He has won the Masters three times and only finished outside the top 10 twice in his last 14 appearances, but Phil Mickelson will share the feelings of every Augusta rookie when the first round gets under way tomorrow.
“I’m a little bit nervous heading in because I didn’t compete the week before as I have for many years in the past,” said Mickelson, who opted not to play in last week’s Texas Open as he felt the course did not offer good preparation.
“I want to play well in this tournament. I love this tournament so much and I’m nervous because I haven’t been in contention since the Sunday of the Houston Open, and that’s 10 or 11 days as opposed to three.
“That’s what I’m nervous about, being mentally tuned in for those opening five or six holes.”
Before claiming his first Green Jacket in 2004, Mickelson was third three years in succession and was third again 12 months ago, missing out on the play-off between Louis Oosthuizen and eventual champion Bubba Watson by two shots after running up a triple-bogey six on the fourth hole in the final round.
After his wayward tee-shot bounced into the bushes off a spectator grandstand, the left-hander had two attempts to hack the ball out right-handed, then hit his fourth shot into a bunker and in the end did well to get up and down for a six.
But anyone expecting the 42-year-old to rein in his attacking instincts would be advised not to hold their breath.
Asked why he usually does so well at Augusta, Mickelson – who will tee off alongside Oosthuizen and Martin Kaymer at 1.30pm local time on Thursday – said: “It comes from knowing I don’t have to play perfectly to play well here. I don’t have to hit perfect shots to make pars.
“There are a lot of holes where I can make mistakes off the tee and with my short game I know I can recover. And knowing that, I relax because I don’t have to be perfect.
“It’s not like the US Open where if you make one little mistake it’s costing you one or two shots because you don’t have the ability to recover.
“Augusta offers that recovery shot which means you don’t have to be perfect from the tee, which I like.”