Phil Mickelson believes experience can earn him fourth green jacket
Would become the oldest Masters champion in history if he wins at Augusta this week
Phil Mickelson believes Augusta experience will be key in this week’s Masters. Photograph: Brian Snyder/Reuters
Nicklaus was 46 years, two months and 23 days old when he won his 18th and final major title at Augusta in 1986, a closing 65 giving him a record sixth Masters victory.
Mickelson, who will celebrate his 47th birthday in June, has not won a tournament since the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield, but the left-hander believes his age will not be a barrier to success this week.
“I think the last year and a half I’ve worked really hard to get my game back to the level that I expect and the level that I’ve strived for,” Mickelson said.
“If I can play anywhere close to the way I played at the British Open last year and the Ryder Cup, I should be able to give myself a good opportunity for Sunday.”
Mickelson, who was only denied a second Open title at Troon by a record-breaking performance from Henrik Stenson, added: “What I like most about this week is that Thursday, Friday, the weather is going to come in and that’s going to magnify the misses for a lot of players, which means that you need to miss it in the correct spots.
“Even though you might miss it big, if you’re in the right spot you can take advantage of your short game and salvage a lot of pars and I hope to rely on that knowledge and skill to keep myself in it heading into the weekend, where players less experienced with the golf course will possibly miss it in the wrong spots and shoot themselves out.”
Mickelson had surgery in December to repair a recurrence of the sports hernia for which he was originally treated in October, eventually returning to action in the third week of January.
His best result of the season in a stroke play event is a tie for seventh in the WGC-Mexico Championship, although he also reached the quarter-finals of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in Austin.
“I don’t think much about age right now,” he added. “I think that guys’ careers are being extended a lot longer because of the way fitness has taken over.
“And it’s not like I’m a pillar of fitness, but I spend a decent enough time to be able to physically perform and practice and play the way I’d like to play.
“You look at guys like Bernhard Langer (59) who was in the second to last group last year — I don’t feel as though age is as big a factor as it was decades ago. I feel like the generation that are playing the game now are going to have elongated careers due to fitness.”