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Golf Australia Express : GA Express 274
day at Pebble Beach. Three front nine birdies had him in the hunt but even another trio of birdies in his last five holes couldn't make up the difference. His closing 67 had him three strokes shy of winner Ted Potter Jr. and back in a tie for second. But what a ride it was as Mickelson pursued the win with the same intense determination as if he was chasing a sixth major championship. And that’s exactly what he’ll be aiming for when he drives down Magnolia Lane for his 26th Masters start in April. There was a spring in the veteran’s step as he left Pebble Beach, happy in the knowledge that his game has rarely been this good at this stage pre-Masters build-up. “I think that my game's gotten better each week, my focus is getting better each week and I'm going to a golf course that I've played very well on in the past,” Mickelson said. “So I'm hoping that it continues to build on this. This shouldn't just be a one week deal, I should be getting better and better as the weeks go on.” Mickelson’s weakness, particularly in recent years, has been his driving. He is the first to admit that if he can improve to the level of just being “Tour average” he’ll make a lot more birdies based on his superior iron play. To that end, he says he worked hard during the off- season at improving his work from the tee and the benefits are starting to pay off. “There's a fine line between getting your mind in a mindset to go out and score and go out and play and have fun and getting away from the technical aspect of it,” he said. “I've been working hard the last few months of getting the technical aspect down and it's been hard for me to kind of transition my focus into play, to have fun and go hit shots and enjoy the day.” That all changed at TPC Scottsdale and Pebble Beach and it would be brave man to right him off at the Masters, where a fourth green jacket would come with plenty of additional benefits. None, perhaps, more important than securing an automatic selection on the American team for the Ryder Cup in France later this year. His runner-up finish at Pebble has the top-eight automatic qualifiers within his sight. He will be 48 by the time Team USA flies to Paris and it would be a record 12th Ryder Cup appearance for Mickelson – an achievement reflecting an incredible longevity at the top of the game and one unlikely to be beaten ► PLAYER PROFILE VIDEO: PHIL'S TOP-10 GREATEST PGA TOUR ESCAPE SHOTS
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GA Express 275