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Phil Mickelson looking to seal first win of 2008

Three-times champion Phil Mickelson is eager to convert a strong start on the 2008 PGA Tour into victory at this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The American world number two has posted top-six finishes in his first two appearances of the season and is confident he can maintain an improving trend.

Mickelson tied for sixth at the Buick Invitational two weeks ago before being edged out by compatriot J.B. Holmes in a playoff at the Phoenix Open on Sunday.

"I played okay in my first week and I played better in Phoenix," the 37-year-old told reporters during preparation for his title defense at Pebble Beach. "I feel like my game is improving.

"I'm looking forward to Pebble. I feel like I'm starting to play better each round as the year goes on and I expect to improve my play this week, too."

Mickelson, who has made a habit of performing well on the West Coast swing at the start of the PGA Tour season, was stung by his playoff loss to the big-hitting Holmes.

"It's disappointing because that tournament has a special place in my heart and I love playing there," he said. "I love coming out and doing well and I would have loved to have won it again."

Mickelson, who won last year's Pebble Beach Pro-Am by a record-equaling five shots, faces a strong field of 180 that includes three other members of the world's top 11.

Also competing are sixth-ranked American Jim Furyk, British Open champion Padraig Harrington (10th) and 2004 winner Vijay Singh (11th).

Irishman Harrington, who makes his second appearance in the event and his first on the PGA Tour this season, is delighted to be back at Pebble Beach.

"When I came here and played the courses last year, I really, really warmed to them," he said on Tuesday. "They suit my game.

"They're very similar to conditions that I would experience at home. If I was to choose a style of golf course to play competitive golf on, these would be them."

Traditionally, the Pebble Beach tournament has been dominated by the bigger hitters and length is likely to be a welcome bonus on three rain-softened courses.

Over the last 10 years, Mickelson (three times), Tiger Woods (once), Davis Love III (twice) and Singh have triumphed by muscling their way round the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links and its sister venues Spyglass Hill and Poppy Hills.

This week is likely to be no different with Phoenix Open champion Holmes and Swede Daniel Chopra, winner of the season-opening Mercedes-Benz Championship, among likely contenders.


February 6, 2008

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