Lefty tries to make things right

Coming off his first winless season in since 2003, Phil Mickelson is working hard to show he remains one of the best golfers in the world at age 44.

There is probably no better place for him to start than on the West Coast swing, and he will tee it up for the first time in 2015 this week in the Humana Challenge in the California desert.

“I love coming here,” Mickelson once said of playing in the old Bob Hope Desert Classic. “I love starting the year here. It’s a beautiful place. We have great courses, great practice facilities and great weather. It really allows you to work on your fundamentals, mechanics and so forth. You don’t have winds to deal with and other challenges. So, this event is a perfect place to start. …

“I’m excited about playing on the West Coast because these are the tournaments that I grew up playing and dreaming of playing. I’ve always enjoyed playing here.”

And why not, since the San Diego native recorded 19 of his 42 PGA Tour victories on the West Coast.

Lefty won the Hope/Humana in 2002 and 2004, captured the Tournament of Champions twice when it was played at La Costa, and claimed what is now the Farmers Insurance Open three times at Torrey Pines. He added three victories in the Waste Management Phoenix Open in addition to four titles in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, two in the Northern Trust Open at Riviera and three in the old Tucson Open.

However, last year he posted only two top-10 finishes all season, and for the first time recorded none on the West Coast.

Mickelson almost salvaged the season when he held a share of the lead on the back nine in the PGA Championship at Valhalla, but he finished in solo second, one stroke behind Rory McIlroy after making a bogey on the 16th hole.

“The PGA was the highlight and could have really turned the year around if I could have held on to win,” said Mickelson, who was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2012. “Instead, it was just a close call. Not winning made it the worst year of my career. …

“It was a bad year statistically in all areas. I didn’t drive the ball as well I can or expected to. My short irons were worse than they’ve been in my entire career. My short game really wasn’t really sharp. My putting was not at the level I expect.

“Last year was the most difficult for me in 20-plus years on the PGA Tour, but it’s motivated me to make (2015) special.”

After winning the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, Mickelson started last year talking about going for the career Grand Slam in June at the U.S. Open, but he would manage only a tie for 28th at Pinehurst No. 2.

Lefty gets his second shot at it in June at Chambers Bay, near Seattle.

Last season ended with him missing the Tour Championship for the first time since 2007 and causing a controversy when he criticized captain Tom Watson after the United States endured yet another loss in the Ryder Cup.

Ever since, he began preparing diligently for 2015.

“In the first five or six weeks, I had some immediate results,” said Mickelson, who hoped to lose 20 pounds through workouts with trainer Sean Cochran and a paleo diet. “I’m getting lighter, developing more core strength and speed and increasing my ball speed. It’s been awhile since I felt so at ease.”

Callaway obviously believes that Mickelson is not washed up because the equipment company signed him to a multiyear contract extension in late October.

Even before his subpar season, Lefty was thinking down the road because golf will return to the Olympic Games in 2016 in Rio de Janeiro, and he badly wants to be a member of the U.S. team.

“I want to really focus on 2015 because 2015 is when the points start accumulating really for the Olympics,” the five-time major champion said. “I don’t know why that’s important to me, but it is. I want to be a 46-year-old Olympian; that’s pretty cool.

“So 2015 and 2016 are years I want to really focus on, and I want to make sure I’m ready.”

From the reports out of his camp, he already is making an Olympian effort.

Story courtesy of The Sports Xchange, TSX Golf Editor Tom LaMarre

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