Mickelson Returns to Action

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04 HP Classic of New OrleansNEW ORLEANS -- How much better can things get for Phil Mickelson?
 
He hasn't missed a cut this year, has finished in the top 10 in eight of the nine tournaments he has entered and added the Masters title to his lists of accomplishments two weeks ago.
 
And on Wednesday, he prepared for the HP Classic of New Orleans with a hole-in-one at the 17th hole in the Pro-Am.
 
'It's been fun,' Mickelson said. 'I'm really enjoying playing.'
 
The $5.1 million tournament is the first tournament for Mickelson since winning the Masters, his first major.

'I don't feel any different as a player,' he said. 'I don't feel any different as a human being.'
 
Still, the biggest victory of his career has been a blast.
 
In addition of celebrating with family and friends, Mickelson has relished getting calls from the likes of President Bush and boxing promoter Don King. He said ringing the bell at the New York Stock Exchange was great, so were appearances on Jay Leno and David Letterman.
 
'That's stuff you don't get a chance to do very often,' Mickelson said.
 
Mickelson credited both playing better and relaxing more with his hot start this year.
 
'I feel as though I have a direction,' he said. 'So that when I practice I'm working on things that will get me better.'
 
On Wednesday Mickelson was relaxed, chatting with fans and officials, pausing to enjoy some of the food scattered around the course. He passed up the red beans and rice on No. 9, but didn't miss the char broiled oysters at the tee on 10.
 
'I love those oysters,' he said. 'I must have had a dozen and a half of them.'
 
Mickelson has played well on the 7,116-yard English Turn course, finishing second in 2001 and earning almost $600,000 in four appearances. Mickelson returned to practice last week, but he acknowledges that with the break in his routine after the Masters, it will be hard to win back-to-back tournaments.
 
'For me to come out and focus and play well will be a challenge,' Mickelson said.
 
Although Mickelson spent a long time after his round Wednesday signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans, he did not have the biggest gallery.
 
That honor belonged to David Toms, an LSU graduate who had LSU football coach Nick Saban in his foursome.
 
'I think coach signed more autographs than I did,' said Toms, whose purple hat had LSU stitched on the side and '2003 National Football Champion' on the back.

Tiger fans, still celebrating LSU's Sugar Bowl victory and the Bowl Championship Series title, brought posters, pictures, shirts and hats for Saban to sign.
 
Saban said his handicap is supposed to be 15 but is probably 18. Finding time to play golf is difficult, he said. LSU wrapped up spring practice on Saturday, giving Saban a chance to make the Pro-Am. Although he loves golf, it's not as good as football practice, Saban said.
 
'Absolutely not,' he said. 'I couldn't yell at anybody out there today.'
 
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