Phil Mickelson: A 3-Time Masters Champion is Nervous About 4

Phil Mickelson played at the Shell Houston Open because he needed the competitive work and because he needed to road test his strained oblique muscle that caused him to withdraw from the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.

Despite the fact that he didn’t score all that well (68, 70, 72, 71), his 7-under was good for a T12:

It was okay.  It could have been better, could have been worse, but the good thing was I felt good all week.  I didn’t have — didn’t feel any discomfort swinging and playing and the game is not far off, and looking forward to my favorite week of the year next week.

While he may be in a bit of limbo in terms of results, like all the good ones, he thinks that his game isn’t “far off.”

I found it interesting that he’s going to roll into Augusta with most of his prep work completed while most players like this week’s winner, Matt Jones, can’t wait to get there and play practice rounds Tuesday and Wednesday:  

Not too much as far as swing or the course preparation because I’ve done most of that already.  These next few days will be getting in touch and feel all the little shots around the greens that are so intricate and necessary to pull off a win at Augusta.

I thought that the most interesting thing that jumped out of his media interview was that going into Augusta, he’s actually feeling nervous. A good nervous, I assume, but nervous:

I’m a little nervous heading into next week.  I haven’t had the results, I haven’t been in contention, I haven’t won this year, so I’m certainly nervous about my chances, but it’s my favorite week of the year.

I feel — I felt healthy and ready to go, and it will be a challenge for me to deal with the pressure of the Masters and how much I love that tournament when I haven’t been there much this year.  But, I’m looking forward to it.

And then he expanded on the pressure of Augusta. But interestingly, it sounded like, to him, it was Augusta that was putting the pressure on him rather than being something that he was projecting on Augusta or the circumstances of Augusta:

I think it’s important to have some momentum and to have been in contention heading into the Masters because there’s a lot of pressure there, you feel it.  And it’s not the easiest thing to deal with and control if you haven’t been exposed to it.

And because I’ve been injured and haven’t been healthy, I haven’t been in contention this year.  But, this week was the first week that I felt really good all week, and I’m excited by that.  I’m excited about next week.  It’s my favorite week of the year.

Hopefully I’ll overcome some of those mental challenges.

And then to a question that went to whether he felt that he got progressively better through the week despite his scores, he brought up his nervousness again:

That’s hard to say.  I don’t know if I’d say it got better each day, but parts got better.  And I’m excited about next week, but I’m also nervous for it, because I haven’t had the start to the year that I would like.

I’ve got to give myself a little slack in that I really haven’t been healthy and been able to go until probably this week.  I mean, this has been the first week that I felt really good.

And, finally, all of this confessed nervousness made a reporter a little nervous about what the great man would do too and pressed a little deeper on the issue. Just when was it that he last felt nerves?

Every year.  Even when I’m playing really well and I’ve won, you’re nervous because the expectations are a lot higher.  It’s my favorite week of the year.  I love the golf course.  I know the course and putt and chip confidently there.

It’s not that I don’t have doubts, I just would have liked to have been in contention a little bit more.  I was hoping to do that this week but wasn’t able to quite put it together.  Hopefully, I’ll play my best next week.

So, I don’t know. Is Phil’s professed nervousness a halter that will keep him from his 4th green jacket, or will it be a motivator that will spur him on, just one more motivating hurdle to get over?

It’s why we watch.

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