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Mickelson laments schedule changes

Bob Harig
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Phil Mickelson feels he is at his sharpest when he plays regularly © Getty Images
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Phil Mickelson likes to compete the week before major championships, but only on golf courses he feels will help him prepare for the tournament played the following week.

So he's disappointed that the schedule change this year won't allow for the typical preparation he prefers, perhaps only frustrated more by his finish on Thursday at the Arnold Palmer Invitational which included two bogeys for a 1-over-par 73.

That left Mickelson eightbstrokes behind leader Justin Rose, but of more importance, searching a bit for his game.

"Three-putting 17 and 18 feels terrible walking off the course, but I hit it terrible today," said the 42-year-old Mickelson. "I felt terrible with swinging the club. I didn't know which way I was going to miss it. And that's not a good feeling.

"So to get in at one-over, I thought anything at par or better would be a good score. I'll have to make some adjustments heading into tomorrow."

Mickelson has an early-morning tee time, so the changes will have to come quick.

And he also has to deal with a schedule not to his liking. For each of the past five years - and for each of the three Masters he won in 2004, 2006 and 2010 - Mickelson played the PGA Tour event the previous week.

The past few years it has been the Shell Houston Open. In 2004 and 2006, it was the BellSouth Classic in Atlanta, on a course with very similar conditions to Augusta National.

But this year, due to the Masters having a later date, the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio is the week prior to the Masters. And the TPC San Antonio venue, Mickelson said, is not a proper course for him that week.

"For me personally, I like playing in a tournament that's similar to what we'll be playing," Mickelson said. "For a long time, we had a pretty good tournament before the USvOpen. I don't remember what it was [Westchester] but now it's Memphis. It's so hot, I run out of energy and going to the Open, I'm drained so I don't play there anymore.

"This year, having a windy, tight course [in San Antonio] really isn't conducive to getting ready for Augusta. That makes it difficult for me personally so I'll end up going to Augusta a few days early and what have you. I've got to make some adjustments, just because the tournaments before the majors are not helping us at all get ready."

After the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Mickelson will play next week's Shell Houston Open - which the past five years has preceded the Masters. During the week between it and the Masters, Mickelson will likely spend some time practicing at Augusta.

But he would have done that anyway. And it doesn't replace the competitive environment he prefers.

"I find when I take a week off, I come out and play like I did today ... just mentally not sharp," Mickelson said. "The more I play, the sharper I get and usually the second or third tournament is when I play my best.

"That's why I like to have a tournament before a major because a major's penalty for a miss is so severe you've got to be sharp on each shot right from the gate."

Mickelson has often played the Scottish Open the week before the Open Championship and will play the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational the week before the PGA Championship.

But he'll have this adjustment to make for the Masters in the next few weeks. And the schedule will dictate the same thing in 2014.

This article first appeared on ESPN.com

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