- Bob Harig, Senior Golf Writer
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ORLANDO -- Phil Mickelson's visit to central Florida turned out to be a brief one, a 7-over-par 79 on Friday that sent him on his way after just two rounds at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
Mickelson, whose victory here in 1997 was one of 41 in his PGA Tour career, had three 7s on his card, including two triple-bogeys, one of which included a 4-putt from just 5 feet.
He missed the 3-over cut by 5 shots after opening the tournament with a 73.
"There is a huge discrepancy between the low scores and the high scores,'' Mickelson said afterward. "Obviously, I played terrible, and I deserved to shoot a score like this, but I felt like if I hit good shots, I could make birdies.''
Mickelson's troubles began at the par-4 13th, his fourth hole of the day. He was on the edge of the green in two shots, then needed 5 more to get his ball in the hole. Afterward, he managed to poke fun at himself.
"Fortunately, they didn't count the first one out on the fringe,'' said Mickelson, referring to the fact that he actually putted five times. "I think I hit too many fairways because I didn't feel comfortable there.''
Mickelson's performance was in keeping with the up and down nature of his game. This was his seventh tournament of the year, and he's had four tournaments outside of the top 35.
But he also has a victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, where he shot an opening-round 60. And two weeks ago he tied for third at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. This is his first missed cut of the year.
The 79 is his highest score since the opening round of Jack Nicklaus' Memorial Tournament, where Mickelson withdrew, citing "mental fatigue'' and suggested that cell phone cameras in the gallery were bothersome.
He will play next week's Shell Houston Open and is also expected to get in some practice time at Augusta National before the Masters begins on April 11.
"I'm glad I played,'' Mickelson said. "Had I shown up in Houston and had this happen I wouldn't have had a chance. I'll go back and work with (swing coach) Butch (Harmon) and see if I can get it dialed in for Houston.''
Mickelson, 42, a three-time Masters champion who tied for third last year, said he's not concerned about his preparation.
"No, not for Augusta,'' he said. "This course is totally different than Augusta National. But I need to hit better shots. I need to get my own game where it needs to be competitively.
"From where I was a few months ago, where I felt so good and had some of the best ball-striking of my career to where I am now, it's a little surprising. But I'm not too worried about it. I think a little more time with Butch and it could click pretty quickly. It feels a lot farther off than I think it is.''