The world number five finally got a monkey off his back last year
by winning the British Open, golf's oldest major, for the first time
at the 20th attempt.
Mickelson said he would have a new driver in his bag when he
accompanies seventh-ranked Rory McIlroy and defending champion Jamie
Donaldson of Wales in the first round in Abu Dhabi, the first event
of the European Tour's three-week Middle East swing.
"As I look back on 2013 I played some of my best golf and had some
huge breakthroughs but I did most of it without a driver," the
American left-hander told reporters on Tuesday.
"This year I have the best driver I've ever hit that lowers my spin
rate just like my three-wood. I drive it longer and straighter with
my driver than I did with my three-wood.
"It's a whole different weapon in my arsenal now and if I drive the
ball well, like I have been in practice and in the off-season,
heading into this 2014 season it could be the best year of my career
for that simple reason."
The 43-year-old Californian is making only his second appearance at
the Abu Dhabi Golf Club, having tied for 37th in 2011.
"I'm excited to be back, it's a great city and country," said
Mickelson. "It's important we start the year with the fundamentals
and a good foundation for our golf game.
"We have got great practice facilities here as well as a golf course
that can identify your strengths and your weaknesses.
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"It's a world-class course and in immaculate shape and you
can easily identify where you're playing well and where you're
not," added Mickelson.
It was in Abu Dhabi 12 months ago that McIlroy signed his new
mega-bucks deal to switch from Titleist to Nike and promptly
missed the cut in his debut outing with his new equipment.
It would prove a sign of things to come for the Northern
Irishman who endured a traumatic year on and off the course
before finally scooping his first tournament win of 2013 at the
Australian Open in December.
"I feel I'm much better prepared heading into the first event of
the season than I was last year," said McIlroy.
"My swing is in a much better place. I've done some really good
work on that at the end of last year and in the couple of weeks
I've had here leading into this tournament.
"Things are really looking good," added the 24-year-old McIlroy.
"I'm in a really good frame of mind and I feel like I've built a
lot of momentum at the back end of last year and I'm going to
try to continue that into this season."
(Editing by Justin Palmer)
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