

 The American calls them "specific to this tournament; the two iron largely to hit off the tee, and the low-bounce wedge for dinky shots around the greens. "I basically put (them) away after this event and I bring them back out in July again. But they've been very important and instrumental in my success here.''

 Mickelson, 44, played the Scottish Open last week to swat up on links golf, a skill he finally mastered with his win at Muirfield last year with a blistering final round. He rates it his greatest triumph for the single reason that having grown up and learned his golf in America, he had to learn the nuances of the links game as he played it.

 But he will be one of the favorites this week, even after a moderate year by his usual standards. "Well, it obviously hasn't been a good year,'' he told a media conference at Hoylake this morning. "Normally I would be discouraged or frustrated, but I'm just not. I'm not frustrated and I'm not discouraged. I feel like I've had some good breakthroughs in some areas. I haven't had the results, I know I haven't played well. But the parts feel a lot better than the whole right now, and I don't know when it will all click together. I don't know if it will be this week. I don't know if it will be in three weeks or a month or what, but it should be soon.''

 Lefty returned the claret jug, the oldest trophy in sport, to the R&A this week and it was with a sense of regret. He said he loved sharing the mystique of the trophy with friends and family throughout the past 12 months, and even admitted to slurping a $40,000 bottle of 1990 Romani- Conti red wine from it. "One of the things that I stressed is that we have to treat the Claret Jug with reverence and respect that it deserves and only put good stuff in it,'' he said. "No bad stuff was allowed.''

 Mickelson tees off the first round at 12.05am Friday AEST with Bubba Watson and Ernie Els.