Mickelson opened with a 1-under 71 Thursday at Augusta National. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson isn't known for being conservative on the golf course.
He was Thursday, and it cost him -- at least a few shots, anyway.
Mickelson shot a 1-under 71 and trails by five after the opening round of the Masters, where he is looking for his fourth career Green Jacket and second since 2010.
"I thought I would come out a little bit passive and tentative and I did," Mickelson said. "I didn't feel great starting out or confident."
Most of that stemmed from some recent struggles that included a 79 and a missed cut at Bay Hill.
Mickelson also hadn't played since the Shell Houston Open two weeks ago. He typically prefers to play the week before a major.
"It was a round where it didn't help me much," he said of Thursday. "But it certainly didn't hurt me."
What did were three bogeys in his first seven holes.
"I didn't hit my irons good, I didn't hit anything good, " he said. "I don't want to put much stock in the front."
The back nine was a different story, mostly, with Mickelson making four birdies in a five-hole stretch between Nos. 12 and 16.
But he also struggled with the pace of the greens, which were slower than normal on an overcast day with a heavy air hanging over Augusta National.
"Consequently we have 45 people at par or better," Mickelson said. "That means that I've got to change my whole mindset and just get after these pins, because the ball's not running like it used to.
"I'm giving this course way too much respect because of my past knowledge than the way I should be playing it."
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A line of thunderstorms spanning as far north as Kentucky and as far south as southern Louisiana is barreling toward Augusta National. The expected arrival time: Approximately 4 p.m. ET.
In the meantime, here's a look at a few afternoon groups to keep an eye on as they'll try to get in as much golf as they can before the heavy stuff hits.
Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia, Angel Cabrera, 12:57 p.m.: Scott has fared well here the last couple of years, tying for eighth in 2012 and second in 2011. The latter was Scott's best finish in a major at the time, and he held the lead by himself while playing the 71st hole. Then Charl Schwartzel birdied the last four holes to win by two. Garcia, meanwhile, famously said a year ago here that he doesn't think he will ever win a major. He's softened his stance since, but he has just two career top 10s here, the last of which came in 2004 when he tied for fourth. Cabrera has won a major -- three of them -- including this one in 2009.
Phil Mickelson, Louis Oosthuizen, Martin Kaymer, 1:30 p.m.: It's not a driver, it's not quite a 3-wood, it's a Phrankenwood. Mickelson never disappoints when he comes here, one way or the other, and this year is no different with a special club in his bag that's part driver, part 3-wood. He's also won here three times before. Oosthuizen lost to Bubba Watson in a playoff here last year, and he comes in off a 10th-place finish in Houston. He's also played well on the European Tour, winning the Volvo Champions in January.
Rory McIlroy, Keegan Bradley, Freddie Jacobson, 1:41 p.m.: Bradley has been a popular pick in various Masters pools in the press room and with good reason. Bradley, who two years ago won his first major at the PGA Championship, arrives here off four straight top 10s, including a tie for fourth at PGA National and a tie for third at Bay Hill. McIlroy, on the other hand, has had his ups-and-downs but seems to be trending in the right direction after a 65 at Doral and a runner-up in San Antonio.
In three of Tiger Woods' four wins, he led the field in greens in regulation. (Redington/Getty Images)
By Bryan Mullen, PGATOUR.COM
When it comes to how Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson claim their Masters victories, they are more statistically similar than one might assume. They hit about the same number of fairways, they are both even on par 3s during their victorious years and they dominate the par 5s.
But there is one part of the game where they distinctly differ, and it comes around the greens.
In three of Woods’ four victories, he led the field in greens in regulation. The only year he won and did not lead that category was in 2005, but he still finished second in greens hit.
In Mickelson’s three wins, he finished first in greens in regulation only once (2004), but finished an average of 11th place in scrambling, including second in 2004. Last year at Augusta, he was first in scrambling and finished tied for third. It is another example of Mickelson’s well-known ability to get up and down from anywhere.
Woods finished an average of 21st in scrambling during his Masters wins, but was so commanding in hitting greens that scrambling was rarely an issue.
Phil Mickelson has won three of the last nine events at Augusta National. (Ehrmann/Getty Images)
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
EQUIPMENT: Will Phil's new 'Phrankenwood' give him an edge?
