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Mickelson upbeat about game with U.S. Open approaching

(Reuters) - Phil Mickelson heads into this week's Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio optimistic about his game and his prospects for next month's U.S. Open, despite having missed two cuts in his last three starts on the PGA Tour.

The American left-hander has spent the past fortnight working hard in practice and believes that his touch around the greens, usually so brilliant, is back to its best after he struggled earlier this season.

"I really had a good couple of weeks back home," British Open champion Mickelson told reporters at Muirfield Village Golf Club on Wednesday while preparing for Thursday's opening round at the PGA Tour event hosted by Jack Nicklaus.

"I had a chance to spend some time with (swing coach) Butch (Harmon). I had a chance to spend some time with (short game coach) Dave Pelz. I'm excited about these next three weeks.

"We'll see how it goes. My short game right now, which has not been great this year ... it feels good. So I'm curious to see how it goes this week."

Mickelson, who sandwiched missed cuts at the Masters and the Players Championship around a tie for 11th at the Wells Fargo Championship in his last three starts, described the fine line that marked out a sharp short game.

"It's such a small difference between getting it inside three feet and getting inside six feet," said the 43-year-old, popularly known as 'Phil the Thrill' for his bold and often cavalier approach to golf.

"Yet it's a huge and important difference in scoring. The touch and just reading the lie and getting it in contact just right, all those little things, it's the first thing to go when you're not playing well.

"And when you're not playing well, it's the last thing to work on. Right now my short game feels really sharp. I have a much better feeling about these coming two weeks before the (U.S.) Open than I've had in a long time."


Mickelson, who clinched his fifth major title at last year's British Open, would complete a career grand slam of the four majors by winning the U.S. Open, where he has been runner-up a record six times.

This year's edition will be played from June 12-15 at Pinehurst in North Carolina, where he finished second in the 1999 Open.

"There's such a difference in the way I view the few major champions that have won all four," said Mickelson. "And I'm fortunate and I'm honored to be part of that long list of great players that have won three of the four.

"That's great. But I would look at my career, which is all I care about, in a whole different light if I were able to get that fourth one."

Mickelson feels confident about his lead-up to the U.S. Open, the second major of the year.

"I do think the results are going to come if I just play well," he said. "I'm not worried about finishing first or second or top 10 or what have you, but building momentum, building confidence in my game over the next couple of weeks.

"Now, I do feel after the last 10 days of practice that my game is sharper than it has been all year. If I don't have the results, I've got to look at something else, because I feel like I've done what I needed to do to get my game sharp."

Mickelson has been grouped with fellow Americans Jordan Spieth and Bill Haas for the first two rounds at Muirfield Village.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Greg Stutchbury)