By Pete Iacobelli
The Associated Press
AUGUSTA, Ga. — One of the last golfers you’d expect to feel anxious heading into the Masters is three-time champion Phil Mickelson.
Yet, the creature of habit is slightly out of sorts after a change to his usual routine at the year’s first major, and it’s left Lefty a bit apprehensive about his first tee shot Thursday when the Masters starts.
“I’m nervous because I haven’t been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open,” Mickelson said Tuesday. “It will be 10, 11 days, I guess, and that’s what I’m nervous about.”
Mickelson’s pre-game prep for the Masters has been rock-solid in recent years: Play in Houston and leave in a good, competitive frame of mind coming into Augusta National. In this year’s PGA Tour schedule, though, the last Masters tuneup came in San Antonio at the Valero Texas Open on a layout Mickelson said was too narrow and too windy to help him at wide-open Augusta National so he arrived here this past weekend to finish off his prep work.
Mickelson worked on his putting and short-game “because that’s so important,” he said.
He even found time to squeeze in a round with one of Augusta National’s newest members, former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. Rice and South Carolina financier Darla Moore became the club’s first two female members.
Mickelson didn’t want to re-open Augusta National’s former males-only heritage, saying he doesn’t enjoy the politics that sometimes come with golf.
“I tried that earlier in the year,” he said. “It didn’t go so well, so I’m good.”
In January, Mickelson created a stir by saying new federal and state tax rates kept him from being part of the San Diego Padres’ new ownership group and might cause him to move away from his native California as part of “drastic changes” brought on by the political climate. He later called it a “big mistake” to take his views public.
What’s there for all to see is Mickelson’s love of the Masters. He earned his first of his four career major title here in 2004.
Mickelson says he’s got a comfort with the layout that gives him confidence he can make a mistake and remain in contention, unlike the punishing course setups he’s seen at U.S. Opens.
“I think that’s what’s exciting about Augusta National is the recovery shot,” he said.
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