Golf: Rusty short game costs Mickelson a chance to go low

(REUTERS) - Phil Mickelson has been a little rusty with his usually renowned short game in his first PGA Tour event in four months and he squandered the chance to shoot a low score at the Humana Challenge with some untidy play on Saturday.

Though the American left-hander piled up eight birdies in the third round, he also carded four bogeys to finish with a four-under-par 68 on the Palmer Private course at PGA West in La Quinta, California.

"The little nuances of getting the ball in the hole have been slightly off but it was a day today that could have been really low," Mickelson told Golf Channel after finishing at 11-under 205, six strokes off the tournament lead.

"It had a lot of potential and I ended up making too many bogeys and letting some birdie opportunities slide.

"But I am looking forward to tomorrow's round and getting that one more round under my belt of competitiveness and see if I can get it all to kind of fire."

Five-time Major winner Mickelson has not competed on the PGA Tour since he withdrew from the BMW Championship after two rounds in September, saying he wanted to rest for the Ryder Cup that was played later that month.

Back in action four months later, he now has one eye focused on his preparations for the season's opening Major, the April 9-12 Masters at Augusta National.

In a departure from the norm, Mickelson will skip two events he usually plays on the West Coast - the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the Northern Trust Open at Riviera.

"My kids have two different spring break weeks," said the 44-year-old Californian. "They have accommodated my schedule for years and it's time for me to accommodate theirs.

"So I will miss two tournaments that I really love, AT&T and LA, but I'll add some more later on and will be ready to go hopefully for the Masters."

Mickelson has already committed to play in this week's Phoenix Open and at the Feb 5-8 Farmers Insurance Open in San Diego.

"Phoenix is going to be a lot of fun and San Diego, being my home town, will be a good week as well," he said. "I'm excited about where my game is at. I just need to be patient during each round and during each week."

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