Golf: Lefty skips practice, gets off on right foot

Phil Mickelson at the tee box on the 12th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course on May 12.
Phil Mickelson at the tee box on the 12th hole during the second round of The Players Championship golf tournament at TPC Sawgrass - Stadium Course on May 12. PHOTO: REUTERS

PONTE VEDRA BEACH • Phil Mickelson decided on a novel approach to this year's Players Championship after missing the cut the past four years.

Rather than grind his way through practice rounds at TPC Sawgrass, the American veteran opted to tee it up sight unseen in the first round on Thursday.

The move did not seem to do any harm, as the left-hander nicknamed "Lefty", opened with a respectable two-under 70.

"I was going to play it on Tuesday and I was just a little tired, so I just kind of took the day off," the 2007 champion said. "And then I was going to go out Wednesday, and I just thought, gosh, if I walk around in the heat, I'll get tired. I'd rather just get a nice practice session. So I ended up doing that.

"The course really isn't that different. I've played here 25 years, so it's not like that one round was going to make a big difference. I just felt like I wanted to conserve energy and sharpen my game."

While the par-four 12th hole has changed considerably since last year, that alone was not enough to entice the 46-year-old onto the course.

The five-time Major champion was not alone in observing that the luck factor is greater at Sawgrass than many other courses when an approach shot misses the green, a good reason he said not to worry too much about practice rounds.

As co-leader William McGirt (67) said: "The thing with this place is (even if) you hit one that lands four, five feet off the putting surface, there's no telling what's going to happen to it."

Mickelson concurred: "There's so much randomness that you just have to execute. There's no place to bail out, no place to miss.

"You have to just execute and hit great shots, and rather than go out and validate what I already know, I just worked on my game. I thought it was fairly sharp. I hit a lot of good shots today."

REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 13, 2017, with the headline 'Lefty skips practice, gets off on right foot'. Print Edition | Subscribe