SOUTHPORT, England — Royal Birkdale and Torrey Pines would seem to have nothing in common except that Phil Mickelson is playing major championships on both without a driver in his bag.

Mickelson carried only the 3-wood with him during his practice round Tuesday at the British Open, and he plans to keep it that way.

“We won’t be playing in this wind,” Mickelson said as he finished up his round with a light blowing toward the Irish Sea. “And when we get the normal wind, there really isn’t a driver for me until we get to 15. And then that brings the bunkers into play.”

Mickelson, who once had two drivers in his bag at the Masters, didn’t hit a driver in the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He wasn’t much of a factor that week and finished five shots out of the playoff that Tiger Woods won over Rocco Mediate.

Mickelson instead has four wedges, including a 64-degree sand wedge that he can use for flop shots off tight lies on a links course. He also has two 3-irons, one of them with the loft tweaked to make a strong, driving club.

The 3-wood is the same club he had when he won the British Open at Muirfield in 2013, his last victory.

“It’s a much easier club for me to hit low,” Mickelson said on Golf Channel. “So even into the wind, I hit it every bit as far as I hit a driver.”


TIGER FALLING: Tiger Woods is out of golf for the rest of the season as he recovers from a fourth back surgery, and that means he finally is out of the top 1,000 players listed in the Official World Golf Ranking.

Woods is at No. 1,005 in the world this week, one spot ahead of Henric Sturehed of Sweden.

That’s no surprise. In the two-year counting period, Woods has only seven tournaments on his record and he earned ranking points at just three of them — a tie for 18th in the Greenbrier in 2015, a tie for 10th in the Wyndham Classic that same year and his 15th-place finish at the no-cut Hero World Challenge in December.

Woods was at No. 1 for 683 weeks, twice as long as anyone else in the history of the ranking that dates to 1986.


TAKING IT IN: Bill Haas has played as much links golf as anyone in this part of England. He even finally got around to playing Royal Birkdale.

Haas is among those players who love seeing other courses when they come to the British Open. When it was played at Royal Liverpool in 2014, Jason Dufner went over to play Royal Birkdale on the weekend. Brad Faxon used to find smaller links courses to play after a practice round at the championship course.

Haas brought over his brother-in-law and two friends. They played Royal Liverpool on Friday, Royal Lytham & St. Annes on Saturday and Hillside on Sunday. And then it was time to get to work, so he made his way to Royal Birkdale.

“I did the same trip for Lytham in 2012,” he said. “I played Liverpool, here and West Lancashire, so I’ve seen the course. I feel like I’m getting the same practice in, just not at the tournament course. But I’ve got Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday to see the course and know the course.”

Most surprising to Haas at Royal Liverpool and Royal Lytham was seeing the course without the grandstands and tented villages that are in place for the Open.

“Liverpool was the one that was the most shocking without the grandstand surrounding the 18th (the 16th green during normal play). You’re amazed at how small the space is and how they make it work,” he said. “And Lytham, there’s gorse way right on 18. I didn’t remember that being in play. When you hit it right, I think you’re in the grandstands. But it was fun to see.”


SPIETH RETURNS: Jordan Spieth was still in college in 2012 when the British Open was at Royal Lytham & St. Annes, and this is first time at Royal Birkdale. But he’s no stranger to the area. It’s where Spieth got his first taste of links golf.

He played in the Junior British Open in 2008, and he finished first — at least among the boys.

The overall winner that week was Moriya Jutanugarn of Thailand, playing from a forward set of tees.


GETTING AWAY: Brooks Koepka won the U.S. Open, headed off to Las Vegas and hasn’t been seen in the golfing world since then.

That’s just the way he had it planned.

Koepka is playing for the first time since that four-shot victory at Erin Hills. He had a big stretch at the end of the year with two majors, a World Golf Championship, the four FedEx Cup playoff events and the Presidents Cup, so he wanted to be fresh.

“I found it pretty easy to get away,” Koepka said. “I was not looking for a break, but I kind of needed one, more mentally than anything. And it was nice to have a few weeks off. But last week I started getting into it and getting antsy to get back out here.”

He didn’t put the clubs away, playing plenty of golf and working on his game when he got back home to Florida. He arrived at Birkdale on Saturday.

“It felt good to get out here and play some holes and actually feel like you’re back in the normal routine,” he said.

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DOUG FERGUSON
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