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Mickelson ready for a repeat

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LEMONT, Ill. — Phil Mickelson likes everything about the Western Open.

He likes the course, which always seems to be in good shape. He likes the driving range, where he can escape to the back and practice in peace. And he likes the practice greens.

The only problem with the tournament is his record. Mickelson has played the Western Open seven times and never finished higher than 26th. He's missed the cut twice, including last year.

But he's back again this year, looking to win back-to-back tournaments for the first time in his career. The Western Open, sponsored by Advil, starts Thursday.

"In golf, it seems as though you are only as good as your last performance," said Mickelson, who won the Greater Hartford Open last weekend. "So although it's a fun week to reminisce on, it's kind of time to move on and get back to work."

And work is something Mickelson is enjoying this year. After he shot a final-round 75 in the U.S. Open for yet another big-tournament fade, he took a week off, put away his clubs and dug out his old psychology notebooks from college.

He practiced visualization techniques, imagining what he wanted to happen rather than worrying about what he didn't want to do.

"I have spent a lot of time on the physical part of my game to get that right," he said Wednesday. "The final piece of the puzzle that I feel I need to incorporate in my game is seeing those shots to pull them off."

The homework paid off as he won by a stroke in Connecticut.

"The level of desire I have right now is extremely high," he said. "I want to be playing. I don't feel tired. I don't feel burned out."

Tiger Woods is feeling rested, too, after taking last week off. After winning four straight majors, he faltered at the U.S. Open last month and tied for 12th.

He struggled again the next week at the Buick Classic, finishing 12 strokes back in a tie for 16th. It was his lowest finish in 23 events, and the first time since 1999 that he finished out of the top 10 in consecutive weeks.

So Woods took off on a five-day fishing trip to Alaska.

"I really needed to get away because I've played golf a lot," he said. "My weeks off, I didn't really take a whole lot of time off because I was practicing, getting ready for the (U.S.) Open. So it was nice to get away, put the clubs down and just get away for a little bit."

Woods didn't touch a club for six days, and he didn't obsess about his game. Golf can be a game of streaks, even for the No. 1 player in the world.

"It's part of the game," he said. "You're not going to play well every week. I was disappointed in the fact that I wasn't able to hit the ball the way I know I can. But it's not the end of the world, either. Life goes on, and I'm going to go out there and try my best."

After practicing the past few days, Woods says he can feel his swing coming around.