Lefty tries to right the ship

Phil Mickelson is 45 years old, but once again he has found something new.

Lefty has reinvented, or at least retooled, his game several times in his brilliant career, from changing instructors to adding different clubs, like the time he put two drivers in his bag.

Searching for answers late last year, he dropped swing coach Butch Harmon and went to relative unknown Andrew Getson. As usual, though, Phil the Thrill is brimming with enthusiasm as he prepares to start 2016 this week in the CareerBuilder Challenge, the old Bob Hope Classic.

“My last two years have been disappointing to me, and I want to make this upcoming year one of the best years possible,” said Mickelson, who claimed the most recent of his 42 PGA Tour victories in the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield. “I’m optimistic, but I’m also nervous because it’s been a little while since I’ve played to the level I expect to.

” … I’m hopeful that this offseason, the work I’ve put in, will get my swing back on the plane that it has been in the past and allow me to hit the shots I’ve been able to hit as I did in the past.”

As he has done so often in his career, Mickelson heads to the California Desert to start his year in a tournament he will play for the 11th time. He won the Bob Hope Classic in 2002 and 2004.

Lefty stopped coming for a while when The Classic Club, in a very windy portion of the Coachella Valley, was in the tournament rotation from 2005-08, but he enjoys La Quinta Country Club, plus the TPC Stadium Course and the Nicklaus Tournament Course at PGA West where the tournament will be played this week.

However, he doesn’t come only for the courses.

“It’s a great place to start the season because we have usually very calm conditions, we have great practice facilities and three wonderful golf courses,” said Mickelson, who hasn’t played since the Presidents Cup in October.

“But it’s a great place for me to start the season because it allows me to work on my game before and after each round.

“I have a small place out there at one of the clubs that I’ll stay in and after each tournament round go practice and put in that time to build a solid foundation for the rest of the West Coast, as well as the rest of the season. And that’s why I really enjoy starting the season there.”

Of course, with Lefty, anywhere on the West Coast will do.

The CareerBuilder will be the first in his four-week run to start 2016, as he also will play the Farmers Insurance Open — his hometown event — next week at Torrey Pines, followed by the Waste Management Phoenix Open and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

He apparently is skipping the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

Mickelson has won every tournament that has been part of the West Coast Swing, claiming 19 titles in California and Arizona, including his first as a 20-year-old amateur at the 1991 Northern Telecom Open while he was attending Arizona State.

That was the first of his three victories in Tucson, and he also has won four times at Pebble Beach, most recently in 2012; three times in Phoenix, most recently in 2013; at Riviera twice, most recently in 2009; the Bob Hope twice, most recently in 2004; and at Torrey Pines three times, most recently in 2001.

Lefty also won the Mercedes Championship, now the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, twice at La Costa in Carlsbad before the tournament moved to Kapalua in Hawaii.

“I love the West Coast, and those are some of my favorite tournaments coming up,” said Mickelson, who was down to No. 39 in the World Golf Rankings last week. “I’m excited to play golf, and I practice very hard on the West Coast when the season is coming around and I haven’t played for a while. I’ve got a lot of energy, and I’m excited to get back out.

“I think all of these things, plus the fact that I grew up here and used to walk these fairways on the outside (of the ropes), I just have a great love for the West Coast. I’ve been fortunate to play well here.”

Perhaps that is why they call it the Left Coast.

–Story courtesy of The Sportx Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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