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January 20 2013

8:50 PM

Mickelson pleased by steady progress

By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson was disappointed that he didn't have a chance to win the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation for the third time on Sunday.

Shoot, he had to battle just to survive the 54-hole cut -- making birdie on two of his last three holes Saturday to assure himself of a tee time in the final round. At the same time, though, Mickelson did see the kind of steady improvement that sent him back home to San Diego for the Farmers Insurance Open in a positive frame of mind.

"I was rusty starting the year, and I had a great four days here where I can work on my game with perfect weather and wonderful golf courses, where I could build some momentum," Mickelson said. "... I feel a lot more confident in my game. I feel like I'm starting to play well, hit some putts on line. ... 
 
"So hopefully I'll be able to make a run on the weekend here next week, because that's what's exciting, is having a chance to win. Although I played well, I played better as the week wore on, not having an opportunity on Sunday, that's not fun.'

Mickelson opened his 2013 campaign with a 72 on a day when he called his putting "atrocious." But he rebounded with a 67 Friday and threw out a pair of 66s on the weekend -- the latter of which he called a "pretty easy round of 6 under.

"I hit the ball well and didn't have too many big misses," Mickelson said. "I feel like I had pretty good control of my ball off the tee, distance control with the irons.  Hit a lot of good, solid putts, but left a lot of shots out there still. And I'll have to work on that heading into the next two weeks."

Mickelson tends to set the tone for his season on the West Coast each year. He has won 21 of his 40 titles before the PGA TOUR heads to the Florida -- and defends the last of those in two weeks at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

To continue to prosper, though, Mickelson says he needs to get into more of a "scoring" mode. He doesn't want to let shots slip away like he did on several occasions this week. 

"I can't be three-putting putts for eagle, which I did three or four times this week,' Mickelson said. "I can't be not getting up and down shots that are pretty easy to get up and down.  Little strokes here and there I can't be throwing those away if I want to be in contention. But the game itself feels really good."

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