The Masters - Long and short of it, Mickelson feels ready for Masters

Although he has been taken out of his comfort zone for the run-up to the Masters, three-times winner Phil Mickelson appears well armed and dangerous heading into the year's first Major next week at Augusta National.

Reuters

A schedule change on the PGA Tour has given Mickelson an unaccustomed week off before the April 11-14 Masters, but the big lefthander is adapting.

Mickelson is enamoured with a new driver he may unleash at Augusta National and is enjoying restored confidence in his putting with a double-barrel approach to his grip.

Mix in the wisdom of some old study notes he had salted away and the added motivation of a chance to upstage red-hot rival Tiger Woods, and Mickelson has a lot going for him.

In an up-and-down season, Mickelson earned a victory at the Phoenix Open in February and tied for third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship in March and he always seems to perk up for the Masters, where he has 12 top-10 finishes in the last 14 years.

"The game really started to fall into place," he said last weekend at the Houston Open, where he shot 67 and 68 in the last two rounds, respectively, to tie for 16th. "The shots were coming off, whether it was draws or fades, and the game really feels good."

Mickelson gave a hearty thumbs up on Tuesday after test-driving a new driver he may use at Augusta after carrying two three-woods in his bag in Houston.

Putting, of course, can make or break one's fate at Augusta, and Lefty has that concern covered.

He had turned to using a claw hold with his left hand on the putter to remedy a flaw in his putting action and feels the tinkering has paid off.

"I'm very comfortable," he told reporters. "I love the touch that I have on the greens and I'm not abandoning one grip or the other. I love what the claw has done for me. It's put me in a more consistent address position."

Mickelson has gone back to his regular grip, but feels he has the proper fix if bad habits creep back in.

"If my hands continue to get too far forward, I'll go back to the claw right away because it gets me right back in the position to address where I want to be," he said.

"I started to feel much better on the greens, getting a good touch, letting it feed in from the high side, which we'll have to do at Augusta playing the maximum break."

Keeping busy in the run-up week has been a key to Mickelson, who is used to playing the Houston tournament, with its open feel and lack of rough, the week before the Masters to get his juices flowing and hone his game.

This week's Texas Open in San Antonio, which Mickelson said was "windy and tight" and not conducive to getting ready for Augusta.

"It's a very unusual situation here for me. I usually like to play the week before. I haven't taken a week off before the Masters in, I don't know, couple decades, I think."

Mickelson said he looked to the past for guidance.

"(Jack) Nicklaus used to try to peak over the week before and over the weekend and then take a couple days off Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday of the tournaments and try to build back into the tournament at Augusta," said Mickelson.

"I'll have to take a page out of his book, because I'm not used to taking a week off before a Major. It's not my preference.

Asked if he had reached out to Nicklaus, Mickelson said: "Years ago. When I first turned pro, 20 years ago, I asked him about some of the stuff, and I still remember I wrote some of it down, because those guys have some great knowledge."

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