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Phil Mickelson improves fitness for 2007

Phil Mickelson spent a lot of time in the gym during the offseason, pumping iron and practicing his kicking and punching.

Deciding that he simply ran out of steam late last season, the 36-year-old Mickelson was determined to build up stamina.

"So the last three or four months, I've done a lot with my trainer to address that," Mickelson said Tuesday as he prepared to make his 2007 debut in the Bob Hope Classic.

"I immediately lost 20, 25 pounds and put on about 10 to 15 more with muscle from lifting, trying to build up stamina doing 45 minutes to an hour and a half of cardio five or six days a week. I've started a new martial arts, a different type of martial art from what I'd been doing."

The U.S. Open, where he lost despite holding a two-shot lead with four holes remaining, and his 0-4-1 showing in the Americans' lopsided loss in the Ryder Cup made 2006 a disappointing year, he said.

"Even though I won the Masters, I looked back and those two events, those were the ones that needed to be addressed," Mickelson said.

Drives that strayed left cost him at the Open, and he has concentrated on getting his groove back off the tee. He also has consulted with club technicians to design a new driver. He said his poor Ryder Cup performance was not a problem with his mechanics, but with his stamina.

He's generally played well early each year, including winning five times in his season debut dating to Tucson in 1991 and including the Hope in 2002 and 2004.

"I don't expect to see much (difference) in the start of the year because I usually play well," he said. "But I'm hoping to continue or sustain that level of play throughout the whole year."

Mickelson, whose two victories in 2006 included his second Masters title, didn't spend all of his offseason lifting, punching and kicking.

"Amy and I had some great trips. We did a week in Italy, went to Venice and Rome and hung out there with some friends," he said. "We had a chance to celebrate our 10th anniversary, went down to Bora Bora and had a Polynesian wedding to renew our vows and just had a great time together.

"I had a chance to do a lot of fun things and now that I've had that time, I'm looking forward to getting back to playing golf."

He sounded fired up, especially about the new season-long points race.

"I'm really excited about this year," he said. "I think the tour has a lot of new excitement, like the FedExCup, that should help create interest throughout the year, not just in specific events.

"What's cool is that we actually have something to play for now at the end of the year, as opposed to having the money list already decided, the player of the year already decided and it just being a tournament for the top 30 on the tour."

Mickelson tied for fifth last year in the Hope, won by Chad Campbell. Campbell is back to defend his title in the five-day event, and the field also includes Paul Goydos, who won in Honolulu last Sunday for his first victory in a decade.

January 17, 2007


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