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The Loop

Healthy Mickelson expecting big 2011 season

January 26, 2011

LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson never can escape the inevitable questions about his primary foil, Tiger Woods, so it's no surprise that he handles the questions with considerable aplomb.

Asked what he expects of the former No. 1 player in the world, Mickelson replied, dryly, "I expect he'll be the Tiger we have known for over a decade. Unfortunately."

More fortunate news is that Mickelson, 40, expects to be more of the player he thinks he should be. He wasted no time Wednesday pointing out that he began his preparations for the 2011 season a week earlier than usual, on Dec. 28, and that his arthritis that derailed him for the second half of last year is under control. What does that mean for the reigning Masters champion?

"I want to try to make 2011 the year that I thought 2010 was going to be," he said.

Allowing him to be more optimistic is not only the improvement in his health, but also the continuing progress of his wife, Amy, who is battling breast cancer. "We're all in a much better place. We're all excited about 2011," said Mickelson, whose mother also is dealing with breast cancer.

As for his golf game, that is in a better place, too -- perhaps the best place it could be, in fact.

"I'm 40 years old, and I've been playing this game a long time, and I no longer need to go about changes in my game," Mickelson said. "I feel like I've worked on some things now with Butch Harmon to get my swing to where I want it to be. I've worked with (Dave) Stockton and (Dave) Pels to get my practice sessions the way I want them to be, as well as my short game putting technique. I feel this is a year where I don't have to have any change. It's a year of refinement ... developing touch, developing shot-making and getting into the nuances of hitting great shots and not having to worry about technique, and it's a good feeling."

-- Dave Shedloski