- Associated Press - Friday, July 9, 2010

LUSS SCOTLAND (AP) - With another chance to go to No. 1 in the world, Masters champion Phil Mickelson left the Scottish Open on Friday wondering if he would even make the cut.

Mickelson hit three tee shots before he could put one in play on the 18th hole in the middle of his round, making a quintuple-bogey 9 and never recovering on his way to a 3-over 74. That left him 13 shots behind Darren Clarke among those who finished early, and doubtful of returning to Loch Lomond the rest of the week.

“It wasn’t too bad of a day except for two swings,” Mickelson said. “Those four penalty strokes hurt the round quite a bit.”

This was the fifth straight tournament that Mickelson had a chance to replace Tiger Woods atop the world ranking by winning. He only needed second place this week in the Scottish Open.

He will get another chance next week at St. Andrews for the British Open, although it’s hard to gauge where his game is. If there was a bright side to a dreary day of rain at Loch Lomond, Mickelson at least knows what he needs to work on.

“The driver, to me, was one club that wasn’t the best,” he said.

It certainly cost him on the 18th hole, which has water all the way down the left side of the hole. Mickelson hit his first drive into the water, then teed up another ball. This one had a slightly better chance, but failed to clear the hazard.

“The club felt like it slipped a little bit on the first one,” he said. “The second one felt better. I had to take 3-wood out and aim to the right on the third.”

Once he got down the fairway, Mickelson realized his second ball was plugged near the bank and could be played from the hazard, even if just to hack a wedge to the fairway. By then, it was a moot point. Mickelson did not declare his third tee shot to be a provisional, and he could only have declared a provision for a lost ball or a ball out-of-bounds, not for one in a hazard.

He only option would have been to see the ball first, and “I didn’t want to walk 300 yards up and 300 yards back.”

That was his last mistake of the day. Mickelson hit another tee shot on the par-5 sixth that was so far left it cleared one hazard and was deep in the weeds. It was plugged, and he was surprised a fan could find it. From there, he hacked out, hit 3-wood into the gallery and made an 18-footer to save par.

After making a 9, pars weren’t enough.

Mickelson did not get over to St. Andrews earlier in the week as planned because his arrival was delayed. If he missed the cut, he said he would spend the next two days on the Old Course.

As for wasting another shot at going to No. 1 in the world?

“I haven’t thought about that,” Mickelson said. “I’m trying to get ready for the British Open and get my game sharp. And these first two days gave me the opportunity to see where it needs some work.”

The question was whether that work takes place at Loch Lomond or St. Andrews.

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