AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Phil Mickelson has made it clear he's no fan of a change in the PGA Tour schedule that caused him to skip the tourney the week before the Masters. He was adamant -- and shared his complaint with anyone who would listen -- that the "windy and tight" Valero Texas Open course was the "exact opposite" type of track on which he wanted to prepare for this week's first major on the men's calendar.
What was surprising to Phil-watchers, however, was when the three-time Augusta champ, who loves this week’s tournament more than any other, conceded that he feared his nerves might get the better of him early in Thursday’s opening round.
"I’m a little bit nervous heading in because I’m not competing the week before as I have for many years in the past," Mickelson told reporters Tuesday. "Having that open week, I’m a little bit nervous."
If the fidgets do get to the popular southpaw, he said they would be evident early on.
"I'm nervous because I haven’t been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open," he said. "It will be 10 or 11 days [since his last competitive round], as opposed to three, and that’s what I’m nervous about -- those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in, that’s what I care about. It’s always a challenge those first five or six holes, when you haven’t been in competition, to be really mentally focused and sharp."
Appearing anything but agitated, Mickelson said being cognizant of the potential problem would help him focus from the outset and visualize exactly what he wanted to do. His practice sessions Friday through Sunday should help, as should his knowledge of a course with which he has such affinity and the fact that accuracy off the key was not required.
"It comes from knowing I don’t have to play perfectly to play well here," he said. "I don’t have to hit perfect shots to make pars. There are a lot of holes where I can make mistakes off the tee and my short game, I know, can recover. Knowing that, I relax." -- Live from the IZOD Social Hub