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Meticulous Mickelson the tip to make it a hat-trick
June 10, 2006

LOS ANGELES: Of all the storylines dominating the build-up to next week's US Open, the most intriguing is Phil Mickelson's bid for a third consecutive major.

For the first time in his career, Mickelson will start one of the big-four events as favourite.

Whether the bookmakers agree, the American left-hander certainly tops the pre-tournament billing in the minds of most of his fellow players.

Of course, world No.1 Tiger Woods can never be forgotten and the twice champion is certain to be a factor when the year's second major approaches its climax on June 18.

However, Woods will arrive at Winged Foot Golf Club in New York under-prepared.

The 30-year-old American has not played tournament golf since tying for third at the US Masters in April, having grieved for his father Earl who died on May 3 after a long battle with cancer.

A nine-week break is hardly an ideal build-up but Woods is known for his unwavering focus. Furthermore, his aim to build on a career tally of 10 majors underpins his approach to the game.

But Mickelson is unquestionably the in-form player at the game's highest level and likes his chances going into his 16th US Open.

"I know that golf course is a terrific test, and I feel I can play well there," the world No.2 said last month after taking his second look this year at the revamped layout.

"The rough is going to be extremely deep and the greens are very difficult and undulating. I think we will not have to worry about par being a good score there," said Mickelson.

Since the par-70 West Course staged the most recent of its four US Opens in 1984, it has been lengthened by 334 yards (305 metres). At 7264 yards, it will become the longest layout in US Open history.

Renowned for its slick and heavily contoured greens, Winged Foot will become an even more daunting proposition with the thick rough and tighter fairways that are traditional in US Open set-ups.

However gruelling next week's tournament will be for the players, it will hold no surprises for Mickelson. Having endured a 12-year wait before making his major breakthrough at the 2004 US Masters, the Californian is now arguably the game's most prepared player at grand slam events.

Read more at Fairfax Digital

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