Ernie Els: Phil Mickelson is the new Tiger Woods

HONOLULU - With Tiger Woods on an indefinite leave from the game, Ernie Els said there's little doubt about the game's new de facto No. 1."The way Phil Mickelson played at the end of last year, you know -- he played with Tiger [at the WGC-HSBC Champions] in Shanghai and won the tournament there on the final day," Els said from the Sony Open, where he has won twice and will try to shake off last year's T39 finish. "The Tour Championship, he won coming from behind. The way he's hitting the ball, Phil is hitting it as long or longer than anybody out there."Mickelson, who saw his game revitalized by a late-season putting lesson from Dave Stockton, Sr., in 2009, is expected to make his 2010 debut at the sponsorless San Diego Open at Torrey Pines in two weeks."He has really been working hard, and now his putting is coming around," Els continued. "I think Phil is probably the man to beat now. Even if you asked Tiger [at the end of last year], I think Phil got right to his level throughout his game. I think there's a new guy we gotta chase."

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by Kevin Cunningham