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Phil Mickelson optimistic about 2008

Phil Mickelson, close to full fitness after battling a respiratory problem since October, is in upbeat mood for this season with memories of a wrist injury suffered midway through last year all but banished.

The world number two makes his first appearance on the 2008 PGA Tour at this week's Buick Invitational, where he is a three-times champion.

"My excitement level for '08 is extremely high because I feel very comfortable with the swing changes that I've made over the last nine months with (coach) Butch Harmon,' Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday.

"I feel like I'm ready to play competitively without having to think about the nuances of that and to be able to react again to shots, as opposed to having to think about swing mechanics or thoughts.

"Even though '07 may not have been the way I wanted to play in the majors, I still had a lot of positives from it that set '08 up to be a good year. I certainly liked the way I finished. I liked winning at Deutsche Bank and in China."

After clinching the Players Championship by two strokes last May in his third tournament since switching allegiance to Harmon, Mickelson injured his left wrist while practising out of rough at Oakmont Country Club for the June U.S. Open.

He missed the cut in his next two majors and tied for 32nd at the PGA Championship in August before returning to the winner's circle the following month at the Deutsche Bank Championship.

The American left-hander ended his 2007 campaign with a playoff victory at the HSBC Champions in China two months ago despite struggling with shortness of breath and fatigue.

"I feel a lot better now," said three-times major winner Mickelson, who played in Wednesday's pro-am at Torrey Pines after being confined to bed rest for the three previous days.

"I've been struggling with my health here in the off-season with this respiratory thing, almost three months now. But I had some blood work and some lung X-rays and I think that it's just a case of bronchitis. I should be fine shortly."

Mickelson's greatest cause for optimism going into this season is his increased accuracy off the tee.

"I feel like I'll be able to drive the ball in the fairway or just off the edges, keeping the ball in play and not having the big misses I have had in the past," the 37-year-old said.

"I've had penalty strokes almost every tournament. I think that that's a realistic goal to go the entire four rounds in a number of events without any penalty shots.

"That doesn't seem like a big deal, but it has been for me in the past. I think that will allow me to get to my strength, which is 150 yards in."


January 24, 2008

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