May 3, 2006

Mickelson aims to hit peaks again at Winged Foot

ATLANTA (Reuters) - U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson is
excited about his new-found ability to peak at the biggest
events, regardless of his form in the build-up.

The American left-hander won his second major title last
year at the U.S. PGA Championship at Baltusrol despite
achieving just one top-10 finish in his previous six PGA Tour

He clinched his second U.S. Masters crown last month, a
week after winning his first tournament of the season by a
remarkable 13 strokes at the BellSouth Classic.

"I feel a great sense of accomplishment, and now I want to
start to prepare for the U.S. Open," Mickelson told reporters
on Wednesday, the last day of practice for this week's Wachovia
Championship in Charlotte, North Carolina.

"What I'm excited about is that when I prepared for
Baltusrol, even after having not played well, I felt I was able
to get my best game out.

"Then the start of this year wasn't anything spectacular,"
the 35-year-old added of a run featuring a tie for fifth as his
best result in seven tournaments.

"I played okay and was in contention but didn't win. It
wasn't until Atlanta (for the BellSouth Classic) it started to
click. I played well at Atlanta and the Masters."

Early last week, the world number two visited Winged Foot,
venue for the June 15-18 U.S. Open, to establish his strategy
for the second major of the year.

"I got some good work done last week, and mapped out kind
of a game plan for how I want to play there," Mickelson said.

"The course is not in the condition that it will be for the
Open. The rough isn't where it will be and the greens weren't
as firm as they'll be.


"So I didn't really prepare or hit the shots that I would
hit for the U.S. Open, but I mapped out kind of the strategy.

"All I want to try to do is get my best game out for the
U.S. Open and have a chance on the weekend. I feel I'm well
prepared to play the course properly on the weekend when the
course is hard, fast and tough and give myself the best chance.

"The last thing I'm thinking about is trying to win, even
trying to win just one tournament. I'm just trying to get
myself in contention."

This week, Mickelson is among eight of the world's top 10
players competing at Quail Hollow Club in an event he rates as
one of the best on Tour.

"I love this tournament," he said. "It is very well done,
and it's fun to come play here.

"This is only the fourth year of this tournament's
existence, and it is amazing how it has quickly become the
number one PGA Tour event, the best-run event, the best field
outside of the four majors and the Players (Championship)."

The three-times major winner expects a grueling test on a
7,442-yard layout that ranked as the seventh most difficult on
the 2005 PGA Tour.

"It's a very tough course this year," he said. "It's a lot
tougher than the first two years I played here because the
fairways are firmer and the rough is up. If you find the rough,
the ball is sitting down.

"It's playing very similar to the way a (U.S.) PGA
(Championship) is set up. It's a fair golf course but it's
extremely tough."

The Wachovia Championship starts on Thursday.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles)