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A victory could put Phil at No. 1

LUSS, Scotland » Phil Mickelson is choosing competition over course conditions as he prepares for the next major.

In a year when several players are skipping the Scottish Open, Mickelson tops the field at Loch Lomond, which also features US Open champion Graeme McDowell. A victory by the left-handed American would put him at No. 1 in the world.

The Masters winner is the only player from the top 10 entered for the $4 million event, which starts today.

"I always look forward to these two weeks," Mickelson said. "I really enjoy this tournament and obviously really enjoy next week’s event, too.

"I think the best way to get in playing condition for the Open is to play well, get into contention and compete on Sunday for the title here. Having lost a couple of times in close matches here, I would like to win this tournament. It would mean a lot for me to win here."

Mickelson insists reaching No. 1 is not his priority this week.

"It would be cool to go to the home of golf as No. 1 but it’s not something I’m thinking about yet," he said. "I’m just trying to get my game sharp. I always felt like if I play well enough, the results would happen. It would mean a lot to me to break through and finally win."

A lack of top-flight players can be traced to a two-day pro-am in Ireland as well as others deciding the tournament didn’t fit their plans.

Woods and many top European players took part in the two-day JP McManus pro-am in Limerick, Ireland.

McDowell of Northern Ireland, who had not played since his win at Pebble Beach, felt rested enough to take on both.

Healthy Stricker eager to defend Deere title

Hanging out at home sits well with Steve Stricker — for a while, anyway.

Stricker, who’ll defend his title at the John Deere Classic at Silvis, Ill., starting today, got plenty of time at his Madison, Wis., home earlier this year when he took six weeks off to rest an aching right shoulder.

The problem, an inflammation in the joint where the clavicle meets the sternum, interrupted a promising year for the 43-year-old Stricker, who is ranked fourth in the world.

Rest accompanied by therapy was the only cure, so Stricker pulled himself off the tour after tying for 30th at the Masters. He didn’t play again until late May at the Colonial. He has played only twice since then, tying for 17th at the Memorial and finishing 15-over at the U.S. Open to tie for 58th.

For the rest of the time, it’s been home sweet home.

"I do a lot of family things, try to do some things with my kids," said Stricker, who has two daughters, ages 4 and 11. "But then, when that’s over, you realize you gotta get back to work."


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