Open Championship: Defending champion Phil Mickelson feeling positive
Last Updated: 18/07/14 4:59pm
Defending Open champion Phil Mickelson believes his game has started to click despite carding a 74 in the first round at Royal Liverpool.
The five-time major winner has not had a victory since lifting the Claret Jug for the first time at Muirfield in Scotland last year.
But Mickelson remains as positive as ever he is on the verge of turning a corner despite being eight shots off the lead, and an indifferent short game which is usually his strength.
Certainly the score sucks but my game is as good as it's been in a long time.
Phil Mickelson after first round 74
"This is the best I've hit it in over a year," he insisted.
"I had as much control over the golf ball as I've had in a long time. Whether it was working cuts into the wind, draws into the wind, shots off the tee.
"Certainly the score sucks but my game is as good as it's been in a long time.
"I've felt like it's just been a fraction off. I've been saying it's a fraction off for a while now and I feel now I found that last fraction - it's started to click.
"In 2004 at Troon I shot 74 the first day in pretty benign conditions, came out the next day and shot 66 and got right back in it.
"I feel like I'm more on that side of the equation than having another round over par because I just think the way I'm starting to hit it."
Mickelson had just two birdies - at the ninth and 10th - but bogeyed the seventh, 13th and 14th before hitting his approach to the par-five last out of bounds and taking a bogey six.
He admits returning as defending champion means no-one now doubts his ability to perform in the world's oldest major, in which he had just two top-10 finishes in his previous 13 attempts before last year.
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"Coming into the Open Championship as a past champion the questions were totally different than they've been before," he said.
"The question 'Are you going to be able to come on top in links golf and overcome the challenge?' has already been answered.
"Now it's 'Can I do it again? Can I get in position again?'. I know that this wasn't a great score, a great start, but this is as encouraged as I've been since last year's Open.
"I hit a lot of tremendous shots today and even though the score is not reflective of it I can feel it's about to turn.
"Maybe tomorrow. It could be a week, it could be a month, but it's going to happen soon."