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Even in the tough conditions, said Phil Mickelson, good scores were out there. (Heathcote/Getty Images)

Mickelson calls course set-up tough but fair

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Phil Mickelson had plenty of compliments for Royal Birkdale Sunday, even after tying for 19th place. The week was, however, one of the most difficult he's ever endured.

SOUTHPORT, England (PA) - World No. 2 Phil Mickelson praised Royal Birkdale as a fair test despite struggling to a 14-over-par total of 294.

The left-hander was the highest-ranked player in the field after Tiger Woods' withdrawal and came into the tournament as one of the favorites to win his first Open Championship in his 16th attempt.

"It has been a very fair test," said Mickelson, who tied for 19th place with rounds of 79, 68 and 76 preceding his closing 71. "The course was set up fair and even in the conditions there was a score out there.

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"You could make birdies on some holes and fight for pars on others. There was enough room to play," he explained. "This is what the R&A wants, to test players in adverse conditions and have a course that's set up fair."

The test may have been fair, but the three-time major winner also reckoned it was one of the toughest weeks he has experienced.

"Consistently day in, day out it has been as challenging as I have played in for four days," he said after his final round. "We had times like this at Muirfield in 2002 when the wind would come up even stronger, but consistently this has been one of the hardest ones."

Mickelson admitted his putting let him down here and at last week's Barclays Scottish Open, where he finished tied for 38th.

"The positives I take are that I probably hit it better in the wind than I ever have," he said. "I didn't capitalize on some of the shots I hit. I really struggled on the greens and consequently my score wasn't what I would have liked."

Mickelson has only once finished in the top-10 in golf's oldest major, when he came third at Royal Troon in 2004.

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