Strong finish gives Mickelson Humana hope

California: Phil Mickelson faces an uphill task to make the cut at this week`s Humana Challenge at La Quinta, California, but the American left-hander was greatly encouraged by his strong finish to Friday`s second round.

Making his first appearance of the year on the PGA Tour at this week`s pro-am celebrity event, Mickelson rebounded from a poor start to cover his final 13 holes in six under par.

"I played much better and I`m excited about how I was playing heading into this tournament," the four-times major champion told reporters after carding a three-under-par 69 on the Nicklaus Private course at PGA West.

"But I had a bit of a slap in the face with my first two scores. I`ll try tomorrow to go out and play a good round, hopefully make the cut and get a little bit of momentum heading into next week`s event in San Diego."

Mickelson, who won this event in 2002 and 2004, hit two shots out of bounds on the way to an opening 74 and he lies a distant 15 strokes off the pace going into Saturday`s third round.

However, the 41-year-old was delighted to be back at the multi-venue tournament and in the California desert`s near-perfect playing conditions for the first time since 2007.

"Having great weather on these golf courses with great practice facilities in the Palm Springs area gives us a good foundation to start the year," said Mickelson, who carded seven birdies, two bogeys and a double-bogey in the second round.

"When you get into windy conditions and challenging conditions, it`s more about just keeping the ball low and on the ground.”

"You`re not really able to work on things in your golf swing, work on hitting higher shots, and this perfect weather allows us to do that," the Californian added after recording seven birdies and one bogey in his last 13 holes.

Mickelson, who won the most recent of his 39 PGA Tour titles at last year`s Houston Open, has spent a lot of time this week consulting with his swing coach Butch Harmon.

"This has been a good week for me to identify some of the weaknesses," the world number 15 said. "I had a good conversation with Butch and a good practice session after the round yesterday to try to work it out.”

"And so I`ll go back this afternoon and practise for a couple hours, get dialed in and see if I can put it together for tomorrow`s round and I`ll carry that momentum into next week."

Bureau Report

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