By Mark Lamport-Stokes
AKRON, Ohio (Reuters) - Having been on cloud nine since winning his fifth major crown at the British Open nine days ago, Phil Mickelson is ready to resume his challenge for more golf titles at this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational.
By his own admission, the American world number two is playing some of the best golf of his life and is eager to take full advantage with several high-profile tournaments on his schedule over the next two months.
"We've got the big event here, a World Golf Championships (WGC) event, we've got the PGA (Championship) next week, and our FedExCup (playoffs)," Mickelson said at Firestone Country Club on Tuesday while preparing for Thursday's opening round of the Bridgestone Invitational.
"So it's a lot of golf left. Right now I'm playing as well as I ever have and want to make sure I stay focused this week and next week because there's an opportunity to add to this year and make this year every bit as special as it can be.
Mickelson won his second PGA Tour title of the year by a commanding three shots in the British Open at Muirfield, separating himself from the field with a stunning final round of five-under-par 66 despite difficult scoring conditions.
It was his first success in the year's third major, having recorded only two top-10s in his previous 19 appearances at the event, and he has since barely kept his hands off the coveted Claret Jug.
"It's been really a fun time," the American left-hander told reporters. "I'm just excited every day that I've got the Claret Jug and I get to look at it every day. It's here with me. It's not like I'm going to leave it.
"I'll have some of my friends throughout these next couple of weeks be able to drink out it. To give friends of mine an opportunity to drink out of the Claret Jug and have a picture of it, that's a cool experience that not many people get to do."
Mickelson was delighted to be back in golf mode, his previous nine days having been a whirlwind of victory celebrations, media commitments, travel and a visit to Oak Hill Country Club, venue for next week's PGA Championship.
"Last week I had a lot of other things going on that didn't allow me to practice until Saturday," he said.
"I went up to Oak Hill and wasn't really able to work on my game yesterday as much as I was developing strategy and getting ready and prepared for next week's major, next week's PGA.
"Starting today was the first day that I was able to really work on my game and work on my touch, work on shot-making and so forth. It was not far off. I hit a lot of good shots today. I'm playing really well."
A 42-time winner on the PGA Tour, Mickelson was impressed with the condition of Oak Hill for the August 8-11 PGA Championship though he was surprised by the severity of the rough.
"It's in immaculate shape, it's really pristine," he said. "It's difficult, as you can imagine, like any major championship.
"It's as thick a rough as I've seen in a long time - long, dense, thick, heavy rough - it's very much like a U.S. Open. It will have a premium on getting the ball in play off the tee."
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Gene Cherry)