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Mickelson hopeful for 2013

Phil Mickelson believes his putting and driving could be better than ever this year as he heads into the Humana Challenge.

The 42-year-old, whose 40 PGA Tour titles include a remarkable 18 in the early season West Coast swing, is in confident mood at La Quinta in California after working on his game during the winter break.

He said: "I've made a couple of really big breakthroughs with putting and driving and this could be my best putting and driving year."

While sticking to the claw grip on the greens he has used for the past four months Mickelson has a new putter in the bag and added: "It's helped me not be so technical at address.

"I've been lining up more naturally and hitting more solid putts than I think I ever have in the last few months."

The world number 19, battling flu symptoms for more than a week, is starting a run of five successive tournaments.

His last victory was at Pebble Beach last February - a memorable one in which he went head-to-head with Tiger Woods and beat him by a massive 11 shots - but then came a mid-season slump.

Mickelson looked back near his best at the Ryder Cup, however, and was runner-up to Ian Poulter at the HSBC Champions in China.

"Going through that three or four-month stretch of very poor play forced me to go back and analyse what I was doing well," he added.

"Iron play always has been a strong point, but I was having to make two different swings with my driver and irons.

"It was a good stretch for me to go through. My game got better each week all the way through the Ryder Cup and the HSBC Champions."

England's David Lynn and Ross Fisher play their first events as PGA Tour members this week.

Lynn earned a card through the money he won for finishing runner-up to Rory McIlroy at the USPGA Championship, while 2010 Ryder Cup player Fisher came through the qualifying school last month.

They join compatriots Brian Davis and Greg Owen in the field as well as Scot Martin Laird.

Defending champion is American Mark Wilson, while also taking part is David Toms, who has spoken publicly at last about losing out to 63-year-old Tom Watson for the American Ryder Cup captaincy.

Toms, 46, was among the potential candidates and he confirmed he spoke with the PGA of America before being told they had gone in a different direction.

"I was fine with it," he said. "Obviously, I would like to be the captain some day, but at this point in my career this is probably for the better for me personally and so I wish them well.

"I know that they will have a great team and have a great captain and I'm just hoping to get my game in good enough shape to be a part of that."