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Mickelson enters Pebble with 'momentum' after strong Saudi showing

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Phil Mickelson will begin his title defense next week at Pebble Beach with some momentum.

Mickelson entered this week's Saudi International in a prolonged slump, having failed to notch a top-10 finish since that triumph last year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. But despite falling to No. 86 in the world rankings and beginning the new year with back-to-back missed cuts, Mickelson showed there's still some game left in the tank by tying for third in the Middle East.

Mickelson fired a closing 3-under 67 Sunday to finish the week at 9 under, just three shots back of winner Graeme McDowell.

"It was so fun to be back in the mix," Mickelson told reporters afterward. "It's been a while since I've been in contention. It's been a while since I've been playing well and it feels really good. This has been a great week for me, a good step, and it was so fun coming down the stretch to feel the nervousness and the excitement and the opportunities."

Diaz: When Mickelson is on, he's a top-10 player

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Full-field scores from the Saudi International

Mickelson was just one shot off the lead early on the back nine, but he bogeyed the par-3 16th and missed a crucial birdie putt on the penultimate hole to end his threat. But Mickelson was excited to keep building off what he described as a strong week, both off the tee (at least for the first three rounds before Mickelson admitted getting "antsy" and "stuck" on his downswing) and on the greens (especially during a windy Sunday).

"I haven't been my best this last year since I won Pebble a year ago, and I'm excited to go back there next week with a little bit of momentum," Mickelson said. "I feel like I have been playing well, but yet I haven't had the results. I missed a couple of cuts and this week I really started to put things together and it's a great week to build off of."