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Phil Mickelson plots career to age 40

After waiting 12 years to win his first major at Augusta National last April, U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson has targeted the next six seasons to apply the finishing touches to his career.

The 34-year-old American, winner of the last two events on the PGA Tour, believes he is in the form of his life and wants to make that count while in his golfing prime.

"For the next six years until I'm 40, I'm going to play and practise as hard as I can to get as much out of this game and my career as I can -- to win many more majors," left-hander Mickelson told a U.S. Masters teleconference on Tuesday.

"I am working hard even on my weeks off. When I'm 40, I'll analyse what I want to do next.

"The last thing on my mind right now is the total of number of wins I've had or trying to get into the Hall of Fame."

Mickelson, who held off a charging Ernie Els to clinch last year's Green Jacket at Augusta by a shot, came desperately close to winning the next two majors of 2004.

He led by a shot with two holes to play in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills, before being overhauled by South Africa's Retief Goosen, and was in contention for the British Open at Royal Troon in July before having to settle for third place.

He then tied for sixth in the U.S. PGA Championship at Whistling Straits the following month.

"After having gone such a long period of time -- 12 years -- without winning as major, I now appreciate the major championships a lot more and want them to come a lot quicker," Mickelson added.

"After those three close calls after last year's Masters, it made me believe I'm very, very close to breaking through and having an exceptional career in the majors."

The world number four, who produced 17 top-10 finishes in 46 major starts before his breakthrough at last year's Masters, is excited by the venues for this year's grand slam events.

The U.S. Open will be played at Pinehurst, where he was edged out by Payne Stewart in 1999, the British Open at St Andrews and the U.S. PGA Championship at Baltusrol.

"I love Augusta National and play very well there but I'm also excited to get back to Pinehurst, where I came so close in 1999," he said. "I'd love to get another shot there. The way it was set up in '99 worked out very well for me.

"St Andrews is the home of golf and Jack Nicklaus said that until you have won there it's hard to feel your career is complete.

"Baltusrol, I did not play there in the 1993 U.S. Open when Lee Janzen won. I'm really looking forward to competing there for the first time."

The Californian, who won this month's Phoenix Open with a course record-equalling 60 in the second round and the prestigious Pebble Beach National Pro Am on Sunday, is unconcerned he might be peaking too soon for the 2005 majors.

"I don't view it as peaking too early, I view it quite the opposite," said Mickelson, who has regained the 15 yards of driving distance he lost last year in a bid for greater accuracy.

"It's important for me to have a great West Coast swing (the events in California) and last year it was the key to my Masters victory.

"I played well every week on the West Coast and knew I would play well at Augusta, that I would make the critical putts at the critical times to win.

"My run to Augusta for this year has started right now, and my main goal is to try to get that lonely jacket a buddy to hang with."

Mickelson will defend his Masters title at Augusta from April 7-10.


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