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Page last updated at 11:32 GMT, Wednesday, 7 April 2010 12:32 UK

Phil Mickelson expects Tiger Woods Masters challenge

Venue: Augusta National Date: 8-11 April
Coverage: Watch live on BBC TV, High Definition, Red Button and BBC Sport website (UK only); listen on BBC Radio 5 live and online (UK only); text commentary online and on mobile phones

Phil Mickelson
Mickelson finished joint-35th in Houston at the weekend

Two-time champion Phil Mickelson expects Tiger Woods to challenge at the top of the Masters leaderboard despite his lengthy absence from the game.

Woods, returning after five months out after details of his infidelity emerged, won the 2008 US Open despite having a badly injured left knee.

"I do not think anyone expected him to play well in 2008. He was injured yet he came back and won," said Mickelson.

"Nobody here will question his ability to perform at the highest level."

Mickelson believes Woods' play-off victory over Rocco Mediate round Torrey Pines for the most recent of his 14 majors is a warning that has been heeded by the rest of the field.

Captain Obvious

"From a player's point of view we expect to see the same player we have always seen," he said.

Mickelson and Woods were paired together for the final day of a major for the first time in last year's Masters at Augusta National.

Both surged through the field - Mickelson equalling a tournament record with a score of 30 over the first nine - but neither could force their way into a play-off won by Argentina's Angel Cabrera.

Mickelson went on to take a share of second place in the US Open and victories in the Tour Championships and HSBC Champions tournament, but his form in recent weeks has been less encouraging.

He has slid from second in the world ranking to third behind Steve Stricker after just one top-10 finish in seven starts this season.

Tiger Woods does not owe me a thing. In the last 12 years he has done so much for the game of golf

Phil Mickelson

"My performance has not been what I wanted. I am not overly concerned, but I would have liked to have been in contention, for sure," he said.

"The putter has actually been coming around the last few tournaments. It feels really good."

Since November much attention has been focused on Woods' absence and when he might return.

But Mickelson insisted his fellow American's subsequent apology to his fellow players was unneeded.

"He does not owe me a thing. In the last 12 years he has done so much for the game of golf," he said.

"I do not know if there has been an individual who has capitalised more on the opportunities he has brought to the game than myself."

Honorary starters Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus get the Masters first round under way at 1240 BST on Thursday.

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see also
Masters tee times
11 Apr 10 |  Golf
Woods dominates Masters build-up
07 Apr 10 |  Golf
Faldo thinks Woods will struggle
05 Apr 10 |  Golf
'Hurt' Woods targets Masters win
05 Apr 10 |  Golf
Repentant Woods sorry for affairs
19 Feb 10 |  Golf
Cabrera wins Masters in play-off
12 Apr 09 |  Golf
Injured Woods out for the season
18 Jun 08 |  Golf
Woods seals dramatic US Open win
16 Jun 08 |  Golf
Golf on the BBC
01 Jul 11 |  Golf

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