Mickelson looking to finally conquer links golf

Updated 10 July 2013
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Mickelson looking to finally conquer links golf

INVERNESS, Scotland: Just when he thought he’d finally understood the unique nature of links golf, Phil Mickelson arrived at last year’s British Open and missed the cut for the first time at a major in five years.
“I don’t know what to say,” a disillusioned and perplexed Mickelson said repeatedly, as he prepared to leave Lytham two days earlier than expected.
Fresh off another disappointment — a sixth second-place finish at the US Open last month — the American is back for another go on a links course as he plays the Scottish Open starting today, a week ahead the British Open at Muirfield.
“It’s still a challenge for me, still not something I grew up doing, still something I’m trying to learn as I continue through my career,” Mickelson said yesterday. “So I’m always cautiously optimistic.”
Any self-belief must be in short supply whenever he flies to Europe — he hasn’t won here in 20 years, since a victory in a second-tier Challenge Tour event in Paris in which he narrowly beat Steve Elkington.
But links golf is something that continues to appeal to the easy-going Californian. And while the likes of Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the rest of the world’s top seven have headed to courses across Britain to prepare for the British Open in non-competitive conditions, the eighth-ranked Mickelson will be at Castle Stuart this week practicing his bump-and-runs and low drives into the wind with a title and prize money at stake.
Mickelson is a regular at the Scottish Open, and came closest to winning it in 2007 when he lost a playoff to Gregory Havret.
“I think everybody has to find out what works for them to get ready for the big events,” said Mickelson, one of only four Americans in the Scottish Open field. “When we moved the tournament from Loch Lomond to a links-style course here at Castle Stuart, I thought it ... enhanced the opportunity for players to play the week before and to get their games sharp for the British Open.”
Mickelson has reasons to be optimistic ahead of these next two weeks. He says his driving and putting — what he claims have been the “weaknesses” in his game for the past five years — are now his strong points.
His decision to have five putting greens in his garden back home, all with different surfaces, appears to be paying off.
“Because I’ve been putting so well, I’m really looking forward to the challenge,” he said. “I mean, I think that I’m optimistic it could be a little different.”
Mickelson has had a difficult past month. Still coming to terms with the “heartbreak” of losing out to Justin Rose at the US Open, he missed the cut at the Greenbrier Classic last week in his first outing since Merion.
Maybe a trip to Scotland, with his wife and kids in tow, will do him some good.
“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 and the British, as well as the PGA Championship and our FedExCup back in the US” Mickelson said, recalling his latest US Open near-miss.
“They all kind of hurt for a while but then you kind of move on. I think it’s one of those things where maybe at the end of my career and I stop playing, I’ll look back on it a little bit more.”
Mickelson plans to visit the local battlefields from the middle of the 18th century during his time in northern Scotland but he will not lose sight of his priorities in the days ahead.
“I think it would be, for me, one of my greatest accomplishments to be able to conquer links golf and to win an Open Championship over here,” said Mickelson, a winner of four majors but never the British Open.
“It’s time to play now. It’s time to shoot the scores and hit the shots that I’ve spent 20 years now trying to work on.”


What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

Updated 19 April 2018
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What now for Saudi Arabia’s big four teams?

  • Al-Hilal won their 15th top-flight title this season.
  • Big summer for Saudi Arabia football with the Green Falcons at the World Cup.

Now the Saudi Professional League season is over for another year Arab News can look back at their title tilts and what the big four clubs have to do over the coming months ahead of the next season.

 



AL-HILAL

Finished: Champions

Coaching situation: Ramon Diaz was in charge for much of the season, but was fired in February after setbacks in the Champions League.
Assistant Juan Brown did Okay in the final stretch, but a top-class coach could get more out of this team.

Squad priorities: A reliable goalscorer to support Omar Khribin and with veteran defender Osama Hawsawi leaving for pastures new, a replacement center-back with leadership qualities. Welcoming back the major stars — Carlos Eduardo, Khribin, Nawaf Al-Abed and Salem Al -Dawsari — will be a major boost.

Aim next season: Win the AFC Champions League

 



AL-AHLI

Finished: Second

Coaching situation: Sergiy Rebrov is out of contract at the end of June. His future is likely to depend on how the team fares against Al-Sadd in the second round of the AFC Champions League in May.

Squad priorities: There is not much wrong. The Jeddah giants were the highest scorers in the league last season and had the second best defense. Keeping star midfielder Leonardo fit will help as will a little cover in the center of defense. Star striker Omar Al-Somah fell out with the coach in a public way in the penultimate game of the season. It may be that one of them has to go. The Syrian has been player of the year for three years and has a longer contract than Rebrov.

Aim next season: Win the league. Maintain good performances in Asia.


 
AL-NASSR

Finished: Third

Coaching situation: Krunoslav Jurcic arrived in January and the former Croatian national team boss produced an upswing in results. May just be a temporary appointment and it needs to be sorted quickly.

Squad priorities: Looks good with the Saudi Arabia national team keeper, a strong center-back pairing of Omar Hawsawi and Bruno Uvini and the full-back position seemingly sorted with the January signing of Saad Suhail. They probably need a defensive midfielder and have to keep Junior Kabananga. The DR Congo striker has shown enough in his few weeks at the club to suggest that he could be a real star next season, especially with Leonardo pulling the strings behind him.

Aim next season: A genuine title challenge and getting through the play-offs into  the 2019 AFC Champions League.

 


AL-ITTIHAD

Finished: Ninth

Coaching situation: A bottom half finish is unacceptable for a team with Al-Itithad’s stature and history. Chilean coach Jose Luis Sierra may find that winning domestic cups is no substitute for challenging for the title.

Squad priorities: There is too much reliance on players such as Carlos Villanueva, a creative spark in the team, and Fahad Al-Ansari, the midfield engine, who are the wrong side of 30. The possible return of star winger Fahad Al-Muwallad will help, but an introduction of energy is needed.

Aim next season: Top three and, if the team wins the King’s Cup, a good showing in the 2019 AFC Champions League.