Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods ready to take on Masters course again

All eyes are on Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, two of the most dominant players at the 75th edition of Masters within the past decade. Mickelson for his top-rated performance as the defending champion, and Woods for his comeback performance after the past year’s scandal that hurt his personal life and career.

Mickelson enters the tournament feeling like a champion thanks to his impressive victory at the Shell Houston Open last week. Woods enters the tournament with the hope that he and his revamped swing can bear the major championship pressure.

While Mickelson, who has moved up to the third this week, has overtaken Woods in the world rankings as the latter dropped to seventh, the defending champion declined from being part of the theory.

“I don’t know,” Mickelson said at his news conference. “I mean, I certainly enjoy this place and have enjoyed it, and have felt great on this golf course even before I won here. I felt like it was a course I could play well on, and really enjoy playing it every year. It’s something that I’ve just come to love with all my heart and appreciate how great this place is, how special this place is to the game of golf.

“I feel very fortunate, as well as … Well, it just means a lot to me to have won here and to be able to come back and be a part of this tournament.”

Woods’ response to the same question was:

“Doesn’t matter,” he said at his news conference held right after Mickelson’s. “You still have to play the golf tournament, right? We all have an opportunity. Everyone has the same opportunity as I do, and always has been. So (I) just (have) to go out there and play and see where it adds up.”

Woods is trying to make a comeback and to regain the lost glory since he won his first tournament in 2009 and his first Masters in 2005 but the numbers seems to be too high to win.

“Well, we’ve changed a lot, from stance to grip to where the club is, where he believes the club needs to be throughout the entire golf swing, and obviously what the body is doing,” Woods said. “That’s way different than what I used to do. And that’s been a difficult change. The grip part I got pretty quickly. The posture I got pretty quickly. The other stuff has been more difficult.”

Woods was working with Butch Harmon when he first overhauled his swing during the 1997 Masters. He changed instructors and signed up with Hank Haney in 2004 and won six more majors. Woods has since hooked up with Foley.

“I won here in ‘97 thinking that was a great week, but I can’t repeat this,” Woods said Tuesday. “That swing I had would not put me in contention each and every week, and I need to change that. So a couple of years later, I changed it and had a nice little run of years. The same thing with moving on to Hank, same deal, I felt that I could go to another level. I felt like I did, and I’m here with Sean, and I feel like I can go to another level.”

“You know I’ve played since I was a year and a half,” Mickelson said. “I’m 40, so 38 1/2 years I’m playing this game. I love it and have such a passion for this game. But when I come here, it reminds me of that. I could easily forget week in and week out playing the PGA Tour how lucky I am to play this game.

“When I come back to Augusta National, I just remember how much I loved it as a kid, dreamt of playing the tour; dreamt of playing in the Masters and winning this tournament and being a part of it. All of the feelings come back when I drive down Magnolia Lane. It just reinvigorates my passion for the game.”

Mickelson is set to defend his title with diligent preparation. He went to August two times before the tournament to work on shots he will need this week.