Tiger Woods has his Shangri-Las -- Torrey Pines, his recent 54-hole flop notwithstanding, tops the hit parade -- and Phil Mickelson has his beloved Pebble Beach.
Looking to put his T42 finish at last week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open as well as his injury-related WD from the Farmers Insurance Open behind him, Mickelson relished his upcoming return to a layout he has conquered four times. A win at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am would send the world’s No. 4 into a brief hiatus from competition with a record-tying fifth victory on the famed oceanside links track.
"Back feels great," Mickelson, who pulled out of the Farmers in the second round with back pain, told reporters after posting a closing even-par 71 at TPC Scottsdale on Sunday. "I'm looking forward to going to Monterey next week."
And why wouldn’t he? Despite a T60 finish last year, the 42-time PGA Tour winner went a sizzling 8-under 64 in the much-anticipated head-to-head duel with Tiger in the 2012 finale, leaving Woods in his wake and winning by two shots over Charlie Wi.
"It's one of my favorite places to play golf," Mickelson, who would match Mark O’Meara’s four Ws with a victory, told Reuters. "It's just a special week. We play three of the most amazing golf courses on tour and all combined in one week."
Tour pros and their celebrity/amateur partners will play one round each at Pebble, Monterey Peninsula Shore, and Spyglass Hill, with the top 60 pros (and ties) and top 25 pro-am duos finishing up at Pebble on Sunday. It’s a format that has either suited Lefty to a tee (eight top-10s, including the four wins) or been an ill fit (three missed cuts and a handful of results outside the top 64).
Either way, Mickelson is heading home after his final putt drops on Sunday (weather permitting) and won’t appear on tour again until the Honda Classic at the end of the month. He believes, as always, that a fix here and a tweak there are all he needs to depart for his two-week vacay on a high note.
"My game is not far off, even though the score says that it is," he said Sunday. "I drove the ball well, and I hit some very poor iron shots. I'm going to go back and work on my iron play in these next couple of days and getting ready for Monterey, because I have been able to identify this week now where my strength is, where my weakness is."