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Mickelson tunes up for Merion

06 June 2013, 11:29

Memphis - Phil Mickelson will warm up for yet another shot at the US Open title he covets at the $5.7 million US PGA St. Jude Classic this week.

Many of golf's big names, including world number one Tiger Woods and number two Rory McIlroy, will work on their games this week away from the spotlight of competition prior to the year's second major at Merion.

But Mickelson said playing the week before the US Open will give him the focus he needs.

"I know that for me to be sharp mentally, especially in a tournament where the penalty for missing is so great, like the US Open, it's important that I'm sharp and I'm ready to play," he said Wednesday.

Mickelson will be making his third appearance at the event and his first since 2009.

Four years ago in Memphis, Mickelson finished 55th, firing 75 in the final round.

A week later at Bethpage Black, Mickelson finished second in the US Open -- one of five runner-up finishes in the championship that he has often said is the major he'd most like to win.

Mickelson finished 54th at this year's Masters - when he took off the week before the tournament. He also missed the cut in his most recent start, at the Players Championship won by Woods.

So the four-time major champion is hoping the trip to TPC Southwind will help him turn things around. He believes the 7,244-yard, par-70 course has enough similarities to Merion to provide a good pre-US Open test.

"The greens are small, they're difficult to get the ball stopped on, and there are a lot of cool little shots around the greens," Mickelson said.

"The precision of the iron shot into the green as well as the importance of hitting fairways here is a similar style of golf that will happen at Merion next week."

Mickelson has already spent some of his time this week at Merion itself, where he hadn't played since the 1989 US Amateur championship.

"It's really a wonderful setup," he said. "It didn't look tricked up at all."

In Memphis, Mickelson will be up against defending champion Dustin Johnson, who birdied two of his final three holes in the final round on Sunday to beat John Merrick by one stroke.

The victory was Johnson's sixth on the PGA Tour and first since The Barclays in 2011 and confirmed the big-hitters return from a back injury.

World number five Brandt Snedeker, England's Ian Poulter and Sweden's Peter Hanson are also in the field, and headed to the US Open the following week.

Chinese teenager Tianlang Guan will make his fifth PGA Tour start of the season.

The 14-year-old prodigy made history as the youngest player to compete at the Masters in April, earning low amateur honors. He followed that up by making the cut at the PGA tournament in New Orleans, but has since missed the cut at the Byron Nelson Championship and at last week's Memorial tournament.

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