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AUGUSTA, GA. (APR. 9, 2017) – Phil Mickelson hit more fairways at The Masters than he averages per week this year on the PGA Tour, but hit fewer greens in regulation, made fewer sand saves and needed more putts. At two over par, he shared 22nd place, seven strokes behind Sergio Garcia, who tipped Justin Rose in a one-hole playoff for his first major championship victory.

The first two days were tough tests in high winds but Phil got through them in good shape, four strokes off the lead after shooting 71-73.

After the second round he said, “I’m really tired. It was obvious there in the end  when I played the last five holes very poorly” – dropping three shots in that span after being two under par through 13.

Still, he felt he was in good position for the weekend, though he did say, “I’ve got to sharpen up my short game.”

Then it got weird.

Saturday he birdied the first two holes and doubled the third. Sunday he eagled the second and again doubled the third, where for the second day he made a surprising short-game gaffe. At the par-3 fourth, he drove well right and over the green into a wall of bushes and played a provisional that was at best visible. He somehow found the first ball and made miraculous bogey. But after a bogey at the seventh he made turn two over par for the day with too big a hill to climb on the inward nine.

Phil was 10 under par on the par-fives for the week but five-over on the front nine and just one-under on the back despite playing the four long holes five-under. Only in the first two rounds did he make the turn under par, both times just one under.

“It’s the greatest week of the year, it’s the greatest day of the year,” Phil said after he finished. “I made a lot of mistakes this week, I didn’t play the way I wanted to, but this weekend the course was just perfect in that the pins were gettable, you could make some birdies, the weather was nice. The greens were a little bit quicker, a little bit firmer than they had been, and I just thought it set itself up for a terrific weekend.

“I didn’t play the way I wanted to, but I got off to a great start yesterday and today, two under through 2 and then that third hole had my lunch.”

Humble, TX (April 2, 2017) – Twelve years ago the Tournament Course at the Golf Club of Houston, home to the Shell Houston Open, was designed by Rees Jones with help from David Toms. Soon after that, the course greenskeepers were dispatched to Augusta National and returned with identical grass types, growing and mowing patterns. It was love at first sight for Phil Mickelson.

“I think playing here really helps me,” Phil said after his three-birdie, three-bogey opening round. “Helps me to get sharp so that I don’t have a day like this next Thursday, that I get focused and dialed in a lot easier when I only have three days in between tournament rounds rather than ten days or more. I like the fact the course is set up similarly. Certainly the fairways and the first cut are much like Augusta.”

Except that many of the narrower fairways in Houston are dotted or lined with water hazards on one or both sides. Phil hit a few foul balls through the week, but his iron play, usually a strength, was the surprising disappointment. He had played at Augusta the Monday and Tuesday of Shell week and did some good work there.

But after Friday’s round his second 72 he said, “I haven’t been quite that sharp where I’m hitting it, 20 feet instead of 6 feet.”

Phil ended the tournament, Shell’s last as sponsor and possibly the last stop for the Tour at Champions, in a tie for 55th place. Still, in the 11 years since it modeled Augusta National’s signature features, Phil leads all contestants in most rounds under par (27), is second overall in birdies and is 65 under par for the event.

Now it’s on to Augusta this week for Phil’s most cherished event on one of his favorite courses, one he knows as well as anybody and better than most, where he’s won three times, where his focus is sharpest.

“I’m looking forward to it,” he said. “I’ll get some rest, go through my routine, and be ready on Thursday.”

(March 26, 2016) — Phil Mickelson loves match play and he’s a fan of the host course, Austin (TX) Country Club, but the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play hasn’t loved him back. He didn’t make it out of pool play in the debut event last year. This time around things looked much more promising.

Seeded 14th, Phil was paired with No. 63 Si Woo Kim in the first of three matches in the opening round of pool play. He took the lead with a birdie on the second hole and was 4-up through No. 7 with his fourth birdie before winning 5-up with his sixth birdie in 15 holes.

It was more of the same in the second round against Daniel Berger, when Phil birdied the first two holes, was 4-up after nine and went on to win 5-up on a concession at the 14th. Ditto the third match with J.B. Holmes: 2-up after two holes, 4-up through 9 and a 6&5 win after 13 on a windy day.

“I think it’s a fun challenge,” said Phil. “If you hit some good shots, you can be rewarded. There are some birdie holes out here, but there are also some difficult holes.”

Phil had played 42 holes in three days, had won 18 of them, nine with birdies, and never trailed after a first-hole halve in the first match.

