Mickelson praises Tom Watson ahead of his final Open

Phil Casey 09:49 09/07/2015
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Retiring: Watson.

Phil Mickelson knew the question was coming, so decided to answer it himself before it could even be raised at the press conference.

With Tom Watson making his farewell appearance in the Open Championship next week, Mickelson knew he would be asked about his public criticism of Watson’s Ryder Cup captaincy last year.

“I thought I would get asked about Tom Watson and the only thing I would say is that he’s one of the greatest champions this game has ever had, and I hope next week is a celebration of that greatness,” Mickelson said ahead of this week’s Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at Gullane Golf Club.

“It’s his last Open Championship and I’m certainly appreciative of all he’s done for the game of golf and admire, and that’s all I really wanted to say on that.”

He was openly critical of the 65-year-old Watson’s captaincy during his last visit to Scotland, for the Ryder Cup at Gleneagles last year when Europe triumphed.

Mickelson, who won the Scottish Open and the Open Championship in back-to-back weeks in 2013, said he is planning an “emotional” trip to Muirfield to revisit the scene of his Open triumph.

With Muirfield just a mile away from Scottish Open venue Gullane, the five-time major winner said: “I am going to stop by. I would love to just walk the back nine again.

“It’s probably the best nine holes of golf I’ve ever played, certainly playing the last six in four-under. It’s a very emotional place for me. It’s probably the most special victory of my career.”

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Mickelson said he relishes his yearly trip to Scotland.

“I always love this two-week stretch,” the 45-year-old added. “I have my family with me again just like two years ago, and it’s just a special two weeks.

“I’ve been over here in the UK since Saturday morning and we’ve spent a few days over in Dublin. We had a great time.

“I have always gotten a lot out of the Scottish Open going back to the days when I started playing at Loch Lomond well over a decade ago. But now that it’s on links golf, I get even more out of it. I think the players that come over really enjoy it.

“I have been getting acclimated not only to the time change but also the links-style golf. It led to success in the following week’s performance as well.

“I think the last four, five, six years the winner of the Open Championship has always played here at the Scottish Open. So I think we get a lot out of it.” 

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