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Phil Mickelson still aiming for No.1
May 11, 2011

A young crop of Europeans may be battling it out atop of the world rankings, but 40-year-old American Phil Mickelson has a shot to spoil the party and grab the number one spot that has long eluded him.

The four-times major winner has been among the world’s best for a decade but his bid to become world number one was blocked by Tiger Woods and he has failed, in ranking terms, to take advantage of his rival’s decline.

Instead of the Woods’s era giving way to years of Mickelson rule, the top end of the world rankings have since become more fluid and dominated by Europeans.

World number one Lee Westwood and number three Luke Donald, both British, are in their 30s while German world number two Martin Kaymer is 26 years old.

Northern Irishmen Graeme McDowell, ranked fifth, and Rory McIlroy, ranked sixth, are 31 and 22 respectively but Mickelson does not believe his best days are behind him.

“I don’t feel that way because I see some things in my game that are starting to get better and better,” world number four Mickelson told reporters on Tuesday ahead of this week’s Players Championship at the TPC Sawgrass.

“In the last year and a half I’ve really been able to putt with direction, I really know what it is I’m trying to do on the greens now. I’m rolling the ball better than I have done in years.”

“My short game has been sharp. My driving has been much better, I feel like I’m driving the ball straighter than I ever have and I’m excited to put that into play this week.”

“I see my game getting better than it has been and in fact I welcome the challenge and I think that there is a lot of opportunity for me to still have a lot of success.”

Mickelson, Kaymer or Donald can grab the top ranking from Westwood, with a victory at the Players, a tournament widely considered the “fifth major” by the players. Westwood is not competing this week.

Mickelson, who won at Houston last month, said his approach to his game changes fundamentally once the Masters is over.

“My mindset changes after Augusta. It’s not distance anymore; it’s got to be to get the ball in the fairway. It’ll be interesting to see if I’m able to do that this week,” said Mickelson. “If I am, then I should be able to have a very good week because I’ll be able to attack a lot of the pins and play some birdies.”

Mickelson won the Players in 2007 and believes that having that victory under his belt helps him psychologically.

“I feel a certain amount of pressure is taken off because I have won here. I can play a little more freely,” he said.

“When you want to win something so bad, sometimes it can really inhibit your performance and that can be the case in a tournament as prestigious and sought-after as this one. Having won it, I think it helps.”

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