by Jeff Skinner
Does it come as a surprise that Phil Mickelson is a man of his word? It shouldn’t. Phil was open about his task this week: get his game in shape for Augusta and The Masters and if he managed to contend at The Shell Houston Open that would be a bonus. Well, he found his game on Saturday as he tied the course record with a 63 and vaulted up the leaderboard for a share of the lead with Scott Verplanck.
Phil’s 63 is his best round in two years and if Saturday was any indication he may be ready for Augusta. In 2006 Mickelson won the week before The Masters and he went on to win his second green jacket. He is back to his old tricks as he kept two drivers in his bag and is considering playing them both next week.
“People have talked about winning the week before a major as not necessarily the greatest thing, because it takes away energy, or what have you,” Mickelson said. “I felt like in ‘06, it was really a benefit to gain the momentum and confidence of winning a golf tournament right before, especially the Masters. “Maybe before the U.S. Open, the course setups might be so different, it might not be the best thing,” Mickelson said. “But I feel like the momentum that you can gain by playing well at the Houston Open can be a real plus heading to Augusta.”
Phil will be paired with 46 year old Scott Verplanck as the two “old guys” try to stop the streak of twentysomethings winning on the PGA Tour at three. Verplanck has been fighting injuries for years. He’s a diabetic, had elbow surgeries, had plantar fasciitis and now has a troublesome left wrist. Verplanck last won at the 2007 Byron Nelson and Phil is looking for his first win as a forty year old.
Phil will no doubt enjoy a win here and then look to make The Masters his second win as a fortysomething.