By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
AKRON, Ohio -- Phil Mickelson isn't quite sure why he hasn't played better at Firestone Country Club over the last decade.
After all, he won the 1996 NEC World Series of Golf played there, and he posted top-10 finishes in the first five years that Firestone hosted the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational. In the last 11 years, though, Mickelson has only finished higher than 20th once.
"But it has not changed the way I feel about the course and the tournament," he said. "It's just a wonderful straightforward test of golf. It was in excellent shape. I thought the weather was great. It's a great place to have a World Golf Championship and to have a tournament the week before a major, our last major."
Mickelson, who won The Open Championship in his last start, just didn't play particularly well in this year's Bridgestone Invitational. He only broke par once, shooting 67 on Saturday, and ended up tied for 21st at 1 over. He only hit five fairways and 10 of 18 greens in shooting 71 on Sunday.
"I enjoy the challenge, and I don't have a great reason as to why I haven't played well the last eight, ten years, but I wasn't as sharp this week as I needed to be, as I need to be next week," Mickelson said.
Mickelson chalked it up to some lingering fatigue after the emotional win at Muirfield that gave him the third leg of the career Grand Slam. He wasn't as prepared as he would have liked but he was pleased with his practice sessions last week.
The five-time major champ was headed to Rochester Sunday evening to prepare for the PGA Championship. He played Oak Hill last Monday so he has a good idea of how he wants to approach the season's final major. He expected to take Monday off, play a practice round on Tuesday and then see how he feels on Wednesday.
One thing he does know, though. The rough at Oak Hill places a premuim on keeping the ball in the fairway.
"The rough is extremely long and thick, I mean, as long and thick of rough as I've seen in a long time," Mickelson said. "It could very well be that they grew it out the week before with the intention of cutting it the week of the tournament, but from what I saw they had just cut it, and it was as long and thick a rough as I had seen. I mean, it was eight to 12 inches long, not just four.
"So I'm sure they're going to cut some of it, but it was extremely thick, and so therefore the key to that course is going to be two things: One is the fairway; you've got to hit fairways. You can leave yourself further back, but you've got to hit fairways. And two is Donald Ross courses, the greens tend to be a little bit more severe back to front, and I think you're going to have to leave it underneath the hole. Chipping from behind the greens are almost impossible to get it close."
Mickelson said he isn't sure whether he will carry a driver or a 64-degree wedge at Oak Hill, saying he's leaning toward the driver but it would likely be a day-to-day decision. The driver could be helpful into a strong wind because a 3-wood might be marginal in terms of putting him where he wanted to be on some holes. The wedge might be an asset if the weather is warm.
"I don't think either club is necessary," Mickelson said. "I don't need a 64-degree wedge and I don't need a driver. But I don't think I'll just play with 13, either. So I'll probably carry one of those."