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Beach boys Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler know the way around round round links course . . .

The Beach Boys would be croaking with despair.

Phil Mickelson finds his way out of the rough at Royal Aberdeen but the American remains confident that  he has developed his game enough to cope with the demands of links golf. Pictures: Colin Mearns
Phil Mickelson finds his way out of the rough at Royal Aberdeen but the American remains confident that he has developed his game enough to cope with the demands of links golf. Pictures: Colin Mearns

All those sunny serenades about Surfin' Safaris, Little Deuce Coupes and California Girls and here were two of their ain' folk extolling the virtues of meteorological misery.

It is a long way from the west coast of America to the north east of Scotland but, ahead of the Aberdeen Asset Management Scottish Open, Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler seem to be revelling in the process of acclimatising . . . or getting "acclimated" as Mickelson uttered countless times.

With those healthy, gleaming Californian beams that look like they have both taken out stocks and shares in the tooth enamel industry, Mickelson and Fowler are on a mission here at Royal Aberdeen.

Their sunny disposition was mirrored by the lovely conditions yesterday, although there were signs of the menace to come as the wind grew in strength and gusts of up to 30mph for the pre-tournament pro-am added an additional layer of mischief to the abundant rigours of the exacting Balgownie links.

The forecast for the actual tournament, meanwhile, should pose a fair few questions for those teeing up. Clouds here, showers there, winds coming from everywhere. It will be the usual giddy mix of a Scottish summer.

Having found that missing link on the links during that astonishing, rampaging fortnight a year ago when he won both the Scottish Open and the Open, Mickelson will be in his element whatever the elements. "We're supposed to get some terrible weather . . . and I'm looking forward to it," said the defending champion with the gushing enthusiasm of Michael Fish poring over a chart of tightly packed isobars. "I would love to get out in that rough stuff and play. I never get that chance back home and I've actually started to play pretty well in it over the years."

Mickelson's inventive, instinctive approach to the game continues to woo those who watch him and the craft, vision and strategy required to master links golf has been developed meticulously over the seasons. "One of the first things I started to do, maybe back in 2003, was to just start 150 yards back on the fairway and take a 5-iron and run the ball along the ground to see where it ended up," he reflected. "A lot of holes will funnel into a certain spot and you can find that along the ground instead of fighting the wind and hitting penetrating shots through thick, heavy air.

"It was about working on controlling my distances and hitting wedges without spin and that carried over into my short irons, middle irons and ultimately my long game. Now, after learning how to take more club and swing it easier, I'm not fighting it as I'm not having to make full aggressive swings. If you're hitting to a 100-yard pin, it's much easier to hit a little 5-iron than it is to hit a full wedge. Appreciating that was the real turning point."

The turning point would become the high point last year, of course, when he knocked off that dazzling double whammy on UK soil. So far, the 2014 campaign has had an after the Lord Mayor's show feel about it. Apart from a second-place finish in the European Tour's Abu Dhabi Championship in January, the 44-year-old has not posted a top-10 on his PGA Tour duties. As ever with upbeat Phil, it's been a 'fun' year, though, and having the Claret Jug in his possession has helped matters.

"It's been interesting to see  the emotional response that people get when they hold it or drink out of it," he said of his year as Open champion. "They appreciate it and realise what a privilege it is to be able to hold it. I'm hopeful I'll have a chance to have it for another year sometime soon . . . if not this year."

Perhaps it could be Fowler's year? Tied fifth in the Masters and second at the US Open, the 25-year-old has certainly been knocking on the major door. The challenges over the next couple of weeks will be right up his street. Far from being a fair-weather golfer, Fowler has the ability to up the ante when the going gets tough.

In the Open of 2011 at Royal St George's, for instance, many were blown off course during a torrid third round but Fowler showed his mettle and harnessed the boisterous conditions with a fine 68 that propelled him up the field and eventually led to a fifth-place finish.

"I looked at that Saturday at St George's as a challenge," recalled Fowler, who is making his debut in the Scottish showpiece this week. "I think some guys don't exactly take it the right way. You have to go in with the right frame of mind. The weather was the worst I'd ever played in: brutal but fun."

Fowler's passion for the links game, and golf on this side of the big pond, stems from his amateur days when he played for a US college team against their European counterparts in the 2008 Palmer Cup at Gailes Links in Ayrshire. It was a taste of the real thing and an opportunity to test out the tricks of the trade that he had been honing during his formative years back home.

"I grew up on a driving range that was basically just a bare piece of land and you had to use your imagination to learn how to hit shots," reflected the two-time PGA Tour winner and Ryder Cup player who made his Open debut at St Andrews in 2010. "You just had to create your own golf shot and hit it. After initially playing links golf and having played well in a couple of Open Championships, I think this is my best chance at a major."

Whatever the weather throws down over the next fortnight, it seems these golfing Californian Beach Boys will continue to have a ball.

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