Woods doesn’t owe me apology, insists Mickelson

PHIL MICKELSON might be Tiger Woods’ biggest rival but the flamboyant left-hander was generous to the fallen world No 1 as he prepared to chase his third green jacket at Augusta National.

In Monday’s news conference, Woods apologised to his fellow professionals for having had to answer so many questions about him during his leave from the tour.

But while Mickelson has had to answer more questions than most, he insisted that there was no need to say sorry.

“He doesn’t owe me an apology,” Mickelson said. “I mean, in the last 12 years, he’s done so much for the game of golf. I don’t know if there’s been an individual who has capitalised more on the opportunities that he’s brought to the game of golf than myself. He doesn’t owe me a thing.”

Golf’s conservative hardcore believes that Woods has brought the game into disrepute but Mickelson refused to go down that road, asserting that the 14-time major winner had been a huge positive for the game.

“Everybody’s benefited, everybody in this room has benefited, too,” Mickelson said.

“We’ve had much more notoriety, need for stories and interest by readers.

“Television ratings have been higher because of it. We can go endlessly, the things he’s done for the game. I think we are all appreciative and I don’t think this is going to have any long-term, devastating effects to the game of golf.”

While he’s struggling for form and winless since last year’s Tour Championship, Mickelson is still bullish about his chances of claiming his third green jacket.

“I would have liked to have had better performances in tournaments, especially on the West Coast, heading into Augusta,” the 2004 and 2006 champion said.

“My performances have not been what I wanted. I’ve had a lot of penalty shots the last three rounds, but a lot of that has been the fact that I’m hitting the shots that I expect to play this week without the threat of hazards.

“There’s a couple of water shots out here. But for the most part they are nothing like what we saw last week at Houston or what we saw at Bay Hill. I’m not concerned, but I would have liked to have been in contention, sure.

“On the West Coast, the biggest reason I didn’t have the finishes I wanted was the putter. But the putter has actually been coming around the last few tournaments. I spent a lot of time with (putting guru) Dave Stockton and it feels really good.”

Augusta brings out the best in Mickelson and with two wins and ten top-10’s over the past 15 years, he sees no reason why he can’t contend again.

“The reason why I’ve had success in the past is there are places where you can miss it and still make it on every hole,” he said.

“There are places where you can still get up-and-down and salvage par. So I don’t feel like I have to have my perfect game ball-striking to be able to go around this course and shoot in the 60s and I think that’s why I enter this tournament with a lot less stress.”

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