Phil Mickelson and his pal and Ryder Cup partner Keegan Bradley snuck up to Augusta National on Tuesday for a pre-Masters practice round, and Mickelson came back to Doral on Wednesday with a full report on the new changes to the 14th green at Augusta.
Q. Can I ask you about the 14th green at Augusta, you played yesterday; what is the change there?
PHIL MICKELSON: You honestly wouldn't even notice it, if you had not had years of knowing that green. But the difference is the pin position that I've holed out in 2010 in that little low section to the left, behind it, there's a backstop now whereas before, it would take the ball directly to the right behind the hole 12 feet. Now, it's pitched a little bit more back where it will bring it back to the hole. Which means that it's very possible that you might see more hole‑outs to that pin position. If you go long, though, I don't think you can get it close, because of the pitch from back to front now is more severe on those last four feet.
Mickelson won the Masters in 2004, 2006 and 2010, but on Wednesday he sounded like he was going to have his hands full with Doral's Blue Monster this week. The rough on the course, Mickelson said, is thicker than he's ever seen here.
Q. How's your game, how are you feeling about Doral here? PHIL MICKELSON: I'm a little unsure how it's going to go. I've had two weeks off. The first week I didn't touch a club and this last week I've been practicing pretty hard. And I've had some good rounds and I'm optimistic but just never know until you get in competition, and today at Doral, this is playing as tough as I've seen this golf course play.
The rough is thicker and denser than I've seen, and longer, and it's going to have a premium on getting the ball in the fairway. In years past, we would get flyer lies out of the rough where you could advance it to the green but it would be difficult to get on the green, and now, it's thicker than it has been to where you can't always advance it down to the green.
Q. Almost like the U.S. Open? PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't go that far. I wouldn't say it's that thick, but it's certainly tougher than we've had in years past.
Photo: Phil Mickelson at the 2012 Masters Tournament (Getty Images).