Torrey Pines showcases Mickelson`s deadly short game
London: If short game magician Phil Mickelson felt it would not look too arrogant, he would remove the flagstick from the hole every time he had a wedge shot into the green.
The left-hander has long been regarded as one of the game`s best players from inside 120 yards and he came agonisingly close to forcing a playoff for last year`s Farmers Insurance Open with a hole-out from 72 yards at the par-five last.
As it happened, Mickelson`s wedge shot ended up four feet from the pin to set up a closing birdie and he had to settle for second place, one stroke behind fellow American Bubba Watson.
"The fact that it landed close to the hole, it was supposed to," Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday as he reflected on his near miss for eagle on the South Course at Torrey Pines.
"That`s what I practise. It`s not an accident that my wedge game is what it is, because I sit there and work on it. I just don`t do it out here (on the PGA Tour) for everybody to see.
"I practise flying my wedges to a specific yardage three days a week. I hit over 1,500 golf balls and try to fly it within a yard or hit a target. For the most part, I`m able to fly it within a yard 90 percent of the time."
Despite being repeatedly advised by his short game coach Dave Pelz to remove the flagstick for every wedge shot he hits, Mickelson has, for the most part, resisted.
"About a dozen times a year, I hit the pin with a wedge and I end up getting a worse result because of it," Mickelson said. "Pelz wants me to have the pin removed on every wedge shot, which I won`t do because it just looks bad.
"But the fact is that I hit the pin a dozen times a year, and probably 11 out of those 12, the ball ends up in a worse spot because of it."
Happy Hunting Ground
Though Mickelson narrowly failed in his victory bid at Torrey Pines last year, he is delighted to be back at a venue where he has triumphed three times before.
"I loved playing here in San Diego because of what it`s meant to me over the years," the 41-year-old American said while preparing for Thursday`s opening round at the Farmers Insurance Open.
"It reminds me of when I was a kid watching here with my dad and just the memories that it brings back. Even though I didn`t win last year, it was still fun having that chance."
Mickelson, who lives in nearby Rancho Santa Fe, will be making his second start on the 2012 PGA Tour, having tied for 49th at last week`s Humana Challenge where he improved after opening with a two-over-par 74.
"After having one week under my belt and kind of hopefully ironing out some of the kinks, I think I`m ready to get myself back in it on the weekend," the four-times major champion said.
"That is certainly the goal. After a good off-season, my game`s getting back to where I want it to be, and I`m excited to get back into those opportunities (of contending) on Sunday."
Mickelson will tee off with compatriots Nick Watney and Hunter Mahan in Thursday`s opening round on the South Course, one of two layouts co-hosting this week`s event.