In 17 Open Championship appearances before this year’s playing at Royal St. George’s, Mickelson had just one top-10 finish: that was a third in 2004, a year in which he won the Masters and finished no worse than sixth in the year’s four majors.
“I just wanted to start fresh because I’ve loved links golf. I just had to really enjoy the challenge of it more,” he said. “I’ve always loved the different shots that are required and the strategy about how the courses are designed with the bunker placements. One day they’re not in play because of the wind and the wind changes and now they are.”
McIlroy, in his first major since winning the U.S. Open last month, tied for 25th, finishing at 7-over 287. The finish was McIlroy’s worst major showing since missing the cut at last year’s U.S. Open at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
While extremely pleased that fellow Northern Irelander Darren Clarke had won, McIlroy was ready to move on to his next venue.
“I’m not a fan of golf tournaments that the outcome is predicted so much by the weather,” he said. “It’s not my sort of golf. Yeah, I’m disappointed with the way I finished obviously, but I’ll just have to wait until next year to try and make a good run at this tournament.”
But it is golf, and it can be mastered. McIlroy need only to look at 61-year-old Tom Watson, who in 34 Open Championship appearances won five, lost a playoff two years ago at age 59 and tied for 22nd this year.
“It’s either that or just wait for a year when the weather is nice,” said McIlroy when told weather generally is an issue in this championship. “No, I mean, my game is suited for basically every golf course and most conditions, but these conditions I just don’t enjoy playing in really. That’s the bottom line. I’d rather play when it’s 80 degrees and sunny and not much wind.
“All the amateur tournaments I’ve won, they were played on links courses but they were all relatively calm. So I just play better and my game is more suited to calm conditions.”
McIlroy is scheduled to play in his native Irish Open next week and then return to the United States where he is scheduled to play the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational and PGA Championship in successive weeks next month.
He will also work on his swing, which he said was somewhat altered by the windy Sandwich, England, conditions.
“The wind sort of messes it up a little bit, so I’ll work for two or three days just working on my swing and getting it back into a nice groove, and then I’ll take it easy and head to the Irish Open,” he said.
Stuart Hall is editor of the Golf Press Association.