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."