Mickelson: Lefty feeling right again

Not too many golfers would deem a season that included a third US Masters Green Jacket and one of the greatest recovery shots ever played, a failure.

But Phil Mickelson is no ordinary golfer.

Phil Mickelson Phil Mickelson

The American superstar is hoping for an ‘improved’ performance in 2011, and he firmly believes he will do just that thanks to a preseason that has brought with it a clear mind, much needed pain relief, a healthy diet and plenty of practise.

The 2010 US Masters champion was rocked back in July when he was diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, yet still managed a solid year by most people’s standards, his Masters triumph duly backed up by a runner-up finish at the Wells Fargo Championship and a T4 placing at the US Open.

But the four-time Major winner seemed less than impressed with a season that saw him earn a shade under $4million and six top-10 finishes in only 20 events.

“I’m hoping 2011 will be the kind of year I expected 2010 to be,” Mickelson said via his website www.philmickelson.com

“It’s been a good offseason. My body feels great and I’ve been able to practise and workout to get ready for the upcoming year.”

Psoriatic arthritis is caused by an overactive immune response that can affect the skin as well as the joints, with pain, stiffness and swelling the main symptoms.

While he escaped any skin irritation, Mickelson started experiencing pain near his ankle and left finger, while his right wrist felt as if it was sprained, leading him to seek medical advice.

It wasn’t the news he had hoped for, and while the diagnosis set his season back with treatment and dietary adjustments, he was determined to shake it off.

“Getting officially diagnosed was difficult for me but with the help of my doctors and the right treatment, (I got) back on course and feel great,” he said.

Mickelson opened his 2011 campaign at the HSBC Championship in Abu Dhabi and is genuinely excited about getting stuck into a busier schedule back home in the US.

“I’m planning to play five straight PGA Tour events so I’ll be starting with six in a row, starting with the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines,” Mickelson said.

“That sounds like a lot but I’m eager to play as much as I can and two of those weeks are home games for me. Torrey Pines is about a 20-minute drive from home and I commute daily to Los Angeles for the Northern Trust.”

The 40-year-old is also champing at the bit to add to his formidable record in Majors.

“The Majors are at some interesting courses this year,” Mickelson said.

“Augusta is one of the very best you could possibly imagine. Congressional is a good, classic golf course to hold an Open. St George’s is an interesting course – not really my favorite but I’ll be working hard to find the most strategic way to play it.”

“Atlanta Athletic Club has been one of my favorite courses. I’ve been there a time or two since the renovations. I’m sure it’ll be a great venue for the PGA although I’m not the biggest fan of Rees Jones redesigns.”

Mickelson said a family getaway over the holiday break had completely rejuvenated him both mentally and physically and reignited his hunger for competition.

“We were able to take some great family trips during the offseason. We spent Thanksgiving in Hawaii and had a great time relaxing with the kids in a tropical setting,” he said.

“It was my turn to plan our anniversary trip last year and, knowing it’s been a dream of Amy’s (wife) to see the pyramids, we went to Egypt.”

“We spent time in Cairo and Luxor, went to the Valley of the Kings and the Valley of the Queens, saw the tombs of the nobles, the Cairo Museum and the Karnak Temple.”

“We were home for a while and then took the whole family skiing in Montana, and had a great time skiing and snowboarding. Now it’s time to get back to work.”

And he’s not returning to the fairways in 2011 empty handed either.

“I’m very excited about my equipment. The Callaway i(s) and i(z) balls are tremendous,” he said.

“I’ll use the softer compression i(s) to start the season when the weather’s a little cooler. In the summer I’ll switch to the i(z), which is a slightly firmer ball with a slightly higher compression. I’ve also switched to our RAZR Hawk and RAZR X woods and irons, although the setups are the same as I had been using last year.”

How far Mickelson can go in 2011 is still up in the air, but if he remains pain-free and willing, an incredible fourth Augusta triumph could be just one of several victories en route to that prized world No.1 ranking he has been chasing for so long.