SCOTTSDALE, Arizona (Reuters) - The omens look good this week for Phil Mickelson, a long-time fan of the National Football League who has made a habit of flourishing at the Waste Management Phoenix Open when the Super Bowl is in town.
Mickelson, who attended Arizona State University, won the first of his three Phoenix Open titles in 1996 when the Dallas Cowboys beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 27-17 to clinch the Super Bowl in nearby Tempe.
In 2008, Mickelson came close to another victory at the TPC Scottsdale before losing to fellow American J.B. Holmes in a playoff, the same week that the New York Giants scraped past the New England Patriots 17-14 at the University of Phoenix Stadium.
Fast forward seven years and the American left-hander is back at Scottsdale for this week’s tournament with the Seattle Seahawks set to take on the New England Patriots on Sunday in Super Bowl 49 at the University of Phoenix venue.
“It’s fun the Super Bowl is here,” Mickelson told reporters on Wednesday after playing in the pro-am competition ahead of Thursday’s opening round.
“This is a great place to host the Super Bowl and this town, as you can see from this golf tournament, really supports sporting events, from Arizona State athletics to every professional sport. Having a Super Bowl here means a lot.”
Mickelson vividly recalls his Phoenix Open victory in 1996 when he beat compatriot Justin Leonard in a playoff.
“That was a great memory for me, winning the tournament for the first time,” said the 44-year-old Californian who has triumphed 42 times on the PGA Tour.
”I had not played well in this event prior to that and I really wanted to experience the feel coming down the stretch in contention with a chance to win. I hit a shot on 16 I will never forget. The pin was back left.
“I hit it (to) about three or four feet and it was the loudest roar I still remember to this day. I want to experience that again. There is something about bringing football here that just has a good synergy.”
Mickelson failed to win on the PGA Tour last season, his first title drought on the U.S. circuit since 2003. Even with his 45th birthday looming large in June, he firmly believes he can add a sixth major victory to his career tally.
“When I play to the level I‘m capable of playing, I‘m very confident that will be enough,” he said. “I had a terrible year last year and I still almost won the PGA (Championship). I‘m playing a lot better now.”
Editing by Peter Rutherford