May 11 (Reuters) - 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, Mickelson opted to tee it up sight unseen in the first round on Thursday.
And the move did not seem to do any harm as the left-handed Californian opened with a respectable two-under-par 70 in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, on Thursday.
“I was going to play it Tuesday ... and I was just a little tired, so I just kind of took the day off,” the 2007 champion told reporters.
”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.”
The par-four 12th has been changed considerably since last year, but that alone was not enough to entice Mickelson onto the course.
The five-times 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 leader William McGirt said: ”The thing with this place is you hit one that lands four, five feet off the putting surface, there’s no telling what’s going to happen to it.”
“This is a course where knowing it doesn’t really matter because you don’t know what kind of shot you’re going to have (if you miss a green),” he said.
“There’s so much randomness that you just have to execute. There’s no place to bail out, no place to miss. This is a course 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.” (Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Frank Pingue)