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Mickelson misses cut and is worried about lack of focus

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PALM HARBOR, Fla. (AP) — Phil Mickelson said he is struggling to keep his concentration on the golf course, leading to short spells where his mind goes numb. One such example came Friday at the end of his round, and it cost him at the Valspar Championship.

Two bogeys over the last three holes led to Mickelson missing the cut by one shot.

Mickelson opened with a 73, thanks to dropping three shots in three holes on his back nine. He rallied Friday with three straight birdies and was one shot inside the cut line when it all fell apart on the closing holes at Innisbrook.

From 40 feet just off the 16th green, he hammered a putt some 8 feet by the hole and missed the next one to take bogey. And on the 18th, he missed his drive well to the left into the trees, advanced it to some 70 yards and missed an 8-foot par putt that would have kept him around.

His 69 for an even-par 142 led to his third missed cut of the year.

“I know what my problem is. I’m not physically able to keep my focus,” Mickelson said. “As I’ve gotten older, I have a hard time focusing. And that’s my challenge right now. I’m trying all different things to be able to elongate my ability to stay focused, or to refocus.”

Mickelson, who turns 51 in June, has gone more than two years since his last victory, and now he’s not even contending. Since his runner-up finish in the FedEx St. Jude Invitational nine months ago, he has not finished in the top 20.

Mickelson singled out noise in the gallery — the PGA Tour has had limited spectators for the last two months — and there have been plenty of distractions. He had to ask one spectator to put away a phone on the 18th hole Thursday, when he made bogey.

On another hole, a ringing phone led Mickelson to back away and suggest the fan take the phone from his pocket, instructing him that the switch on the left side controlled the volume.

“When I get called off shots, like cell phones ringing or people yelling or something, my physical ability to refocus — to back away and then refocus and so forth — I’m physically not able to do it right now,” Mickelson said. “So I have to find techniques to be able to do that.”

Mickelson is playing next week at the Wells Fargo Championship, and then he has the PGA Championship in two weeks, where he is exempt for life as a past champion.

Still on the horizon is the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines. He is scheduled for 36-hole qualifying in Ohio the Monday after the Memorial. Mickelson had said last year, before the U.S. Open had to do away with qualifying because of the pandemic, that he would not take a special exemption.

It is not known if Mickelson has even asked for one. The last time the USGA awarded an exemption to a player who was not a past U.S. Open champion was for Vijay Singh in 2010.

Mickelson is No. 113 in the world.

In the meantime, he said he is “meeting with a lot of people” to try to solve his concentration problems.

“But I go through spells of three or four holes, like I did Thursday, Friday at Augusta, where I’ll throw five, six shots away in a four-hole stretch and I just kind of go mind numb and my ability to regain focus has been the biggest challenge as I’ve gotten older,” he said. “I don’t have a great solution right now. But I’m working on it.”

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More AP golf: https://apnews.com/hub/golf and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

By DOUG FERGUSON
AP Golf Writer

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