Mickelson ready to be a Masters threat

Phil Mickelson (AFP)
Phil Mickelson (AFP)

Augusta - Phil Mickelson would be the fourth-oldest champion in major golf history if he manages to win his fourth Masters title and sixth major crown on Sunday at Augusta National.

And 30 years after Jack Nicklaus became the oldest champion in Masters history with a win for the ages, Mickelson warns that he's playing as well as he has in 10 years.

"I don't feel old at all. I feel great," Mickelson said. "I feel like I'm in some of the best shape I've been in. I'm driving the ball better than I have in well over a decade, and my game is coming along."

Julius Boros, who won the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48, is the oldest champion in major golf history, followed by Old Tom Morris at the 1867 British Open and Nicklaus at the 1986 Masters, both 46.

Mickelson will turn 46 on June 16, the day of the first round of the US Open at Oakmont, where "Lefty" will try and complete a career Grand Slam by finally capturing an event where he has been the runner-up a record six times.

Mickelson has not won a title since capturing the 2013 British Open at Muirfield, but he was second at Pebble Beach, fifth at Doral and shared 13th last week at the Houston Open.

"I feel like the game is starting to be easy again," Mickelson said.

Mickelson's driving distance average is the same this year as it was in 2003, although at 40th it ranks 15 spots lower than it did 13 years ago, a sign of the ball-bashing younger generation following his footsteps.

"I don't feel distance is any factor as far as holding me back," Mickelson said. "Now that I'm starting to drive the ball reasonably straight and not have as many wild drives, I feel like I'm able to play and compete a lot easier, like the game is just a lot easier. So we'll see.

"We're here on a golf course that has suited me well in the past and for the first time, I really feel like coming into this tournament, I'm not trying to find anything or search for anything."

Mickelson would like predicted Thursday rain to stay away and keep the Augusta National layout hard and fast, the better to challenge those who don't know the course as well as he does.

"When the greens are soft and receptive, you can get away with a lot of mistakes. You can put the ball in the wrong spot and still have a shot and learning and knowing the golf course isn't as big a factor," Mickelson said. "It eliminates a lot of the trouble and challenge of Augusta National.

"I'm hopeful this year will be a firm, fast golf course because it gives me what I feel like is a slight advantage of the history and the knowledge, knowing where I need to be and having hit those shots to allow me to make easy pars."

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