Phil Mickelson Hopes to Re-Find Magic in Open Defense

Phil Mickelson has neither a Top 10 finish nor a win in the current season. The last time he didn’t secure at least one victory during the season was 2003, but he had seven top 10 finishes that year.

The last time he didn’t finish in the Top 10 over an entire season was in 1992, when he was a fresh-faced 22-year-old who played just six PGA events.

He’s been better of late, including an 11th-place finish at the Scottish Open last week, but it’s hard to imagine the Mickelson that charged down the stretch with a finishing-round 5-under to win last year’s Open Championship suddenly reappearing at the Royal Liverpool in Scotland beginning Thursday.

He’s not the only big winner from last year trying to sort out his current slump, either. Tiger Woods plays his first significant tournament since surgery in March, and last year’s Race to Dubai and FedExCup winner Henrik Stenson is also in pursuit of his first win of the year after racking up three (two PGA and one European) a year ago.

Mickelson will be in high company come Thursday, when he tees off alongside two-time Open Championship winner Ernie Els and 2014 Masters victor Bubba Watson at 2:05 p.m. local time on Thursday.

Here is a look at some of the other featured pairings:

Luke Donald, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, 8:37 a.m. – Fowler has finished in the Top 5 of both The Masters and the US Open this year, the only player to do so. Garcia is as good as you get at The Open without a victory – he’s finished in the top 10 seven times in 17 appearances.

Woods, Stenson and Angel Cabrera, 9:04 a.m. – Woods was the dead-on favorite to win the FedEx Cup title last year and the pretty $10 million check that went with it, until Stenson stormed his way in front in the points chase. Woods won The Open here in 2006, while Stenson was the runner-up to Mickelson at Muirfield in 2013.

Rory McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, 9:26 a.m. – The tours love putting the young guys together, don’t they? This trio will probably have the largest contingent of female followers in tow, particularly with McIlroy newly single. He’s got two Majors to his name, Matsuyama came out of nowhere to win The Memorial this spring, and should Spieth take the title, look for a huge, slightly-delayed celebration … he turns 21 in 13 days.

Ian Poulter, Jimmy Walker, Dustin Johnson, 9:37 a.m. – Both Poulter and Johnson have near misses here, each with a runner-up spot. Walker peaked early this season with three wins before March, and is still ahead in the FedEx race, but just barely.

Adam Scott, Justin Rose Jason Dufner, 2:27 p.m – Likely the most charismatic trio of the day, featuring the No. 1 player in the world in Scott, Rose coming off his impressive Scottish Open title, and Dufner, who would probably look more at home in one of Scotland’s thousands of pubs than on the links of the sixth-oldest golf course in the world.

The tournament opens play at 6:25 a.m. with the combination of England’s David Howell, the US’ David Duval and Sweden’s Robert Karlsson on course.




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