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Confident. Excited. Rarin' to go. Now those are words you normally associate with Phil Mickelson on the veritable eve of the Masters Tournament.
Not nervous. Not even one little bit.
But that's exactly how Phil Mickelson described his state of mind on Tuesday. For just the second time since 1998, the three-time Masters champion has come to Augusta National after taking the previous week off rather than competing.
Mickelson altered his schedule this year because the Valero Texas Open made a one-year appearance on the PGA TOUR calendar as the lead-up event to the Masters. The Shell Houston Open normally occupies the spot and has become known for trying to simulate Augusta National conditions, particularly around the green complexes at Redstone Golf Club, which was just to Mickelson's liking.
Conditions at TPC San Antonio, though, can often be windy and the course is much tighter than Augusta National. Mickelson, who won the Shell Houston Open in 2011, was worried that conditions would be the "exact opposite" of how he wants to prepare for the Masters.
"I want to hit it long and far and not worry about accuracy as much," he explained. "I want to flight the ball up in the air to get the ball soft as opposed to down to keep it out of the wind."
So Mickelson decided to take the week off. He came to Augusta on Friday and spent three days putting in the hours on the state-of-the-art practice facility as well as getting reacquainted with the masterpiece of Alister Mackenzie and Bobby Jones.
"The course is very close to tournament setup, and so I'm hopeful that I'll get off to a good start and take that preparation and shoot a low score," said said Mickelson, who tied for 24th in 2007, which was the last time he played the Masters after an off week.
"But I am a little bit nervous."
Mickelson, though, has taken what he calls "scrupulous notes" during his 20 previous Masters appearances. He knows where he can be aggressive and which pins put a premium on par. He takes comfort in the fact that he can rely on his vaunted short game for the occasional recovery shot.
"And knowing that, I relax, because I don't have to be perfect," Mickelson said. "It's not like the U.S. Open where if you make one little mistake, it's costing you one or two shots because you don't have the ability to recover."
That said, Mickelson wasn't able to recover from a triple bogey on the par-3 fourth hole a year ago on Sunday as he finished two strokes shy of winning a fourth Green Jacket. He was disappointed but he still relished the challenge.
"I think that what makes the Masters so exciting is having an opportunity to win; playing the back nine with an opportunity," Mickelson said. "That is what is so enjoyable, exciting as a player. And I've been fortunate to come out on top a few years and I've been unfortunate to have a number of them come close but not quite good enough.
"But either way, having that opportunity to be in the thick of it and to feel that excitement, to feel that pressure, to grace Amen Corner knowing that you need birdies and trying to win a green jacket, that is the greatest thrill a golfer can possibly experience."
Phil Mickelson put a driver back in his bag on Sunday and hit seven of 14 fairways. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas -- D.A. Points retained his touch through more than a 2-hour rain delay in winning the Shell Houston Open.
Redstone Golf Club received more than an inch of rain and it was a guessing game with how much the conditions changed. Points was immediately tested with a 43-yard chip on the 17th hole that he hit to within 2 feet and then made a 13-foot putt on the final green for the tournament-winning par.
Points reasoned the greens retained moisture following the rain so he switched from a gap wedge to a pitching wedge on the 17th hole and played a little less break on the final putt. He opened with a 64 and closed with a 66. D.A. was on point the entire week.
Putter: Points took just 23 putts in the opening round and then followed with 32 putts in each of the next two rounds. Points maintained he was still rolling the ball well, but it was just a matter of time until the putts fell. They started dropping on the second hole where he made a 6-footer but it was the 29-foot putt at the third hole that really gave him confidence. For the remainder of the round every putt had a chance to go in the cup.
Strong finish: Henrik Stenson finished strong with birdies on the last two holes. His play on the 18th hole was textbook. He drove it 279 yards and the approach from 133 yards landed within 12 feet of the cup and he made the putt. To birdie both the 17th and 18th holes was tremendous play under pressure, and he qualified for the Masters in the process.
Long ball: Dustin Johnson “over-performed” on Sunday. He made bogeys at both the 14th and 17th holes because he hit it too well. At the 14th, Johnson hit a 5- iron from 223 yards that flew the green and led to bogey. At the 17th hole, he hit a 177-yard 9-iron that covered the flag but also went too far. Johnson made two bogeys hitting what he thought were perfect shots.
