Mickelson praises Spieth loyalty

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Phil Mickelson has praised Jordan Spieth’s loyalty after the Masters and US Open champion honoured his commitment to play in the John Deere Classic.

Spieth is halfway towards an unprecedented calendar grand slam following his wins at Augusta National and Chambers Bay, but will arguably not have the ideal preparation for next week’s Open Championship.

The world number two will only arrive in St Andrews on Monday morning on a charter flight and has played just once before on the Old Course.

Fellow Americans Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker are all playing in the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open at nearby Gullane this week, while Spieth contests the first PGA Tour title he won in 2013 in Illinois.

“I think it’s incredibly loyal of him to do that,” Mickelson said. “They went out on a limb years ago to give him an exemption and for him to go back, despite the opportunity to continue on with the third leg of the grand slam, shows a lot of class on his part, a lot of loyalty on his part. I think it should be commended.”

Mickelson won the Scottish Open at Castle Stuart in 2013 before claiming the Open at Muirfield a week later, but the 45-year-old added: “I think each player has to find out how to prepare their best to play their best, and it’s different for everybody. For me personally, I like to play the week before. I like to come over here and get acclimated to the time.

“He’s half my age, or less than half my age; he probably doesn’t need time to get adjusted to the time change. And he’s playing competitively the week before and his game should be sharp. So I can’t comment on what he needs to do for him to play his best. Only he can do that.”

Spieth has been using a simulator in his Dallas home to at least gain some experience of playing the Old Course, but insisted he gave little thought to changing his travel plans.

“I committed to this event well ahead of time, never really crossed my mind to drop out,” the 21-year-old said. “I felt like I’ve played well in the Open Championship the last couple years having played at the John Deere right before and competed [Spieth was 44th in 2013 and 36th last year].

“The first year it was on the end of a four-week stretch going over there, and I just ran out of gas, and then last year I just didn’t have my best stuff. I didn’t even have my best stuff at the John Deere, just kind of got through it, and actually had a strong finish.

“So this year I believe that if I can work myself into contention, I don’t think it matters where it is. As long as I can get myself in contention, find out how I’m performing, what kind of minor tweaks I need to do, if any, the first couple days at the Open Championship to get ready for the major, then that’s the plan.

“When I get over there, whether I play well or don’t play well has nothing to do with what I did the week before. I will certainly have enough energy. I will certainly have enough rest, and I will be as prepared as can be, as I am for any other event, by the time I tee it up at St Andrews.

“I think this is good preparation for me to get good feels, to get in contention, and to find out what’s on and what’s off when I’m in contention. I’m here because I believe I can win this week. I believe that it’s advantageous for me to try and win this week and to continue the momentum into the Open Championship.”