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Friday October 22nd, 2021 6:35PM

Mickelson already seems to have Augusta National on his mind

By The Associated Press
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PALM BEACH GARDENS, Fla. (AP) — Phil Mickelson has missed the fairway nearly half the time through three rounds of the Honda Classic, which is not a good thing.

Mickelson, however, did find one silver lining.

“It allows you to, first of all, get ready for the Masters,” Mickelson said.

If there was any question on where Mickelson’s mind is at these days, therein lies the answer.

He’s played in three PGA Tour Champions events since reaching the 50-year-old threshold, winning his first two appearances. But he still believes he can compete and contend on the PGA Tour, and that would include the majors — perhaps most especially the one looming in a couple of weeks at Augusta National, where he has won three times.

“I’m seeing lot of progress,” Mickelson said Saturday after his third round at the Honda. “Even though most people just look at the results, look at the score and say, ‘Gosh, he’s playing well, he’s not playing well.’ I’ve seen a lot of progress.”

He’s right. The scoreboard isn’t showing that.

Mickelson is 2 under entering Sunday’s final round, well out of contention after rounds of 71, 68 and 69 at PGA National. He’s hanging on to a top-100 world ranking — No. 99 right now — and is about to stretch his winless streak on the PGA Tour to 42 events dating back to Pebble Beach in 2019.

“I have not played well for some time now — I would even say a couple of years — and I’m starting to see glimpses of playing at the level I expect to again,” Mickelson said. “The results aren’t showing that right now. I’ve thrown away probably four, five shots on two or three holes the first day and the second day and that’s not allowed me to be in contention. But I’ve hit a lot more good shots than I have in a long time.”

He isn’t in the Dell Technologies Match Play field next week, so he’ll have more time to prep for the Masters. He has had a top-five finish there 11 times, though hasn’t been better than 18th in any of his last five appearances there.

But his trips to the rough at PGA National — he has missed 20 of 42 fairways this week — have seen him think ahead to what awaits.

“The rough is more like Augusta first cut ... which I think is really cool of them to do,” Mickelson said.

He raved about the condition of PGA National and has clearly enjoyed himself this week, even without contending.

“I’ve addressed some of the issues in my game that seem to be starting to come along,” Mickelson said. “So, although the results aren’t showing it yet, I’m very excited about what’s ahead, because I see the progress.”

___

More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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