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Improved accuracy gives Phil Mickelson hopes for 2008

Improved accuracy after working hard on his game with coaches Butch Harmon and Dave Pelz has given Phil Mickelson high expectations for 2008.

The American left-hander, who defends his title at this week's Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, feels he is better equipped to challenge at the majors because of his improved driving accuracy.

"My expectations are higher this year than in the previous two years because I'm starting to drive the ball a lot better," the world number two told reporters at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Wednesday.

"And I've spent now four years with Pelz and my short irons from 150 (yards) and my putting have become much more consistent and been at a whole different level than before we started working together.

"I won a bunch of tournaments but I wanted to get better," Mickelson added, referring to his decision to switch from former swing coach Rick Smith to Harmon early last year.

"I wasn't performing off the tee the way I needed to to win majors and now I'm seeing the difference. I'm not missing it (the fairway) big."

Big-hitting Mickelson, who won the most recent of his three major titles at the 2006 Masters, likes his chances this week after posting top-six finishes in his first two PGA Tour starts of the year.

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

"Last week was close," Mickelson said. "I felt like I hit a lot of shots that were good enough to win the tournament but I hit a lot of shots that cost me the tournament, whether it was a four-putt on nine or a couple of tee shots into the water.

"I had a great practice session with Butch yesterday before I came up and I believe that the subtleties or some of those shots would have been eliminated. I really expect to have a good week."

Mickelson, who cruised to victory by a record-equaling five shots at Pebble Beach last year, says he is fully fit after battling respiratory problems and bronchitis since last October.

"I feel 100 percent," the 37-year-old said. "I've been able to work out. I've gotten my strength back. I had some atrophy for a week or two and I wasn't quite as strong as I had been. But that's come back. I feel good."

Mickelson, who also won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 1998 and 2005, will play Thursday's opening round at Poppy Hills, one of three venues staging this week's event.


February 7, 2008

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