AUGUSTA, Ga. — After 98 career rounds at Augusta National, not to mention collecting a few green jackets, there’s not much in the way of unchartered territory for Phil Mickelson when it comes to the Masters. Sure, there are the subtleties of the course and small tweaks to big changes — like the lengthened fifth hole this year — that take some learning. Beyond that, there’s usually not much change for Lefty.
Until this year.
For the first time since 2007, Mickelson enters the year’s first major having not played a tournament the week before. It’s the byproduct of a restructured PGA Tour schedule that saw the Houston Open move from its usual date the week before the Masters to the fall, with the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio taking its place.
For the 48-year-old Mickelson that meant spending four days at Augusta National last week instead of playing the very un-Augusta like TPC San Antonio. He then returned home to San Diego, where the practice green at his house was running between 15.6 and 16 on the Stimpmeter.
“I just come out and try to learn the golf course,” he said of his visit last week. “We're not allowed to have a greens book so we don't know the exact contours and so forth, so I just have to take notes on what every putt does and I just do my own thing there and take notes over the years. I analyze if there's any changes and make sure I'm validating the notes and making sure that they are accurate, that the putt and chip does exactly what I thought in the past or wrote down.
“I'm just analyzing that stuff and trying to do my course prep a week before so when I get to the tournament site this week, all I'm worried about is executing and getting my game sharp and I don't have to worry about golf course and what's going on and what changes have been made. I've already made those decisions on how I'm going to play.”
As for how Mickelson fared the last time he didn’t play the week before the Masters? He tied for 24th. All three of his victories there came with Mickelson having played the week prior.