LA JOLLA, Calif. -- Phil Mickelson returns to his roots this week to compete in the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. The 38-year-old left-hander missed the cut in his 2009 debut last week in the FBR Open in Phoenix, but is armed with a new Callaway FT9 driver, a club he worked hard with during the off-season and was approved for competition on Monday.
"I spent a lot of time with Callaway working on a driver that I can keep in play and hit these little cut shots that I wanted to play," he said Tuesday. "I'm very excited about how I'm driving the golf ball; although, it was not evident in the first two days at FBR, I am excited about it for the rest of the year and think that will be a strength."
Last year, Mickelson swung an FT5 driver. He has shortened his back swing and is trying to accelerate more on his downswing. He's also hitting it further.
"My misses with this club are better than they have ever been," he added.
Mickelson and swing coach Butch Harmon have also put in extra hours on his short game. Admittedly, he has not putted well the past two years, prompting added work with putting guru Dave Pelz in the Callaway putting studio in Carlsbad.
"We were able to see the weaknesses," he said. "The stroke was actually where I wanted it to be. The path and everything was right where I wanted it. However, I was not making putts, and it had to do more with alignment. So this whole off-season, even though I did not play much, I was working and training my eyes with devices to help me with my alignment and I'm finally starting to make putts."
Mickelson, a 34-time winner on the PGA Tour, was as stunned as anyone he played so poorly last week in Phoenix, shooting rounds of 76-73.
"I don't really have a great answer for that," he said. "I was surprised as everyone, because I felt heading in, I was starting to play some good golf. And just for whatever reason, I'm going to have to just brush it off and not worry about it and get ready for San Diego."
This week marks the second of five consecutive events Mickelson will play. He won this tournament in 1993, 2000 and 2001, but has not prevailed since the South Course began an extensive renovation project by Rees Jones in 2001, with continuing work preparing for the 2008 U.S. Open in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007.
"I love this tournament because every time I go out and play it brings out memories of playing with my dad," Mickelson said.
-- Mark Soltau