Just when he thought he'd finally understood the unique nature of links golf, Phil Mickelson arrived at last year's British Open and missed the cut for the first time at a major in five years.

"I don't know what to say," Mickelson repeated as he prepared to leave Lytham two days earlier than expected.

Fresh off another disappointment -- a sixth runner-up finish at the U.S. Open last month at Merion (Pa.) -- the American is back for another go on a links course as he plays the Scottish Open starting Thursday, a week before the British Open at Muirfield.

"It's still a challenge for me, still not something I grew up doing, still something I'm trying to learn as I continue through my career," Mickelson said Wednesday at Inverness.

Mickelson hasn't won in Europe in 20 years, since a victory in a second-tier Challenge Tour event in Paris.

But links golf is something that continues to appeal to Mickelson. And while Tiger Woods, Rory McIlroy and the rest of the world's top seven have headed to courses across Britain to prepare for the British Open in noncompetitive conditions, the eighth-ranked Mickelson will be at Castle Stuart this week practicing his bump-and-runs and low drives into the wind with a title and prize money at stake.

Mickelson is a regular at the Scottish Open and came closest to winning it in 2007 when he lost a playoff to Gregory Havret.

"Everybody has to find out what works for them to get ready for the big events," Mickelson said.


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Mickelson says his driving and putting -- what he claims have been the "weaknesses" in his game for the past five years -- are now his strong points.

His decision to put five putting greens in his garden back home, all with different surfaces, appears to be paying off.

"Because I've been putting so well, I'm really looking forward to the challenge," he said.

Mickelson also is still coming to terms with the "heartbreak" of losing out to Justin Rose at the U.S. Open.

"Rather than look at it as a failure, I want to use it as an opportunity to take advantage of where my game has got in these last few months and try to have a great second half of the year," Mickelson said.

  • Windy Knoll Golf Club in Springfield, Ohio, tries to keep the price under $40 on the weekend, which includes a cart. That soon will go up to $230 -- when the round includes a hovercraft. Pete Duffey, managing director of the course, was so intrigued by the YouTube video of Bubba Watson skimming over water and through bunkers in a hovercraft built for golf that he ordered two of them. Why two? "We thought it made sense for a foursome to use," Duffey said. The golf hovercrafts are made by Neoteric Hovercraft in Terre Haute, Ind. The course plans to launch its new "carts" during a promotional outing July 27 that will feature LPGA great Nancy Lopez.

  • Sequoyah Country Club in Oakland will hold an area qualifier for the U.S, Women's Amateur on July 11. The Women's Amateur is Aug. 5-11 at Country of Charleston (S.C.).

    Wire services contributed to this report.