Phil Mickelson is worried about rust.
A quirk in the PGA Tour schedule left Lefty idle last week, and he's feeling some angst about playing the Masters after a layoff.
"I love this tournament so much, and I'm nervous because I haven't been in competition … it will be 10, 11 days, I guess, as opposed to three," the three-time Masters champion said. "That's what I'm nervous about, just those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in. That's what I care about.
"Because I'm aware of it, I'm going to work hard on it to make sure that I am. But it's always a challenge those first five or six holes when you haven't been in competition to be really mentally focused and sharp."
Mickelson came to Augusta National on Friday and spent the weekend around the green and working on shots he knows he'll need.
"I had some great days here," he said. "The course is very close to tournament setup, so I'm hopeful that I'll get off to a good start and take that preparation and shoot a low score. But I am a little bit nervous."
Hunting for a fifth
Tiger Woods is tied for second with four career Masters titles behind Jack Nicklaus' six victories at Augusta National. But Woods hasn't won at Augusta since 2005 after winning his four green jackets in nine years from 1997 to 2005.
That's not something Woods would have expected at the time of his last Masters victory.
"I wouldn't have been happy with that," Woods said. "It does [feel like a long time ago]. I put myself in the mix every year but last year, and that's the misleading part, is that it's not like I've been out of there with no chance of winning this championship. I've been there, and unfortunately just haven't got it done. I've made runs to get myself in it. I've been there in the mix on the back nine, either not executed, not made enough putts or didn't take care of the par 5s or whatever it may be.
"I've been in the mix … just I haven't got it done."
New start for McIlroy
Three months into the season, Rory McIlroy feels as if it's already been a long year.
The splashy announcement of his Nike deal, and the commercial with Woods that raised hopes of a big rivalry. The missed cut in Abu Dhabi. The first-round exit from the Match Play Championship. Quitting halfway through the second round of the Honda Classic. The loss of his No. 1 ranking.
And now, McIlroy is ready to get started.
"I've always said the main golf season is from the start of April to the end of August, so that's when I want to play my best golf," McIlroy said.
Long putter lament
It's no coincidence Adam Scott has played better in majors since finding consistency on the putting greens — and he credits his anchored putting stroke for the improvement.
Scott has finished tied for second and eighth the past two years on Augusta National's lightning-fast greens since switching to a long putter. He's been among the top 15 in six of the past eight major events, including his disappointing second-place at the British Open after leading by four strokes with four holes to play. Scott, though, thinks his regular appearance among the leaders on golf's biggest venue is because of his steadier putting performances.
"You've hit the nail on the head there," he said. "It's the consistency with it that makes me putt that way."
Scott understands his time with the anchored stroke is running out. The USGA and Royal & Ancient Golf Club, golf's ruling bodies, proposed a ban on such strokes last fall. Of the major golf organizations around the world, the PGA Tour and PGA of America are the only groups who have spoken out against the ban, which would not take effect until 2016. A decision is expected later this spring.
In Scoreboard: Tee times. C11