Confident Mickelson eyes East Lake title to cap season

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ATLANTA, Sep 13 (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson, by his own admission playing the best golf of his career, has set his sights on winning this week's Tour Championship to put the gloss on a roller-coaster year.

The American left-hander has triumphed three times on the 2007 PGA Tour but his season stalled in June when he hurt his wrist while practising for the U.S. Open at Oakmont.

''This has been an up-and-down year for me,'' Mickelson told reporters on the eve of today's opening round at East Lake Golf Club.

''I've had a number of poor finishes and I've had three wins and two playoff losses. I'm playing some of the best golf that I've ever played right now and I'm excited about competing this week and trying to bring out my best golf.'' Mickelson skipped last week's BMW Championship in Chicago, the penultimate leg in the four-event FedExCup playoff series, to spend time at home before his children returned to school.

The previous week he had clinched his 32nd PGA Tour title at the Deutsche Bank Championship, holding off a late challenge by playing partner Tiger Woods to win by two shots.

''Having a little bit of a refresher, being able to work on my game and spend time with my family, I feel like I'm ready to come out and have a great week this week,'' Mickelson added.

GOOD MEMORIES ''The fact I have a chance to win a tournament and the FedExCup doesn't change my approach to the week at all. I've always liked this course. I have some good, positive memories after having won in 2000.'' Mickelson, who surrendered top spot in the points standings to Woods on Sunday, would clinch FedExCup honours with victory this week as long as Woods finishes worse than second.

The winner's purse at East Lake, where the elite field is limited to 30, is 1.26 million dollars with an additional 10 million dollars bonus in deferred compensation going to the overall FedExCup points champion.

That lucrative bonus, being billed as sport's single biggest pay day, has been an area of concern for some of the players as the money will be released only when the inaugural FedExCup champion turns 45.

''I think this is certainly an issue that needs to be reviewed and it doesn't do me or anybody else any good to talk about it publicly,'' said Mickelson, a three-times major winner.

''I'll voice my opinion to the (PGA Tour) commissioner as I have in the past and I'll continue to do so in the off-season.

''He'll talk to other players, other top players and a lot of guys who have a feeling about it, and try to come up with a solution.'' Mickelson is scheduled to tee off with South African Rory Sabbatini at 1400 local (2330IST ) in today's opening round.

REUTERS BJR VC1102

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