Sports

Mickelson feels comfortable at Augusta National

AUGUSTA — Phil Mickelson certainly hasn’t played his best golf going into the Masters this year.

And like his rival Tiger Woods, Mickelson arrives at Augusta National Golf Club following some turbulence in his family life. Of course, Mickelson’s rough stretch at home had nothing to do with any malfeasance on his part, but rather the struggles of his mother and wife’s breast cancer fights.

Mickelson, however, doesn’t feel bad about his chances to win his third Masters and fourth major championship overall despite having just one top-10 finish this year.

“There’s something that relaxes me about this golf course, because I don’t feel like I have to be perfect,” Mickelson said. “I don’t feel like I have to strike it great. As long as I can control my misses and put it where I can get up-and-down, I can let my short game save me strokes here and there.”

Getting back to Augusta has been comforting for Mickelson, who has gone through a tumultuous 10 months following his wife’s diagnosis of breast cancer. He took some time off before returning to play at the U.S. Open in July, where he finished second to Lucas Glover at Bethpage Black.

Mickelson took off another six weeks — including skipping the British Open — following his mother’s diagnosis. After returning to golf later in the year, Mickelson won The Tour Championship at East Lake in Atlanta.

While he was away from the game, his wife had successful surgery and has an optimistic prognosis.

“We are OK long term,” Mickelson said. “But day-to-day has been difficult, and the medicines and so forth have been challenging and has made the quality of life not what we (want). Hopefully we are trying to work on that and make it better.”

Mickelson has just one top-10 finish since returning to the tour in late January. His best finish this year came in a tie for eighth at Pebble Beach on Valentine’s Day. He tied for 35th at last week’s Houston Open.

“There are times where I have performed well (at the Masters) where I’ve had a poor performance missing the (cut) the week before,” he said. “I missed the cut last year (before the Masters and then finished fifth), and I missed the cut in 2003 and finished third (at the Masters).”

Mickelson hasn’t truly had a poor showing at Augusta since 1997, the last time he missed the cut. He has finished in the top 10 in 10 out of the past 12 Masters. That stretch includes seven top-five finishes, with wins in 2004 and 2006. He finished third from 2001-03.

“The reason why I’ve had success in the past is there are places where you can miss it and still make it on every hole; there are places where you can still get up-and-down and salvage par,” he said. “So I don’t feel like I have to have my perfect game ball-striking to be able to go around this course and shoot in the 60s, and I think that’s why I enter this tournament with a lot less stress.”

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