Phil Mickelson wll be hoping this week to become the first player to successfully defend the Scottish Open. Photo: Andrew Redington

Aberdeen – Five-time major winner Phil Mickelson admits it will be a sad occasion when he returns the Claret Jug next week at Royal Liverpool, the venue for his British Open defence.

Mickelson is firstly defending this week’s Scottish Open at Royal Aberdeen on the east coast of Scotland before handing back the Claret Jug.

Since being handed golf’s most recognised trophy nearly a year ago Mickelson admits he has enjoyed more than anything the reaction to those holding and admiring the famed silver trophy.

“It has been a fun year with the Claret Jug, and it’s been really interesting to see the emotional response of people that get to hold it or drink out of it and how much they appreciate it and appreciate what a great trophy that is,” he said.

“It’s been really fun. I’ve taken it to some of the courses that I’m a member at back in San Diego and left it there while I go play in the locker room and guys will take pictures of it and take sips out of it, and people that really appreciate the game of golf understand and know what a privilege it is to be able to hold it.

“And it’s been fun and I’m sad to give it back but I’m also hopeful that I’ll have a chance to have it for another year sometime soon, if not this one.”

Mickelson this week will be looking to become the first player to successfully defend the Scottish Open he won last year at Castle Stuart near Inverness.

Ranked No 13 in the world, Mickelson is among 23 players lying inside the top-60 who will tee up in the 3-million pound event.

Included in the field is fellow Americans Jimmy Walker, Rickie Fowler, Ryan Palmer and Kevin Stadler, who let slip victory in last week’s French Open.

And given Mickelson’s efforts in winning last year the back-to-back Scottish Open and British Open, it has led to one of the strongest Scottish Open fields for some time.

“I’ve been over in Europe with the family now for two weeks already, and I’m acclimated to the time and enjoying my time here and looking forward to playing some golf,” he said.

“I love these two events. They were two of the most memorable events of my career arguably last year. Having my family here, spending the two weeks here, and winning both events was something I’ll always cherish.

“Walking up the 18th hole at Muirfield last year knowing I had the tournament in the grasp was really the greatest feeling to be able to take advantage of that moment and not have to grind it out but really enjoy the walk.

“I’ll always remember that, and it’s a very emotional time for me.” – Sapa-AFP