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Masters 2017: Like Jack Nicklaus, Phil Mickelson hopes to prove 46 is just a number

By Jim Litke
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AUGUSTA, Ga. — Jack Nicklaus compared his sixth and last Masters title at age 46 to catching lightning in a bottle. If Phil Mickelson has his way, he'll put an end to the myth that lightning never strikes the same place twice.

"I don't think much about age right now," said Mickelson, a three-time Masters champion who turns 47 in June. "I think that guys' careers are being extended a lot longer because of the way fitness has taken over.

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"And it's not like I'm a pillar of fitness," he chuckled, "but I spend a decent enough time to be able to physically perform and practice and play the way I'd like to play. You look at guys like (59-year-old) Bernhard Langer who was in the second-to-last group last year — I don't feel as though age is as big a factor as it was decades ago."

No less an authority than Nicklaus himself believes Lefty may be onto something.

"Phil is far better prepared than I (was). I don't think he's probably playing his best golf right now but sometimes that changes very quickly," Nicklaus said. "Honestly, age is not an issue to him. He's a big guy and he's a long guy and he's got a great short game. I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find him in contention."

One other thing tilting in Mickelson's favor is the weather. Overcast skies and winds gusting up to 40 mph are forecast for the first two rounds.

"That's going to magnify the misses for a lot of players, which means that you need to miss it in the correct spots," Mickelson said. "Even though you might miss it big, if you're in the right spot, you can take advantage of your short game and salvage a lot of pars ... where players less experienced with the golf course will possibly miss it in the wrong spots and shoot themselves out."

Mickelson might have included himself in that last group a dozen years ago, when he was wore the "best-player-never-to-win-a-major" label like a scarlet letter. But after going 0 for 42 in the biggest events of an otherwise successful career, his breakthrough win came at Augusta National in 2004. Now, he's viewed by the up-and-coming generation as one of the game's wise, old heads with a five majors in the trophy case.

What hasn't changed is Mickelson's desire.

"I think the last year and a half, I've worked really hard to get my game back to the level that I expect and the level that I've strived for," he said. "If I can play anywhere close to the way I played at the British Open last year and The Ryder Cup, I should be able to give myself a good opportunity for Sunday."

This article was written by Jim Litke from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.