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Mickelson shrugs off 5th Players MC in 6 years

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PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – As it turns out, Phil Mickelson’s opening comments upon first returning to TPC Sawgrass this week proved prescient.

“I look at this course, I just can’t believe I’ve actually won here,” Mickelson said Tuesday.

Indeed Mickelson has had a spot in the champions’ locker room for more than a decade following his Players Championship victory in 2007. But his play this week was far more emblematic of his recent struggles here, as Mickelson shot rounds of 79-73 to beat only a handful of players among the 144-man field.

It’s the fifth missed cut in the last six years at this event for Mickelson, who now has gone eight years since his last top-20 finish here and remains vexed by the Stadium Course.

“I don’t know. I like it, it’s a very fair test. If you play well, there’s a lot of birdies out here,” Mickelson said after the second round. “But if you play poorly, the penalty for a mistake is much higher than any golf course that we play. I think it’s a fun challenge, I just haven’t played well. I don’t really know why.”

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Mickelson’s chances of making the weekend were doomed by a disastrous five-hole stretch to close out his opening round, where he played Nos. 14-18 in 7 over. With little chance of redeeming things Friday, he failed to break par once again despite racking up six birdies during a tumultuous round.

Mickelson cited energy issues following his opener that traced back to a taxing week at the Wells Fargo Championship, and he’ll likely make his next start in three weeks at the Memorial Tournament. After a disappointing showing in a star-studded group, Mickelson took solace in his overall play this season that includes six top-6 finishes highlighted by a win in Mexico.

“I knew energy was going to be an issue. I was concerned last week coming into this week, and unfortunately I was right,” Mickelson said. “But I have had a great year, and I’m not going to worry about two rounds on a place that has given me problems in the past.”

Mickelson garnered plenty of attention thanks to his marquee grouping with Tiger Woods, and while the performance of both players didn’t match the pre-tournament hype, Mickelson wouldn’t mind crossing paths with Woods once again at another event.

“I’m not opposed to it. I enjoy the challenge,” Mickelson said. “But I’d like it to be, I’d prefer it to be on the weekend. I hope we get there Saturday or Sunday.”