Bad start: Steve Wheatcroft had so much riding on the final round and he began in miserable fashion with a double bogey at the first hole. He hit his approach into the wind and it stood straight up in the air, then dropped vertically into the bunker creating a terrible lie. Wheatcroft had no chance with the bunker shot, then sent a chip 6 feet by the cup and missed that for a 6. It was a disappointing start and Wheatcroft did not hide his emotions. As soon as he saw his lie in the bunker his body language was terrible for the remainder of the hole. He did birdie the second but never really rebounded from the bad start by shooting a 74. He went from a tie for third at the start of the final round to a 22nd-place finish.
Low one: Phil Mickelson predicted he had a “low one” in him for the final round and he was accurate. Unfortunately, it was not low enough. Mickelson birdied the first four holes to get to 10 under par but could not sustain the momentum. He ripped off eight straight pars before a birdie at the 13th but followed that with a double bogey on the 14th. He played 1 under on the remaining four holes to finish 10 under.
3-wood: Mickelson played the first three rounds of the tournament carrying a pair of 3-woods and no driver. He put driver in play on Sunday and hit seven of 14 fairways. Mickelson will experiment with a new deep face driver from Callaway before committing to what clubs he will carry at the Masters.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
Phil Mickelson opened with four straight birdies but couldn't keep up on Sunday. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas -- Phil Mickelson didn’t walk away with a second win at the Shell Houston Open Sunday afternoon, but he didn’t head home empty-handed.
Mickelson took his good friend and Dr. Tom Buchholz to overtime in a game of HORSE on the driveway Saturday night before winning their traditional grudge match. Buchholz, a world-class radiation oncologist who is part of both Amy and Mary Mickelson’s oncology team at M.D. Anderson, hosted Mickelson for a grilled salmon dinner and the game at his home.
“We both had S and that kicks it into double-elimination,’’ Mickelson explained. “That saved him three times and saved me once.
“I finally got him.”
For a while Sunday, it looked as though Mickelson might make a charge. He birdied the first four holes – he hit it to 2 feet at the first hole – but then cooled off. After eight pars, he finally got another birdie, but followed it with a bogey to finish at 10 under.
“I had a lot of fun today because I got off the a quick start, and after four holes I felt the pressure of having an opportunity to win,’’ said Mickelson, who won here in 2011. “It was a fun feeling. I love playing well here. Unfortunately, I didn't do much after that.
“I knew it was going to be a shootout and I was going to have to keep going and I couldn't keep pace. I hit a lot of good shots today. I had numerous putts that came off the edge. Even though I didn't make a lot of putts today, I felt good with the putter, was rolling off the face nice, had the right speed. It was on the right line that I wanted, but I didn't read them all correctly.’’
Mickelson continues to tinker with his putting stroke and said he’ll probably go back and forth a bit, depending on the situation.
“The claw grip, what it does is gets me in a better address position where I get rid of too much forward press,’’ he said.
“I want a little bit but not as much as I've been getting. As long as I can stay in that same address position with the regular grip, I would prefer to do that, but I'll have to go back and forth as my tendency is to continue to get a little too much forward press. With the claw grip, my hands stay a little bit higher.’’
Mickelson was expected to fly home Sunday and plans to head to Augusta late in the week to get in some early practice for the Masters.
Watch above: Phil Mickelson was all smiles after birdieing the 18th Saturday at Redstone.
By PGATOUR.COM Staff
It wasn't quite the 63 that he shot in 2011 to pull away from the field, but Phil Mickelson had his best round of the week on Saturday.
Mickelson birdied two of the last three holes -- including the long 18th -- to post 67 and move into the top 10 just before the leaders teed off.
I feel like it's getting better each day and that's what I was hoping for," Mickelson said. "I feel like I'll have a low one tomorrow. I'm not sure how far back I'll be, but I feel like I've got a low round in me tomorrow."
As Jonathan Wall reported Friday, Mickelson has been testing a new 3-wood this week at Redstone. Just as importantly, Mickelson has gone back to a regular putting grip after using a claw version off and on.
"I have a tendency with the regular grip to get my hands way ahead," Mickelson said. "With the set-up and the putter and having putted with the claw for awhile, I feel very comfortable with the regular grip and I'm in the proper position because of it."