AUGUSTA, GEORGIA | It’s the 10-year anniversary of Phil Mickelson’s first win at The Masters, and since that breakthrough victory Mickelson has won two more green jackets, a PGA Championship, and last year at Muirfield, an Open Championship.
“I knew that once I won one (major) I could win a few,” Mickelson said on Tuesday after his practice round at Augusta National Golf Club – all of which makes The Masters such a special week in Mickelson’s year.
“It’s a magical place,” Mickelson said. “A feeling comes over me that I don’t have to play perfectly to do well here. You can miss a tee shot and still have a recovery shot. I can rely on my short game. Unless you are in the water, you always have a chance to save par.
“And that makes me full of confidence and as a result, I’ve played some of my best golf here.”
It took Mickelson more than 10 years to win his first major championship and the pressure valve of the weight of expectations was released when he made his leap on the 18th green in 2004.
“There was a great deal of pressure,” Mickelson said. “So when I won, it was relief as opposed to joy. When I won the Open in July, I felt such great joy. It was much different.”
Mickelson has been battling physical problems, having to withdraw at the Valero Texas Open with a strained oblique muscle. He has been undergoing physical therapy and exercise and proclaims himself healthy. Along with the injury has been not much more than mediocre play in 2014 and the two together keep Mickelson off the top of the favorites list.
“I’m nervous about this week,” he said. “I would like to come into The Masters with a win or with being in contention a couple of times. But to be fair to myself, I haven’t been 100 percent. I was 100 percent last week (at the Shell Houston Open). Physically, I feel great.
“The parts of my game, if you take them separately, feel terrific. But together, I haven’t been able to feel them all in contention. This week, I will have to rely on past performances to build confidence.”
Mickelson comes to The Masters for the first time since 1997 without Tiger Woods in the field.
“It’s a weird feeling not having him here,” Mickelson said. “It makes it special when he’s in the field and you’re able to win.”
However, Mickelson is cognizant of where he stands in Masters history.
“Tiger and Arnold Palmer have four green jackets and I have three,” he said. “I know Jack (Nicklaus) has six but there’s nothing I can do about that right now.”