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Bring on the links, says Mickelson

Bob Harig | ESPN.com
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Phil Mickelson is looking to regain some form in his defence of the Scottish Open © Getty Images
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As an example of how much Phil Mickelson has come to embrace links golf, he is looking forward to windy, rainy conditions when he begins play on Thursday morning at the Scottish Open.

Mickelson, who is the defending champion of the event being played at a different venue this year, went on to win the Open Championship a year ago at Muirfield.

And his attitude appears to be: Bring it on.

"I'm looking forward to it; tomorrow is supposed to be terrible weather," Mickelson said Wednesday at Royal Aberdeen. "I hope it is, because I would love to be able to get out in that stuff and play in that stuff that I never get a chance to back home, and have actually started to play pretty well in over the years. It's fun, and it's a great opportunity."

Mickelson might not have said things like that just a few years ago. His record at the Open is poor for someone of his stature in the game.

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Rory McIlroy will tee up at the Scottish Open on Thursday © Getty Images
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Before winning last year's tournament at Muirfield with a closing 66, Mickelson had just two top-10 finishes in the tournament, including a runner-up in 2011 in horrible final-round conditions.

The victory gave him five major championships along with three legs to the Grand Slam. Next week's Open Championship is at Royal Liverpool in Hoylake, England.

Like last year, Mickelson brought his family to Europe, spending last week in Greece before coming to Scotland, where he played Royal Aberdeen on Monday and then ventured down the road to Donald Trump's new Trump International. He also expressed a desire to play a famous links called Cruden Bay, perhaps following one of his early rounds in the tournament.

"It's a fun test," Mickelson said. "There's a few things that take some getting used to over here when we make the transition. One is the time change. One is the thick, heavy air and how strong the air affects the ball here.

"The other is the bounces and how firm the ground is, and the fourth thing really is how strong a blade of grass the fescue and native grasses can be on the greens and how to putt those effectively. So I really believe coming here and playing the week before the Open, playing a great links test like this is a real asset, an asset for players from overseas to get acclimated to the time and really get acclimated to these conditions."

Mickelson said he has spent his time since the U.S. Open working on his putting, a sore spot in a disappointing 2014 to this point.

Since tying for second in January at the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship, Mickelson has missed three cuts and failed to finish among the top 10 in any PGA Tour event.

That hardly seemed like a concern Wednesday. Mickelson gleefully told the story of how he and his caddie, Jim "Bones" Mackay, took down Padraig Harrington and his caddie, Ronan Flood, in their match at Trump International.

"I love these two events," Mickelson said. "They were two of the most memorable events of my career arguably last year. Having my family here, spending the two weeks here, and winning both events was something I'll always cherish."

Mickelson begins play Thursday morning at 8:20 a.m. local time (3:20 a.m. ET) with Luke Donald and Joost Luiten.

Bob Harig is a senior golf writer for ESPN.com

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