By Frank Pingue
(Reuters) – Phil Mickelson will make his first PGA Tour start since parting ways with his longtime caddie at this week’s Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia, which returns after massive flooding last year forced cancellation of the event.
Mickelson has missed the cut in his three prior Greenbrier appearances but hopes to snap that barren run on the Old White TPC Course in White Sulphur Springs with younger brother Tim on the bag following last month’s split with Jim “Bones” Mackay.
The left-hander, who had Mackay on his bag for all but one of his 42 PGA Tour wins, has played in 15 tournaments this season with four top 10s and is yet to miss a cut.
This week will mark his first start since a ninth-place finish at the St. Jude Classic in early June, but it comes on a course the five-times major winner once described as “brutally difficult.”
Still, Mickelson enjoys the area so much that he owns a home on the property and last year became a member of the Greenbrier Sporting Club plus a Tour ambassador for the resort.
Last year, a mere two weeks before the Greenbrier Classic, a devastating flash flood swept through the area and caused extensive damage to the course that was deemed beyond reasonable repair to conduct the tournament.
Since there was no tournament last year, New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who won the 2015 edition in a four-way playoff for his only PGA Tour win, is the returning champion.
The world number 81, who will be grouped with Mickelson and twice U.S. Masters winner Bubba Watson for the first two rounds, says he has benefited from coaching changes and the addition of a mental coach to his team.
After a share of fifth place at the AT&T Byron Nelson in May, Lee returned a week later to finish sixth at Colonial and then 10 days ago tied for third at the Travelers Championship.
“I had some good finishes, and I got to play in the final group on Colonial. I haven’t been in that situation for a while. I kind of didn’t sleep that well Saturday night,” said Lee.
“But at Travelers I felt a lot better. Then I played great that week all week. I think I’m on the right track to do something great I think.”
(This version of the story has been refiled to add dropped word in lede)
(Reporting by Frank Pingue; Editing by Larry Fine)