x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Phil Mickelson looks masterful ahead of Augusta defence

The left-hander will defend his US Masters title on the back of last week's triumph at the Shell Houston Open.

Phil Mickelson came on strong to win the Shell Houston Open and believes that momentum will carry over to the US Masters, where the defending champion will aim for his fourth green jacket.
Phil Mickelson came on strong to win the Shell Houston Open and believes that momentum will carry over to the US Masters, where the defending champion will aim for his fourth green jacket.

Phil Mickelson knows exactly what it takes to win the Masters and he will be hoping history repeats itself at Augusta this weekend.

Last year Mickelson won the season's opening Major for the third time. He will defend that title on the back of last week's triumph at the Shell Houston Open.

It was Mickelson's first win since earning his third green jacket last April and the timely success reminded him of 2006, when he won at the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta the week before he claimed his second Masters title. The Houston Open became the run-up event to Augusta in 2007.

The win moved the 40-year-old left hander to No 3 in the world rankings, while Tiger Woods dropped to No 7.

It is the first time Mickelson has been ahead of Woods since the week before Woods won the 1997 Masters for his first major championship.

While many top players, including Woods and Martin Kaymer, the world No 1, sat out last weekend, Mickelson saw no disadvantage in playing.

Anthony Kim won the Houston Open last year and followed that by finishing third at the Masters.

"I think it's nothing but a plus to be able to gain some momentum," Mickelson said. "Especially given that I haven't had the results and the scores that I wanted earlier in the year. It gives me a little bit of momentum."

And he fired an ominous warning shot to his rivals as he outgunned Scott Verplank on Sunday to win the Shell by three shots

Moments after that final putt dropped, Lefty was already thinking about Augusta.

"I've got a big event next week and it's time," he said. "As much as I loved winning here and I'll look back on this in seven, eight days, this being a very special day.

"Right now, you know, I've got some work to do."

The 39-time tour winner shot a seven-under 65 on Sunday, the lowest closing score by a winner this year, to finish at 20 under. He was 16 under over his final 36 holes, after tying the course record with a 63 on Saturday, his lowest round in two years. He won for the fifth consecutive time when he has shot 64 or better in at least one of the rounds.

"I've been saying all year, I'm playing well, but I'm not getting the scores out of it, and I'm just kind of having a lapse of focus," he said. "It was a great week in that regard."

The Californian is not concerned about moving ahead of Woods.

"I haven't looked at the rankings and so forth," he said. "Right now, this has been an awesome week, a lot of fun. I've [still] got some work to do … It's not like I can celebrate and enjoy the victory.

"There's some work to be done to get ready for Thursday."