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Mickelson Back With the Big Boys

All we need now is, say, a top 10 finish from David Duval and all the big boys will be back in the boat. The most recent returnee to the short list of the best male players in the world is Phil Mickelson.
With his victory at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, Mickelson ended a winless drought on the PGA Tour that extended close to 20 months. By defeating Skip Kendall in a one-hole playoff in the desert, Mickelson chased away, at least for now, the caravan of doubters who had an endless list of reasons for why Mickelson had dropped from No. 2 in the world ranking to No. 16 in the last 12 months.
'It's been a long time,' Mickelson said, after winning this event for the second time in three years.
Certainly too long for a player with Lefty's lofty expectations. Sure, the 900-ton gorilla still perches on his back: He hasn't won a major championship. But too many people conveniently forget Mickelson is 6-1 in playoffs and has now closed the deal nine times in the 13 times he has led or shared the lead going into the final round.
Mickelson has 22 victories and has jumped into the fourth spot in the Ryder Cup standings. Somewhere, American captain Hal Sutton is smiling.
The genesis of this victory began in the off-season, a time during which Mickelson worked primarily on his short game with instructor Dave Pelz. He didn't like the way he was swinging at the end of the season. So rather than practice bad full swing habits, he didn't practice the full swing at all.
'I didn't want to force or press the issue,' he said, adding that the work with Pelz was invaluable. 'I'm starting to see results very quickly.'
Perhaps the loudest statement Mickelson made at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic was an equipment change. He took his 3-wood out of the bag and replaced it with a 1-iron. What is not well-known about Mickelson's is how far he hits his irons when he wants to do so. Many tour players will tell you there is no one longer - not Woods nor Daly - with blades in his hands.
It was a concession on Mickelson's part to accuracy. In the past, Mickelson hasn't liked to make concessions. And it has hurt him. This time the switch produced a dramatic up-tick in driving accuracy. The results were instantaneous.
Less than a year ago, this same Phil Mickelson was telling us at the Bank of America Colonial how he planned to hit drivers at that tournament in preparation for the upcoming U.S. Open. We all scratched our heads.
Now Mickelson is making sense: He's making sense to us. More important, he's making sense to himself. Maybe he's learning that less can be more. A lot more.
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