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Mickelson taking it easy

Tuesday, April 05, 2011
By Garry Smits
Morris News Service

Phil Mickelson is nothing if not a strategist. He's always thinking ahead of terms of what will serve him best in competition and Tuesday was another example.

Golf instructor Butch Harmon, right, chats with Phil Mickelson at the driving range before his a practice round for the Masters golf tournament Tuesday, April 5, 2011, in Augusta, Ga.

(Associated Press)

His ploy: Kick back in his rented home after a brief practice session and his news conference in the Augusta National Golf Club media center.

Mickelson decided not to play a practice round Tuesday, a decision likely to have disappointed thousands of patrons who had the misfortune, if they were Philly Phanatics, to draw practice round tickets on a chilly and blustery day that followed severe storms overnight. But the defending Masters champion decided there was no point playing the course when the winds blowing out of the northwest up to 20 mph are going to change to south-southwest winds around 10 mph for Thursday's first round.

Mickelson will play a practice round Wednesday. Tuesday involved about an hour's work on the practice area, including a substantial amount of time hitting out of bunkers.

He also said he will use two drivers in the tournament, with one having a bit longer shaft and designed to enable him to carry the fairway bunkers at Nos. 1 and 8. Mickelson will sacrifice his 3-iron and hybrid, and his 4-iron will be the longest iron in his bag.

Mickelson said a 4-iron is the longest iron he will need to reach the par-5 holes at Augusta from the fairway -- even the lengthy, uphill eighth hole. But Mickelson said he can drive the ball that far in warm weather, which is being predicted for tournament week.

Mickelson drew the next-to-last starting time in Thursday's first round, going off at 1:48 p.m. with defending U.S. Amateur champion Peter Uihlein and Geoff Ogibly. Mickelson said he never minds late starting times because it's been his experience that the wind dies down on the course in the late afternoon and "it gets very peaceful."

Unless he hits a circus shot such as last year during the final round, his 6-iron second shot off pine straw and between two trees to the 13th green. Then it gets loud in a hurry.

"I wouldn't mind playing late all four days," Mickelson said with a grin.

If that's the case, then he's playing pretty well.

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