Reuters - Wed, 24 Feb 07:01:00 2010
Two-times champion Phil Mickelson has challenged himself to regain his putting touch when he returns to very familiar surrounds for this week's Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale.
Mickelson, who attended the nearby Arizona State University, has been frustrated after striking the ball well in his first three PGA Tour events this year without making the most of his opportunities on the greens.
"It takes a lot of momentum out of you when you keep hitting it to eight, 10, 12 feet and you keep missing the putts," the world number three said in the build-up to Thursday's opening round.
"I'll get that turned around. I know that when I got it turned around last year things started falling in place.
"I don't feel like it's far off," added the American, who has finished 19th, joint 45th and tied for eighth in his first tournaments of the season.
Asked to assess his first three weeks on the 2010 PGA Tour, Mickelson replied: "They weren't what I had hoped for.
"But they gave me a good idea of what I need to work on for the near term and the rest of the year. I'm starting to hit the ball very well."
Mickelson has been a regular competitor at the Phoenix Open since appearing for the first time as an amateur in 1989, and he won the event in 1996 and 2005.
Hugely popular with the fans, he has long relished the closing stretch on Scottsdale's Stadium Course, which features the infamous par-three 16th, the noisiest hole in golf.
Thousands of spectators cram into the bleachers and sky boxes surrounding the 162-yard hole, many more swarming across the grassed hill that faces the green.
"The last few holes here always provide a feeling we don't get at other tour events and it's really special now with 16 essentially surrounded by seating," Mickelson said.
American JB Holmes, who won the tournament in 2006 and 2008, echoed Mickelson's sentiments.
"It's a phenomenal experience," said Holmes. "But it's hard for club selection because you've got adrenalin pumping and the wind, and you do have 20,000 or 30,000 people yelling at you."
Others competing at the TPC Scottsdale include British world number five Ian Poulter, who won the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship at Dove Mountain on Sunday, and eighth-ranked German Martin Kaymer.
PGA Tour veteran Kenny Perry defends the title he won in a playoff with fellow American Charley Hoffman last year.