His confidence buoyed by the triumph in the desert, Mickelson finally shed his cant-win-the-big-one tag by taking the Masters.
It certainly was the most exciting (year) for me, even though I only won twice, Mickelson said Tuesday. I won a couple times in years past, but to win my first major, the Masters, and be part of that history, will be something Ill always remember.
Winning the Hope gave him considerable confidence.
The win for me last year was a huge win because 2003 was the worst year of my career, Mickelson said. It showed me that what I was working on was carrying over into my game, and that encouraged me to work harder on those same things.
Mickelson, who also won the Hope in 2002, is happy to be back.
I obviously love this tournament and I love the courses, he said. Its five rounds of golf on four courses.
They have wonderful practice facilities. It allows me to get some of the kinks out and get my short game started.
That could use some work. Struggling on and around the greens last week, he finished tied for 56th at Torrey Pines.
Mickelson or Mike Weir can make it four years in a row for left-handed champions in the Hope. Weir won in 2003, and, like Mickelson last year, went on to take the Masters.
The Masters, the first of the years majors, is April 7-10 in Augusta, Ga.
Weir, who also has won the Los Angeles tournament the past two years, likes to get off to a good start on the tours western swing.
Its important to play well out here and get some momentum, especially leading into Augusta, he said. It kind of builds your year.
Weir tied for 13th in the Mercedes Championships in his only other start this year.
The five-day Hope, along with Pebble Beach the only pro-am tournaments on the tour, gives the players a chance to play four different courses. This year, theyll rotate among the Palmer Course at PGA West, Bermuda Dunes Country Club, Tamarisk and La Quinta Country Club.
The field will be trimmed to the low 70 pros and ties for Sundays final round at PGA West.
Mickelson opts not to play with celebrities during the Hope, saying being on a quiet course gives him a better opportunity to sharpen his game.
Weir, a soft-spoken Canadian, doesnt mind having celebrities in his group. He and comedian George Lopez struck up a friendship after being paired in the Hope last year, and again will play a round together.
He hits and then we take a bus ride down to our tees and hit, Lopez said.
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