PALM BEACH GARDENS, FL - Phil Mickelson will be back at The Honda Classic for the second year in a row, but the golf fans of South Florida may not recognize him.
Mickelson, who has committed to the 2015 Honda which will be played February 23-March 1 at PGA National Resort & Spa, has been hard at work in the gym the past four months, reshaping his body. He hopes his game is about to follow and there is no better place for it to all come together than the kickoff event to the East coast swing of the PGA Tour as Mickelson builds toward the meat of the golf year and the four Majors.
"I put in four months now of being pretty diligent," Mickelson said. "I feel better than I have in a long time, and I've been able to practice hard and work on my game. I think long term having a little bit less pressure on my joints is going to be good for somebody who's got arthritis.
"I also find that the more I work out, the better I feel and the less symptoms I feel. So I'm excited, and I have been slowly, over the last four or five years, cutting out things in my diet that cause inflammation in my body. I feel better and better, the best I have in a long time. My swing speed has been coming back. I have been able to, to late in the round, finish the rounds off with energy and strength and stamina as opposed to getting tired. So it's been a good thing. I'm glad I put in the effort and I'm enjoying it right now."
Mickelson had motivation to put in the grueling work. Last year was one of only four in his long career when he didn't win a single event. He is 44 now, yet determined not to let Father Time slow him down. One of the best players of this generation is staying positive and focused.
"I think that after '03 I had a similar situation where I had terrible year, came back in '04 determined to play well, and it was the same type of determination I felt in the offseason this year to get back to the level of play that I know I'm capable of," Mickelson said. "Last year was a good platform to get motivated from it.
Mickelson simply finds that he plays better when his body is fit and feels right.
"When I play to the level I'm capable of playing, I'm very confident that will be enough," he said. "I had a terrible year last year and I still almost won the PGA. I'm playing a lot better now. I feel like my game is where I want it to be. I just have to now shoot the scores. I just need to be patient during each round and during each week, because I have a feeling that there will be some good things coming."
The 2015 Honda Classic will be played February 23-March 1, 2015 with Russell Henley defending his title against World No. 1 Rory McIlroy and a world class field. The Honda awarded a record $2.55 million in charitable contributions in 2014, the eighth straight year the event has increased its charitable distribution to South Florida Children's Charities. The tournament also attracted 193,052 confirmed spectators between Tuesday's practice round and Sunday's dramatic finish that saw Henley prevail in a four-man playoff over Rory McIlroy, Ryan Palmer and Russell Knox.