HOUSTON (AFP) - Injured five-time major champion Phil Mickelson will tee it up in the PGA Tour Houston Open this week, he said on Wednesday, adding that it's his best chance to keep his Masters bid on track.
Mickelson withdrew from the Texas Open last week in the third round with a muscle strain in his back.
He flew home to California for treatment, then travelled to Augusta National to get in a couple of days of preparation for the first major championship of the season, which starts next week.
The Masters is already without world number one Tiger Woods, who said on Tuesday he would miss the event for the first time in his career after undergoing back surgery.
Mickelson, 43, is hoping he'll be fit for a run at a fourth Masters green jacket.
"I played nine holes today at Augusta and I felt pretty good," Mickelson said on Wednesday on his website, philmickelson.com.
He added that reports on Tuesday he had withdrawn from Wednesday's pro-am because of his injury were "inaccurate".
He said Houston Open officials had asked him "months ago" to host a pro-am dinner on Thursday rather than playing in the pro-am and he had agreed.
"I'm thankful for that, it gives me more time to spend with more of their sponsors and another day at Augusta," he said.
"I feel that to give myself the best chance at the Masters I have to play in Houston," Mickelson said. "If I thought I would injure myself further I would have withdrawn from the tournament, but the last few days have been good." Mickelson is due to tee off at 7:50am (8:50pm Singapore time) in one of the first round's marquee groups with former US Open champion Webb Simpson and former PGA Champion Keegan Bradley.
Other elite names in the field include world number seven Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, who will play the first two rounds with England's Luke Donald and American Dustin Johnson.
Sweden's Henrik Stenson, the reigning US PGA playoff and European Tour Race to Dubai champion, will play the first two rounds grouped with Americans Matt Kuchar and Jimmy Walker.
Mickelson, though, remains in the draw for the first two rounds of the US$6.2million (S$7.8 million) Houston Open which gets underway on Thursday.
D.A. Points is the defending champion in the US$6.2 million tournament at the re-named Golf Club of Houston.
Points held on after a lengthy rain delay last year to fire a six-under 66 in the final round and edge Stenson by one stroke.
Last year Stenson's finish allowed him to play the Masters, this year it will serve as his final tune-up for the one major championship in which he has yet to post a top-10 finish.