As his game improves, Phil Mickelson's confidence is returning

By Tom D'Angelo
Published on

PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. -- Phil Mickelson is back.

After a rough two years in which he totaled four Top 10 finishes, Mickelson has regained his confidence and says he's having more fun playing golf than he has in years.

All of which, he believes, will end his drought of 54 tournaments without a victory that dates back to the 2013 British Open.

"(My game's) gone through a difficult time for a couple of years," Mickelson said Wednesday from PGA National after playing in the Honda Classic Cares Pro-Am. "And the fact that I'm playing well again, I'm in contention and I'm hitting shots with ease -- I'm showing up at the golf course not trying to find something but continue refining what I'm already doing.

"It's a different feeling when I show up."

Mickelson will seek to end that drought at the Honda Classic starting Thursday when he tees off from the 10th tee at 7:45 a.m. Mickelson, No. 20 in the rankings, is one of 11 world top 20 players in the field.

"The course is looking real good," said Jupiter resident Rory McIlroy, the highest ranked player in field at No. 3. "It's looking as good as it has ever, or since they redid a few of the holes a couple of years ago and re-laid the fairways."

Mickelson, 45, returns to Honda for the third consecutive season after skipping the event from 2003-13. He missed the cut in 2014 and finished tied for 17th last year.

But 2016 has started much better for the man known as "Lefty." He is coming off a second place finish at Pebble Beach two weeks ago after starting his season with a third-place tie at the CareerBuilder Challenge in La Quinta, Calif.

In four starts, Mickelson has matched his 2015 total (19 tournaments) of one second-place and one third-place finish. His earnings of $1,207,100 are more than half of the $2,154,200 he took home last year.

Mickelson's runner-up finish at Pebble Beach was bitter-sweet after he rimmed out a 5-foot birdie putt that would have forced a playoff with Vaughn Taylor.

"Whether I won or lost the tournament I was still using it as a steppingstone for the rest of the year for where my game has gone," Mickelson said. "It's not really affecting the confidence that I have or the direction that I feel like my game is going."

Mickelson's victory in the 2013 British Open was his 42nd on the PGA Tour. Since, he has as many missed cuts (7) as he has top 10 finishes (6).

Mickelson skipped last week's Northern Trust Open at Riviera for a ski vacation with his family. He was back on the course Sunday with new coach Andrew Getson to continue working on his game.

Mickelson began working with Getson this year after parting ways with longtime instructor Butch Harmon. He says the most notable difference has been in his driving. Mickelson has hit 61 percent of his fairways compared to 56 percent in 2015, which is more than a fairway per round.

This will mark just the sixth time Mickelson has played in Honda, third since it moved to PGA National. His highest finish is tied for 11th in 2002 when it was at Heron Bay in Coral Springs. He would use this time in the past as an off week after playing on the West Coast. But with his kids' school break coming during the West Coast swing in recent years, Mickelson has returned to play Honda.

"I feel like I'm probably where I expected to be," Mickelson said. "And I was nervous about the first month, how the results were going to go. Was I going to play at the level that I thought I was ready to play at?

"And now that I am, now that I'm in contention, now that I feel much calmer and more relaxed playing and showing up on the golf course, I know that it's a matter of time."

This article was written by Tom D'Angelo from The Palm Beach Post and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.