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Phil Mickelson looking to get on track

Twice champion and world number two Phil Mickelson plans to make up for lost time at this week's Phoenix Open in Scottsdale, Arizona.

The 37-year-old American believes he is a week behind in his early season schedule after battling respiratory problems and bronchitis for the last three months.

Mickelson tied for sixth at the Buick Invitational on Sunday, his first tournament of 2008, after being confined to bed rest and antibiotics by his doctor at the start of the week.

"I'm behind on my game just because I haven't been able to practice but, as the week wore on, I started to play better and I started to feel better," the three-times major winner said.

"These two rounds under par on the weekend give me a little bit of momentum heading into the Phoenix Open," Mickelson added, referring to his 68-71 finish at Torrey Pines.

"I don't feel like I'm that far off for being a week late in my preparation. I'm driving it better but I need to make adjustments in my lag putting, sharpen up the short game a little bit and get better distance control with my irons."

Mickelson, who attended Arizona State University before winning the Phoenix Open in 1996 and 2005, feels more confident going into his second event of the season than he did 12 months ago.

"I was working hard last year but I wasn't getting the results," he said, speaking to reporters after shooting a one-under-par 71 in the final round of the Buick Invitational.

"I feel like even though I'm a week behind this year, I'm ahead of where I was last year."

Mickelson launched his 2007 PGA Tour season by tying for 45th at the Bob Hope Classic and sharing 51st spot at the Buick Invitational the following week.

This week, he faces a strong challenge on the Stadium Course at the TPC Scottsdale where seven of the world's top 20 will be in action.

Apart from Mickelson, third-ranked Steve Stricker, Rory Sabbatini (ninth), Vijay Singh (11th), Geoff Ogilvy (14th), Aaron Baddeley (17th) and Trevor Immelman (20th) are playing.

Australian Baddeley defends the title he won last year by a shot after American Jeff Quinney bogeyed the last two holes.

"I'm really looking forward to it," Scottsdale resident Baddeley said. "Being able to defend in front of my hometown crowd is going to be really exciting for me."

Regardless of who wins this week, the Phoenix Open crowds will deliver the biggest party on tour, especially with the high-octane Super Bowl also in town.

Half a million fans are expected and most of them will savor the grandstand atmosphere around the par-three 16th, the noisiest hole in golf.



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