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Mickelson not distracted by hat-trick bid in New Orleans

Written by: Staff
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NEW ORLEANS, Apr 27 (Reuters) US Masters champion Phil Mickelson is reluctant to dwell on the prospect of his third title in a row at this week's Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

The world number two returns to PGA Tour action after a three-week break following his 13-shot victory at the BellSouth Classic and two-stroke triumph at Augusta National.

''I don't think about trying to win how many in a row,'' the American left-hander told a teleconference at the English Turn Golf and Country Club yesterday.

''The fun thing for me is having a chance to win on the weekend. I just want to get into contention for the weekend because that's what's so enjoyable for me about playing the Tour.'' Mickelson has taken great delight in celebrating the third major title of his career.

''It has been really terrific over the last couple of weeks because I was able to be with my family and share it with them,'' he said.

''It will be a little while longer before I put the total celebration behind. It's been fun to relish and look back on the Masters.'' SAVOURING SUCCESS Mickelson has been able to savour his success in a way that was not possible after his first Masters triumph in 2004, a breakthrough that ended a 12-year wait for his maiden major title.

''It was a lot different then,'' the 35-year-old Californian recalled. ''In '04, I was not so much excited but almost in disbelief for a week or two. I just relished going on every talk show and talking about it. It was fabulous.

''This time, there is a great sense of satisfaction having won, and having been able to beat such a great field.

''But I also want to challenge myself now for Winged Foot because I know that golf course is a terrific test, and I feel I can play well there,'' he added, referring to the venue for this year's US Open.

Two cuts of rough will line the narrow fairways of the 7,264-yard West Course at Winged Foot when it hosts the US Open from June 15-18 and Mickelson spent the last two days there taking a closer look.

''It's terrific but it's going to be the longest test of golf, with the tightest fairways that I've seen,'' he said.

''The fairways were 23 yards wide and that's a big problem because they are not level. A lot of them have pitch and angle to them which effectively cuts them down to about eight to 12 yards.

DEEP ROUGH ''The rough is going to be extremely deep, and the greens are very difficult and undulating. So, I think we will not have to worry about par being a good score there.'' Having won last year's U.S. PGA Championship at Baltusrol, Mickelson is on track to emulate Tiger Woods as the only player in professional golf to hold all four majors at one time.

Woods did so after clinching the 2001 Masters but Mickelson was reluctant to ponder the possibilities of following suit.

''To look that far in advance, it's not smart because it doesn't give me the best chance to play well in the next tournament, which is what I am trying to do,'' he said.

''If I start looking forward to Hoylake or Medinah, I can't digest it. They are two different style golf courses and there are different shots that I've got to hit.

''I want to focus in on Winged Foot, much like I tried to do at Augusta, and hit the shots that I need to there.'' For Mickelson to complete the major set, he needs to triumph at the U.S. Open before winning the British Open at Hoylake in July.

The final major of the year, the US PGA Championship, takes place at Medinah in Illinois from August 17-20.

REUTERS DH KP0944

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