Mickelson's missing links at British Open

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Cheers and Jeers,Kevin Dunleavy

After the first round of the British Open, it's a talent-rich leader board full of big names. Three shots behind leader Adam Scott (64) are Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy, Bubba Watson, Graeme McDowell, Steve Stricker and Ernie Els.

But this, after all, is the Open Championship, which means one big name -- Phil Mickelson (73) -- is playing like a man who would rather be somewhere else. For Lefty, this tournament is an annual exercise in humiliation. Even last year, when he finally contended for the claret jug, he was ultimately done in by his inability to make 3-foot putts.

In 19 appearances, Mickelson has finished in the top 10 twice. Compare that to his top 10s in the Masters (14), U.S. Open (nine) and PGA (eight), and it's clear Lefty is not built for the links.

Is it the rain? The wind? The cold? The gorse? The haggis?

For whatever reason, Mickelson is haunted by the unpredictable weather and rugged conditions of the Open. Links courses demand creativity, which Mickelson has in abundance. But watching him play Thursday -- bundled up, with gloves on both hands -- he wasn't exactly embracing the experience.

"Historically I've not played well in bad weather," Mickelson told reporters this week. "Now I look at it a little bit differently. I almost welcome it in a sense."

The only things Mickelson looked like he would welcome Thursday were a hot shower, an electric blanket and a plane ticket back home to Arizona.

He was done in early by the gnarly rough of Royal Lytham & St. Annes. By the third hole, he already was in a tizzy, asking an official for a ruling on a ball that was buried so deep in fescue that he couldn't see it. He didn't get the answer he wanted, then knocked his shot across the fairway into more rough.

At No. 7, Mickelson's shot from a fairway bunker caught the lip and disappeared so deep in the rough that it couldn't be found on his way to a double bogey.

Announcer Paul Azinger speculated that Mickelson's "high spin rate" was a problem in the United Kingdom. But conditions there aren't that different than at Pebble Beach, where Mickelson has won three times.

Go figure.

- Kevin Dunleavy

kdunleavy@washingtonexaminer.com

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