Mickelson, Watson set sights on more Masters glory

Phil Mickelson (Getty)
Phil Mickelson (Getty)

Augusta - Phil Mickelson never doubted he'd end his victory drought. Bubba Watson wasn't so sure about his.

But now both former Masters champions are heading back to Augusta National with renewed confidence after returning to the winner's circle this year.

Mickelson, whose five major titles include Masters victories in 2004, 2006 and 2010, seized his first title in nearly five years with a triumph in the WGC Mexico Championship on March 4.

Now the 47-year-old US left-hander goes into the Masters without a shroud of doubt hanging over him.

"I needed to get a win before Augusta, so I wasn't trying to win for the first time in four and a half years at that event," he said.

Mickelson acknowledged that the barren years since his 2013 British Open triumph at Muirfield had their low points.

"I don't know exactly when the lowest point was," Mickelson said as he reflected on the drought in light of his most recent win.

"But the frustration builds when you know you can play at a certain level, and you know that you're able to win and compete, and you're not doing it, not achieving what you know you can.

"It's not easy getting out of it, but having a little taste of success like this makes it worthwhile."

And even when the low points came, Mickelson said, he never lost faith that he would win again.

"I knew that wasn't going to be my last one," Mickelson said of the '13 British Open. "And this isn't either."

Watson had no such certainty as his title drought stretched on from his victory at Riviera in February of 2016 on through a difficult 2017 campaign in which he considered packing it in.

Health issues, which he keeps to himself, saw his weight plummet, affecting his game and sapping his confidence.

"I was close," he said of pondering retirement, crediting his wife's tough love with keeping him on the course.

So it was an emotional moment when Watson lifted the trophy at Riviera this February.

"You never know if you're going to play good again," he said. "Never know if you're going to lift a trophy again."

Little more than a month later he was hoisting another after denying Justin Thomas the world number one ranking en route to the title at the WGC-Match Play Championship in Texas.

"I'm really excited," Watson said as he looked ahead to the Masters - and beyond, perhaps, to the Ryder Cup.

He balked at the notion he has stamped himself a Masters favourite.

"A favourite, that's for stuff that we don't care about. We want to try to go out and do our jobs. And if we do our job well, we think we're good enough to beat the other guys," said Watson, who couldn't deny the allure of the idea of slipping on a third green jacket.

"I never felt a coat feel so good," he said. "That's the greatest golf tournament that's ever been played."

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