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Mickelson is great yet again

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CROMWELL, Conn. — Phil Mickelson used his new mental approach to perfection in the Greater Hartford Open. He'll have to wait for the British Open to test it on a major stage.

Booming long drives and staying out of trouble, Mickelson shot a 2-under-par 68 on Sunday for a one-stroke victory over Billy Andrade at the muggy TPC at River Highlands.

"I left like this is a good starting point," said Mickelson, who shot a career-best 61 Saturday and finished at 16-under 264.

The 31-year-old left-hander didn't touch a club last week after a final-round 75 in the U.S. Open, choosing instead to practice mentally using visualization techniques he learned in college.

"I felt much more comfortable, much more relaxed, and worked from a positive frame of mind," Mickelson said. "Changing my mental approach and my outlook has allowed me to perform at a higher lever — to perform at my best.

"I feel if I can start to work on that and refine that and get better at it, I should be able to close more on the opportunities that I have been giving myself."

After winning in San Diego in February, he faded on Sunday in the Masters, New Orleans, the Colonial and the U.S. Open. Mickelson was one of the best closers the previous eight years, winning all nine times he had the 54-hole lead.

"It was certainly nice to win, especially after letting the opportunities slide the way I have," said Mickelson, widely regarded as the best active player without a major title.

Mickelson earned $558,000 for his 19th tour victory to push his season total to $3,569,724, second behind Tiger Woods. He also has three runner-up finishes and four thirds this year.

Mickelson began the round with a one-stroke lead over David Berganio Jr., after tying the course record Saturday with a round two strokes better than his previous tour best.

He parred the final three holes after dropping a stroke on the 296-yard 15th, his lone bogey of the weekend. After his drive bounced into the water on the left side of the green on No. 15, he chipped to about 20 feet and two-putted.

On the difficult 17th, with water lining the entire right side, he nearly holed his approach shot, but the ball spun off the front of the green. He chipped to a foot to save par.

"I expected it to fly it about 4, 5 yards behind the hole, then come back," Mickelson said. "It wasn't a hard chip, but that took away a good birdie opportunity."

He easily parred the par-4 18th, hitting a sand wedge to the middle of the green and finishing with a tap-in.

Mickelson, making his first appearance at River Highlands since 1994, birdied Nos. 3, 6 and 7 to reach 17 under.

He made a 15-foot birdie putt on No. 3, and holed a 6-footer on the 574-yard, par-5 6th after reaching the front left bunker in two shots. He hit a 335-yard drive on No. 7, and put a wedge shot within 4 feet to set up his final birdie.

Andrade, from Rhode Island, shot a 66. Dudley Hart (63), Chris DiMarco (68) and Berganio (69) tied for third, two strokes back. Tom Pernice Jr. (65) was sixth at 13 under.

Andrade, coming off a third-place tie in the Buick Classic, made a 25-foot birdie putt on No. 18 after sliding a 12-footer by on No. 17.

"I'm a little disappointed that I didn't get the job accomplished in winning here," Andrade said. "Usually most people don't remember who finishes second."

After playing the Western Open next week, Mickelson will turn his full attention to the British Open in three weeks at Royal Lythan and St. Annes.

"I'll head over early and play a bunch of courses in Ireland in an effort to prepare for that style of shots," Mickelson said.

Divots: Scott Verplank shot a 61, matching Mickelson and Kirk Triplett for the course record. Verplank tied for 17th at 9 under. ... Mickelson has five victories in his last 32 starts, a winning percentage of 18.75. ... John Daly shot a 65 to tie for 22nd at 8 under. ... Because of the threat of rain and lightning, the round was pushed up and players were grouped in threesomes and started on both the first and 10th tees.