Mickelson shrugs off Westwood’s absence

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Phil Mickelson gave the Players Championship - golf’s richest event - his seal of approval today and said the absence of Worksop’s Lee Westwood and Rory McIlroy did not change his view of it.

“Everybody has got their own personal deal, but I disagree with their thought process,” commented Mickelson when asked about the two European stars - first and sixth in the world - not bothering to play at Sawgrass.

Asked if the £5.8million tournament still had the same prestige in his eyes the 40-year-old, winner in 2007, replied: “Certainly in my mind it does.

“I feel like since I’ve been out on tour that this is one of the tournaments that I would like to win the most right along with the majors.”

Westwood’s no-show gives Mickelson yet another chance to become world number one for the first time in his career. but once again he has played that down.

“It’s certainly what everybody strives for, but it’s not really something that’s on the forefront of anybody’s minds.

“I think the most important thing is to win tournaments and to compete in a tournament like this week, play against the best players.

“There’s a lot more satisfaction over beating the best players in the world on a challenging test like this than there is to say you’re ranked ‘X’ on the world rankings.”

Luke Donald could also take the number one position by winning, while German Martin Kaymer could move back there with a top two finish.

But the top spot is out of reach for the returning Tiger Woods, who during his injury lay-off since the Masters has dropped to eighth - with six Europeans and Mickelson now ahead of him.

Mickelson was also asked if he felt the clock ticking on the time he has left to achieve all that he wants to.

“I don’t feel that way - and I don’t feel that way because I see some things in my game that are starting to get better and better.

“I really know what it is I’m trying to do on the greens now, my short game has been sharp, my driving has been much better.

“I feel like I’m driving the ball straighter than I ever have and I’m excited to put that into play.

“My mindset changes after Augusta. It’s not distance any more, it’s ‘got to get the ball in the fairway’.

“I see my game getting better, I welcome the challenge and I think that there’s a lot of opportunity for me to still have a lot of success here.”