US MASTERS GOLF : HE'S GOT TO KEEP GOING AT PHIL TILT; Greg: Attack's Best for Mickelson
Byline: Neil McLeman
GREG NORMAN last night urged Phil Mickelson not to change his aggressive game as the American prepared to launch another Masters blitz.
Mickelson ripped out a record 25 birdies as he attacked the Augusta National course full-on last year.
But his high-risk strategy also saw him he slipped to third behind Tiger Woods and David Duval and fail to claim his first Major.
The world No.2, who has 20 wins on the PGA Tour, also showed his erratic side when five-putting the 10th at The Players last month. But he insisted then he would not change his style.
Norman, who has won two Opens but finished runner-up eight times in Majors, including three times here, yesterday backed Mickelson to keep firing at the flag.
Norman, now 47, said: "I hope he never changes. Phil Mickelson's nature is Phil Mickelson's nature. People like to see that.
"I probably would have won more tournaments if I wasn't that way but I would not be the same guy. I enjoy being the person I am because of who I am. And Phil is the same way.
"The risk reward is there and when it happens he's great and when it doesn't happen, he looks terrible. Arnold Palmer won eight or nine Majors but he probably could have won 20 if he wasn't so aggressive.
"But Arnold was Arnold.
"So I hope Phil doesn't change. He's going to win his share of tournaments and he's going to lose his share of tournaments and that's it."
Florida-based Norman, only here by invitation, had the reward of his two Opens for his dicey strategy.
But he is also one of only two men to lose in a play-off for all four Majors.
Perhaps he will be best remembered for his 1996 collapse here when he started the day six shots clear but his last-round 78 gave the title to Nick Faldo.
Mickelson appears to have the same self-destruct button and the same unshake-able belief in his abilities. Or arrogance, depending on your point of view.
He sums up all the contradictions of the USA - brash, loud and entertaining but lacking intelligence, subtlety and worldliness.
Mickelson's game is honed to the target golf of the American PGA Tour.
If he misses the green, his trusty L-wedge will flop the ball on to the putting surface from the rough.
It is not a style suited to our links golf, where he has made the top 20 only once in nine attempts at the Open. But love him or loathe him, you can't ignore the blue-eyed all-American boy.
He is now the second biggest draw in world golf. His challenge is to be first. He claimed he did not care about winning a Major, although Tiger's coach Butch Harmon noted: "I think he would find winning Majors was fun."
And so will he finally win one here in Augusta? Six times in the last seven years he has been in contention only to fall off the pace and finish in the top 12. …