Mickelson says winning Players more satisfying than being No. 1 in ranking

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Phil Mickelson, now fourth in the world, could go to No. 1 with a win at Sawgrass.
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Published: Tuesday, May 10, 2011 | 6:18 p.m.

Phil Mickelson gave the Players Championship -- golf's richest event -- his seal of approval on Tuesday and said the absence of Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy didn’t change his view of it.

"Everybody has got their own personal deal, but I disagree with their thought process," said Mickelson when asked about the two European stars -- first and sixth in the world -- not bothering to play at Sawgrass.

"I feel like since I've been out on tour that this is one of the tournaments that I would like to win the most right along with the majors," added Mickelson, who won it in 2007.

Westwood's no-show gives Mickelson yet another chance to become world No. 1 for the first time in his career, but once again he has played that down.

"It's certainly what everybody strives for, but it's not really something that's on the forefront of anybody's minds,” Mickelson said. "I think the most important thing is to win tournaments and to compete in a tournament like this week, play against the best players.

"There's a lot more satisfaction over beating the best players in the world on a challenging test like this than there is to say you're ranked 'X' on the world rankings."

Luke Donald could also take the No. 1 position by winning, while German Martin Kaymer could move back there with a top-2 finish. But the top spot is out of reach for the returning Tiger Woods, who during his injury layoff since the Masters has dropped to eighth. A victory wouldonly get Woods back up to fourth place.

Mickelson was also asked if he felt the clock ticking on the time he has left to achieve all that he wants to.

"I don't feel that way -- and I don't feel that way because I see some things in my game that are starting to get better and better,” he said. "I really know what it is I'm trying to do on the greens now, my short game has been sharp, my driving has been much better.

"I feel like I'm driving the ball straighter than I ever have and I'm excited to put that into play,” he explained. "My mindset changes after Augusta. It's not distance any more, it's 'got to get the ball in the fairway'. I see my game getting better, I welcome the challenge and I think that there's a lot of opportunity for me to still have a lot of success here."