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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 April, 2005, 07:51 GMT 08:51 UK
Q&A: Phil Mickelson
By Alistair Magowan

MICKELSON'S AUGUSTA FORM
Phil Mickelson celebrates at Augusta last year
2004: 1st - 72 69 69 69
2003: 3rd - 73 70 72 68
2002: 3rd - 69 72 68 71
2001: 3rd - 67 69 69 70
2000: T7th - 71 68 76 71

With three wins already in 2005, the last coming just three days before the start of the Masters, Phil Mickelson is bang in form.

Only Jack Nicklaus, Nick Faldo and Tiger Woods have successfully defended their titles at Augusta, but Mickelson has not been outside the top three since 2000, when he finished in a tie for seventh.

The 34-year-old American told BBC Sport, in an exclusive question and answer session, how he is hungrier than ever to present himself with the Green Jacket.


Q: What's the biggest lesson you learned from last year's Masters?

A: I made two adjustments for the Masters last year, in my preparation and my attitude, and winning there confirmed that they were good ones.

I spent hours studying the course well in advance of the tournament, so I knew where I could hits shots and where I could afford to miss them.

And unlike in past years on Sunday, I was ready to enjoy the moment - each shot, each situation. Instead of focusing hard solely on winning, I freed myself to execute more effectively.

Q: Will you be as hungry to win this year compared with last, given that you have a major under your belt now?

A: There's no question about that. I finished just five strokes short of the winning score in the other three majors.

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson at the Ford Championship in March
I love the opportunity to compete against the best players, especially when we're playing well

That means I was less than a half-shot a day away from four wins and my goal this year is to find those extra shots.

Q: Are you one of the favourites for the title?

A: There are a lot of top players playing very well so far this year. I've done my work. I know I'll be ready.

Q: People often describe the Masters as a special tournament. What makes it different from the other majors?

The history of the event, which has been held at the same site for decades, and the idea that we can walk in the footsteps of the greats of the game year after year.

And then there's the fans, who are arguably the most knowledgeable and polite in all of golf. Many of whom we see at the same places on the course every year.

Q: How excited are you about this season given that you, Woods, Singh and Els are all on hot form?

A: I think it's shaping up to be a tremendous season and let's not forget about Retief Goosen, Padraig Harrington, David Toms and Sergio Garcia.

Retief Goosen
Retief Goosen, the world number five, is a definite contender

I love the opportunity to compete against the best players, especially when we're playing well.

The goal is to win, of course, but the means is competition. Even if we're not all winners every week, we're all competitors.

Q: What would represent a successful year for you?

A: Seeing continued improvement on the course and enjoying a happy, healthy family off of it.

Q: How much of a benefit has it been switching clubs?

A: It's been significant, especially the switch to the Callaway ball.

I've regained the distance I had lost last year off the tee and retained my touch and feel around the green.

Between that and the clubs, I'm flighting the ball better than ever and hitting some really good iron shots.

Coverage of the Masters starts on BBC Two at 9pm on Thursday 7 April 2005.





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