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Mickelson misses his usual routine in Masters prep tournament

AUGUSTA, Ga. — Phil Mickelson typically prepares for the Masters by playing the week before in the Shell Houston Open. It’s worked out well, as evidenced by his three victories at Augusta National.

But Mickelson didn’t play last week because the PGA Tour schedule changed; the Valero Texas Open was moved to the week before the Masters.

“I’m a little bit nervous heading in because I’m not competing the week before, as I have for many years in the past,” he said Tuesday. “Having that open week, I’m a little bit nervous.”

Mickelson played in Houston two weeks ago and tied for 16th place. He did not play in San Antonio.

He said he’d gotten in some quality practice time at Augusta National but was concerned about not being sharp from a competitive standpoint.

“I love this tournament so much and I’m nervous because I haven’t been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open and that will be 10 or 11 days, I guess, as opposed to three,” he said. “That’s what I’m nervous about, those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in.”

Mickelson, 42, won in Phoenix earlier this year and had has 14 top-10 finishes in the Masters, including victories in 2004, 2006 and 2010.

Secret weapon: Mickelson is known to tweak his equipment for major championships and once put two drivers in his bag.

This week, he has a secret weapon: “Frankenwood.”

The club is part driver and part 3-wood. Mickelson said he hits it farther than his regular driver, even though the head is smaller, because the ball spins less and runs out in the fairway.

“It’s a 3-wood technology,” he said. “It’s a larger 3-wood but it’s got a (45-inch) driver shaft in it and it’s hot like our 3-wood.”

Mickelson said he asked the engineers at Callaway to tweak a 3-wood to give it driver characteristics.

“I asked them to take that technology in that club, in our 3-wood, and put it on steroids, which is probably not the best way to say it,” he said.

Youth movement: Tianlang Guan of China will be 14 years, 5 months, 17 days old when he tees off in the Masters.

To put that in perspective, Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy both were 19 when they played in their first Masters.

“It’s just going to be such a great experience for him,” McIlroy said. “If I had any advice for him it would be just enjoy it.”

Tianlang, an eighth-grader, is the youngest-ever Masters competitor. He qualified for an invitation by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship in November as the youngest player in the field.

Tianlang is accustomed to setting age-related records. He made history at the 2012 Volvo China Open by becoming the youngest player (13 years 173 days) in European Tour history.

Moving forward: Woods, Mickelson and Jack Nicklaus were among those who were pleased when Augusta National admitted its first two women members: former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice and South Carolina investment banker Darla Moore .

“I think it’s fantastic,” Woods said. “It was the right timing.”

Mickelson played part of a practice round with Rice on Sunday and pronounced her an excellent putter.

“I had a great time with one of the new members and (she) happens to be one of my favorite people to spend time with,” Mickelson said. “She’s fascinating and intelligent and I just think the world of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice. I’m a big fan of hers.”

Nicklaus, an Augusta National member, said he, too, was happy the club admitted female members.

“I think it’s time,” he said. “It was not my call. It was the club’s call and I think it’s great.”

Chip shots: McIlroy’s girlfriend, tennis star Caroline Wozniacki, will caddie for him in the par-3 contest Wednesday. . . .

No European has won the Masters since Spain’s Jose Maria Olazabal in 1999. “What’s the reason for that? Don’t know,” said England’s Ian Poulter . “Tiger’s taken a few. Phil has taken a few. They’re pretty good, those two.” . . .

Brandt Snedeker, on the “process” of winning a major: “I hope the process is over. I’m ready.”

Phil Mickelson’s Masters prep routine blownPhil Mickelson typically prepares for the Masters by playing the week before. It’s worked out well, given his three wins at Augusta National. But Mickelson didn’t play last week.

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©2013 Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

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