Masters 2012: Phil Mickelson's Keys to a Fast Start for Opening Round

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Masters 2012: Phil Mickelson's Keys to a Fast Start for Opening Round
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Phil Mickelson tees off at the 2012 Masters shortly before 2 p.m. ET today, and if he wants to be at or near the top of the leaderboard when the first round is over, he'll need to accomplish a few personal goals. 

Lefty has won the Masters three times since 2004, so everybody is well aware of how capable Mickelson is of winning at Augusta National this weekend. 

In order for Mickelson to thrive this weekend, though, he needs a solid opening-round start. 

That being said, here are my keys for Mickelson's first round:

How Should Mickelson Play in Round 1?

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Stick to Strategy  

So far this season, Mickelson has done a good job of keeping his mind in the right place, but there have been a few mishaps were he finished poorly and even missed the cut once. 

For the first round today, the lefty has to stick to his strategic game plan and go from there. Of course, adjustments must be made if he hits a bad shot, but for the most part, staying with the same blueprint throughout the day is key. 

Whether he decides to play aggressive today or conservative, Mickelson must stay at one pace. It's early in the tournament, so trying to do too much could really hinder him moving forward. He's better off staying conservative, but if he wants to push it, then Mickelson better be mentally ready for that. 

Putt Well

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This, of course, is easier said than done. If you've ever played golf, you know that succeeding in the short game is incredibly difficult.

Mickelson can't afford to three-putt or worse in the opening round. He has to finish each hole strong, or else he could be in deep water.

Putting well on the first day will significantly boost Mickelson's confidence, which would be phenomenal for him. 

Will Mickelson win the 2012 Masters?

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Avoid Distractions 

Mickelson is paired with Hunter Mahan and Peter Hanson for the opening round, but by the time they tee off, Tiger Woods will be off and running. 

The lefty cannot stray from his goals, as staying focused will greatly help him be in contention come Sunday. 

If he's going to win another green jacket, Mickelson has to forget about his surroundings and not worry about the field. Keeping his mind on the task at hand will help push him to the top of the leaderboard after the first round. 

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