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    • Mickelson confident as PGA Championship nears

    • Phil Mickelson signs autographs for fans before a practice round at Valhalla Golf Club. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images) Phil Mickelson signs autographs for fans before a practice round at Valhalla Golf Club. (Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

    LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Welcome to Phil Mickelson's world.

    After Saturday's third round of the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational, he was so frustrated by the overall state of his game that Mickelson said bluntly "it would be out of nowhere for me to play well."

    Less than 24 hours later, nowhere could be found at Firestone Country Club where the affable lefthander put the finishing touches on a 62 that included 10 birdies and vaulted him 29 spots up the leaderboard into a tie for 15th.

    Not that we should really be surprised. Such has often been the case during Mickelson's career. His fortunes can turn on a dime, and the World Golf Hall of Famer has the mental strength to maintain perspective -- can you say 'glass half full?' -- as he awaits the inevitable upturn.

    "It's been 20-plus years and things are just that way," Mickelson said with a shrug. "Rather than question it or try to find an answer, I just accept it as being the way it is and look forward to it when it does happen. It's fun when it does.

    "It's just kind of the way I play golf. I'm streaky and I'll get on rolls and get some good momentum and all of a sudden the hole looks like it's huge, and then there are days where it's just the opposite. It's just the way it's always been for me."

    Mickelson enters the PGA Championship this week seeking what would be his sixth major title -- and yet at the same time, his first top-10 finish of the season. He left Augusta National frustrated after missing the cut and tied for 28th and 23rd at the U.S. Open and in his title defense at The Open Championship, respectively.

    Finding any modicum of momentum has proven extremely difficult for Mickelson, both during a tournament, as well as over the course of the year. Last weekend at Firestone marked just the second time this year he has posted consecutive rounds in the 60s, and all but 16 of his 58 rounds have been at 70 or above.

    Hence, the importance of Sunday's 62.


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    "In this game, things can turn around really in an instant," Mickelson said. "We see guys miss cuts and then put together four great rounds and win a golf tournament. It happens all the time."

    While Mickelson doesn't want to place too much importance on that one round at Firestone, there is no denying his confidence received a much-needed boost. Not to mention, the rhythm returned to those short irons Mickelson had termed "pathetic" on Saturday, and the putter cooperated, as well.

    "It's a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round," Mickelson said. "... The way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well and wedge play started to get good, short irons got better and just really two days prior, it was just horrific.

    "So it was an important day for me."

    And not a moment too soon, either.

    After making every U.S. Presidents Cup and Ryder Cup team on his own merit since 1994, Mickelson's inconsistent play has seen him fall outside the automatic qualifiers for Tom Watson's team. Only the top nine players at the end of the PGA qualify to play the Europeans at Gleneagles next month and Mickelson ranks 10th in the U.S. Ryder Cup standings right now.

    Points are based on money earned -- and doubled at majors like the PGA. Mickelson trails Zach Johnson, the current bubble boy, at No. 9 by 182,552 points but he remains confident he won't have to entice Watson to use one of his three picks.

    "I really do believe that after the way I played on the weekend, I think I'll continue that play into this week and I'm confident that I'll get on the team on my own and won't require that pick," Mickelson said.

    "I want to keep that streak going of two decades that I have."

    And start another one entering the FedExCup Playoffs.

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