Phil Mickelson goes for pre-Masters ‘Texas Slam’

Michael Cohen

Phil Mickelson hopes to hone his game in two contests in Texas before heading to Augusta.

Phil Mickelson returns from a brief hiatus in hopes of getting his game Masters-ready at this week’s Valero Texas Open, where he could wrap up what his boosters are terming the "Texas Slam."

A winner at the Byron Nelson Championship (1996), Crown Plaza Invitational (2000, 2008), and Shell Houston Open (2011), Mickelson will compete at the Valero for the first time since 1992. The five-time major champion also committed, on Tuesday, to start next week in Houston for the 10th time in his career.

Jimmy Walker, the only PGA Tour player with three Ws this season, also signaled his intent to play in Houston after teeing it up this week at TPC San Antonio. The FedExCup leader and local hero will play the first two rounds of the Valero with four-time major winner Ernie Els and fellow Texan and three-time titleholder at this event, Justin Leonard.

Joining Mickelson on the tee on Thursday and Friday at the Valero will be 2013 Rookie of the Year Jordan Spieth and defending champion Martin Laird.

The reigning British Open champion has been out of action since he finished in a tie for 16th at Doral on March 9. He plans to use the Texas swing as a warmup for the men’s first major of the season that starts April 10 in Augusta and has some work to do; the popular lefty’s best result this season was a 14th at the World Golf Championships-HSBC Champions in November and he has an injury-related WD from Torrey Pines (Tiger Woods is not the only professional golfer with back issues) and a MC (Honda Classic) on his scoresheet as well.

Mickelson may have his sights set on completing his career grand slam with a win at the 2014 U.S. Open in June but the chance to add a fourth green jacket to his collection is up first. A successful tour of the Lone Star State would certainly bolster his standing as one of the early Masters favorites (12/1 odds).

Mickelson was unable to capitalize on his pre-Augusta start last year, as a T16 in Houston preceded a T54 a week later amid the azaleas.

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