The tables turned in his quarterfinal match when Bill Hass birdied the first, was 3-up through nine and won 2-up after Phil made no bogeys but won only two holes with birdies.

“Bill played some great golf,” said Phil. “I had some opportunities to match him on a number of holes and didn’t do it, couldn’t get the putts to fall as they had been earlier.

“But I’m playing well and I’m looking forward to Houston and the Masters, playing my best and getting sharp. If I can do that it’ll give me an opportunity to win the Masters.”

(Mar. 5, 2017) – Phil Mickelson shared seventh place in the WGC-Mexico Championship Sunday at 10 under par, four strokes behind winner and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson. It was Phil’s best finish of the season, his second top-10 in seven starts, and moved him up four spots to No. 19 in the world.

Going into the event at Chapultepec Golf Club in Mexico City, perched at something more than 7,500 feet above sea level, the challenge figured to be controlling distances with the irons into often elevated and always sloped and tiered greens.

Phil, whose career forte has been his iron play, embraced it.

“I really enjoy that challenge, I’m having fun with it,” he said after sharing first place Thursday with a 67. “I hit a lot of good iron shots and I drove the ball pretty well, too, which allowed me to play a number of holes aggressively.”

Caddy Jim Mackay didn’t enjoy Friday so much. Stricken with food poisoning, he had to give up the bag after three holes to Phil’s brother, Tim.

“Sickest I’ve been in a long time,” said Mackay, who underwent double-knee surgery in October but rallied to return to work by mid-January and hadn’t missed a day since the 1999 Ryder Cup in Spain.

Unfortunately for Phil, he hit just four fairways Saturday, which he started in second place and finished in third.

I’m a little disappointed because I know that I have been playing so well coming into this week,” he said. “To come out today and totally lose it is very disappointing. I fought hard to stay in it.”

It wasn’t much better Sunday, when he found only six fairways and nine greens in regulation, but managed to shoot par-71 after playing the front nine three-over.

“This is a good tournament for me to build off of,” Phil said afterward. “It was disappointing yesterday, but to come back and play a good solid back nine and get a little bit of momentum now, I’m looking forward to the upcoming stretch.”

He plans to take two weeks off and start his run-up to the Masters with the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin, TX, and the Shell Houston Open. n.

Pacific Palisades, CA (Dec. 19, 2017) – It’s a rare thing to watch Phil Mickelson play dull round on the PGA Tour. He makes “Did you see that?” birdies and “What the heck happened there?” bogeys, more of the later than the former of course, but both happen.

At the Genesis Open last week at Riviera Country Club, as is often the case, Phil Mickelson led field in prompting fans to wonder what Phil would do next. As usual, the answer was, “Gee, hadn’t thought of that.”

Early in the week the Phil and Amy Mickelson Foundation received a generous gift from the Los Angeles-based Don Levin Foundation to help the Mickelsons’ long-standing support of the PGA Tour’s Birdies for the Brave program, one he helped bring to fruition more than a decade ago.

“We’re thankful and humbled by the Levin Foundation’s generous gift,” said Phil, who pledged to continue “to develop initiatives that are consistent with our past efforts to improve the lives of those in need.

It was also announced that Phil Mickelson Design has volunteered its services to design a new practice facility for Phil’s alma mater, Arizona State University, in a public-private partnership to upgrade nearby Papago Park Golf Club.

“This is going to be the best practice facility in the nation,” said Mickelson, ASU ’92, and a three-time NCAA champion. “Our design goal is to provide the foundation for the collegiate player to improve in every area of his or her game.”

The third highlight of the week, for Phil anyway, was having daughter Amanda score a buzzer-beating three-point shot to send her high school team into the San Diego Section CIF basketball playoffs.

The water-logged Genesis Open was Phil’s sixth consecutive event, his longest run since opening the 2013 season with five straight. And that pre-season didn’t include weeks away from the game due to two sports hernia operations as was the case late in 2016. In the first and last rounds Phil dropped a total of nine shots on his closing nines and ultimately finished joint 34th. Huh?

Asked Sunday for his assessment of the week, Phil said, “It was OK. It’s encouraging in some areas, discouraging in others so I’ll have some things to build on and to work on in the coming weeks. I knew that in the first couple of weeks I wasn’t quite ready, but I expected a little more out of my game the last couple of weeks.

“The areas that I usually excel in, lag putting, basic chips, I’m throwing away a lot of shots that I shouldn’t be throwing away.  I’m doing the hard things well but the easy things I’m not doing so well, so I’ll have to work on that.”

Nobody saw that coming either, or should expect to see more of it.