Phil Mickelson is excited about the state of his game and the future

The 50-year-old carded an excellent round of 69 at The Honda Classic and insisted that his golf is heading in the right direction.

Phil Mickelson's had a pretty good career.

He's a five-time Major Champion, for one thing.

And three of those wins were at the Masters so he has three Green Jackets in the wardrobe.

He's also landed a grand total of 55 victories on the PGA Tour, the ninth highest tally in the circuit's history.

So it's maybe not so much "a pretty good career" as a damn fine one.

But the Californian native has always been a hungry golfer, one who is only satisfied by testing himself in the heat of battle and it has therefore hurt him that the thrill has been elusive in recent years.

However, after he carded a second sub-70 lap of PGA National at this week's Honda Classic, Mickelson insisted that the good times can return.

Let's take a closer look - at the slump he has experienced, the words he uttered on Saturday and the stat that backs him up.

Mickelson on the PGA Tour

Back in February 2019, a touch over two years ago, Mickelson landed victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the fifth of his career in the tournament.

It was a seventh top six finish in 23 starts which was clearly not as prolific as his heyday, but it wasn't bad for a man on the brink of his 50th birthday.

But since that triumph, his returns on the main tour have been poor.

True, he put up a good fight on defence of that title, finishing third, and was second at last year's WGC St Jude Invitational.

But they are two of only three top 20 finishes in his last 42 starts.

The other was no better than T18th at the 2019 Masters and 28 times he ended the week outside the top 50, without even a sniff of experiencing any excitement on Sunday afternoon.

Mickelson on the Champions Tour

In June last year Mickelson turned 50 and rejected his first three opportunities to play on the Champions Tour and, when he finally did make his bow, he seemed energized.

He claimed victory in both his 2020 starts - the first by four shots, the second by three.

Going for the hat-trick in February this year, however, he failed to break 70 in all three rounds and finished T20th.

It seemed to be an effort that reflected his wider malaise, as if the Champions Tour honeymoon period had worn off and he was struggling again.

This week

Through 54 holes at PGA National, Mickelson has carded 71-68-69 to lie T27th on 2-under 208.

Crucially, perhaps, he currently ranks third for Greens in Regulation, on the brink of finishing in the top ten in that category on the PGA Tour for the first time since … his win at Pebble Beach two years ago!

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If that hints at good news, Mickelson himself was in little doubt after his round.

"I'm seeing lot of progress," he said.

"Most people just look at the results, look at the score and say, gosh, he's playing well or he's not playing well.

"I've not played well for a couple of years, but I'm starting to see glimpses of playing at the level I expect to again.

"The results aren't showing that right now, I've thrown away probably four, five shots on two or three holes the first and second day, and that has not allowed me to be in contention.

"But I've hit a lot more good shots than I have in a long time. I've addressed some key issues in my game. They're coming along.

"I'm very excited about what's ahead."

Can he contend at the Masters again?!

Paddy Power rate Mickelson an 80/1 shot at Augusta National next month.

READ MORE: The Bear Trap lies in wait: final round preview of The Honda Classic.

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