ABERDEEN, Scotland (AP) — From Darren Clarke in 2011 to Phil Mickelson in 2013, the last three winners of the British Open have honed their links-course game at the Scottish Open a week earlier.
So perhaps it's no surprise that trend has lured many top players to the northern tip of Scotland this week, not just for a tilt at the $850,000 top prize but also for some practice of the type of shots that will be required at the year's third major at Hoylake.
Mickelson is a Scottish Open regular who won the tournament last year before going on to capture the claret jug at Muirfield. He will face competition this year from the likes of Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Luke Donald and fellow Americans Jimmy Walker and Rickie Fowler when the tournament gets underway at Royal Aberdeen on Thursday.
The Scottish Open has regained its luster after a couple of lean years with weak fields, which comes as no surprise to Mickelson.
"I really believe coming here and playing the week before the Open, playing in a great links test like this, is a real asset, an asset for players from overseas to get acclimatized to the time and really get acclimatized to these conditions," Mickelson said on Wednesday.
McIlroy played with Mickelson for the first two rounds at Muirfield last year and saw close up how attuned the American was to links golf.
"Phil definitely opened the eyes of a lot of guys," McIlroy said. "He was ready. He was sharp."
After three years at Castle Stuart in Inverness, the Scottish Open has relocated east to the par-71 Royal Aberdeen, founded in 1780. It's the world's sixth oldest golf course.
Mickelson is a big fan of the old Scottish courses — and of Scotland in general. And he has learned to embrace the quirky challenges that characterize links golf, such as playing in fierce winds and dealing with the unpredictable bounce on undulating fairways, which is some feat given his Californian roots.
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