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Golf: Mickelson '04 Masters win led to Open title run

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Phil Mickelson arrived at this week's 78th Masters mindful of how winning his first major title a decade ago at Augusta National launched him to four more major triumphs.

"I can't believe it has been 10 years. It has gone by so quick," Mickelson said.

"That win 10 years ago, it just propelled me. I knew once I won one, I really felt confident I would win a few, but I needed to get that first one, and that was a big one."

Mickelson began his career 0-for-46 in majors, haunted by the recurring question of would he ever win one of golf's grandest titles.

"It's 5-for-83 now I think," Mickelson said, underguessing his number of career majors played by two.

"It took me a lot longer than I thought it would. It took over 10 years of contending and having an opportunity before I finally won.

"I always believed I would win. I never had a doubt I would win one, but I felt like if I could win one, I would win more and that's why I felt the pressure to win the first one was so great."

The 43-year-old American left-hander realized his dream, adding the 2005 PGA Championship, the 2006 and 2010 Masters and last year's British Open at Muirfield to his major win total.

"When things start going bad and you haven't won one, it's hard to get control of your thoughts and start to refocus on what you want your ball to do and your swing to do. It's too easy to let the bad stay there," Mickelson said.

"There was a sense of relief 10 years ago because it had been building for a while. There was an amount of pressure that became relief that I won as opposed to joy. Now, when I won the British Open open last year, I just felt so ecstatic and such great joy to have had that accomplishment and there was really no sense of relief."

Mickelson will try to complete a career grand slam in June at the US Open, an event where he has a record six runner-up finishes.

After pulling a side muscle last month, Mickelson said he is fit this week but wished he had played better sooner.

"I'm nervous about this week because I always like coming into this week being in contention a few times and having that confidence and experience to build on," he said. "But I have to give myself a little bit of slack because I have not been 100 percent."

Nor does he have to be perfect to win at Augusta National, Mickelson said.

"I don't have to play perfect to play well here, because I can recover from mistakes," he said. "You always have a shot. You always have a swing if you hit a bad shot. You have a chance to let your short game save it for you."

Unfortunately it can't save everything. Mickelson paid out a $1 bet with a spectator Tuesday after failing on an up-and-down bid at the sixth hole in a practice round.

"He was mouthing off about hard shot, get this up-and-down, no chance, blah, blah, blah and it wasn't that hard a shot and I should have gotten it up-and-down," Mickelson said.

"I did hit a good shot. I had a 7-footer straight uphill and I missed it and I had to pay him. That's what happens when you lose. I had to get a five from a caddie. I don't (carry small bills)."

Don't feel too sorry for him. Mickelson and Rickie Fowler won money off Jason Dufner and Dustin Johnson in practice.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140408/golf-mickelson-04-masters-win-led-open-title-run