Phil Mickelson, as any fan with even a passing interest in golf is aware, has a particular fondness for a certain iconic track in Augusta, Ga. So the next time he stops to sign your visor or sits down for a presser, you may want to avoid what he considers the stupidest query he’s ever heard.
Golf Channel’s cameras apparently caught Mickelson giving the needle to the network’s Steve Sands (whose referenced inquiry about NBA great Julius Erving now rates No. 2 on Phil’s roster of all-time "dumb ass" questions) during a practice round ahead of this week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational (golf clap/Nick Schwartz).
Speaking of which, Mickelson likely won't have a tee time this weekend at Bay Hill. With Friday’s projected cut line at 2-over, the four-time major champion was 6-over for the week through 15 holes of his second round. A double-bogey on the par-5 sixth (his 15th of the day) seemed indicative of the way he has played so far in Arnie's tourney.
"I hit it terrible," he told reporters after carding a 1-over 73 on Thursday -- a score that put him eight shots back of 18-hole leader Justin Rose. "I felt terrible swinging the club. I didn't know which way I was going to miss it, and that's not a good feeling."
Mickelson also sounded a tad cranky about a schedule change that messed with his traditional preparation for a major, which usually includes playing competitively the week before the tournament.
"I find when I take a week off, I come out and play like I did today, just mentally not sharp," said Mickelson, who finished T3 in the WGC-Cadillac Championship but skipped last week's Tampa Bay Championship. "The more I play, the sharper I get and usually the second or third tournament is when I play my best.
"That's why I like to have a tournament before a major because a major's penalty for a miss is so severe you've got to be sharp on each shot right from the gate."
This year, however, a schedule change plunked the Valero Texas Open between next week’s Shell Houston Open and the Masters, which starts on April 11. Because the TPC San Antonio circuit does not suit his game, Mickelson will make Houston his final competitive tune-up for the first major of the season and then take off for Augusta.
"For me personally, I like playing in a tournament that's similar to what we'll be playing," Mickelson said. "This year, having a windy, tight course [at the Texas Open] really isn't conducive to getting ready for Augusta. That makes it difficult for me personally so I'll end up going to Augusta a few days early....I've got to make some adjustments, just because the tournaments before the majors are not helping us at all get ready."