LA JOLLA, California (Reuters) - Tiger Woods may be coming off his worst round as a professional but longtime rival Phil Mickelson said on Wednesday the 14-times major champion will have the last laugh on critics suggesting he has the yips.
Mickelson said it is only a matter of time before Woods, who is struggling in his return to competitive golf after a long layoff due to a back injury, rediscovers his form.
"Tiger's going to have the last laugh. I think that his short game, historically, is one of the best of all time and I think his golf game is probably the best of all time," Mickelson said ahead of this week's Farmers Insurance Open.
"When you haven't played, it's (short game) the first thing to feel uncomfortable and the quickest thing to get back."
Woods fired an 82 last week in Phoenix during a round where he sprayed drives, flew approach shots over greens, flubbed chips and missed short putts in his second event in five months.
He will be in familiar surroundings this week at Torrey Pines, where he has won seven times and also claimed the 2008 U.S. Open.
"I think we all, myself included, have had stretches where we feel a little uncomfortable, we don't hit it solid, and usually it's just a small tweak," said Mickelson.
"Because it's such a short swing it's not a hard thing to fix. I just don't see that lasting more than a week or two."
Mickelson, a 42-times winner, is enduring a win drought of his own having gone over 18 months since claiming the 2013 British Open.
The last time the five-time major winner and San Diego resident went this long without victory was a 19-month stretch between June 2002 and January 2004.
He opened 2015 with a tie for 24th at the Humana Challenge and a missed cut in Phoenix.
Mickelson sighted patience as the key to this week in his own backyard, being able to accept long birdie chances and taking chances when they presented themselves.
"Last year I didn't feel good about my game, I didn't feel good about how I was hitting it and my speed wasn't up. Now, I feel good," said Mickelson.
"Sometimes it takes a few tournaments to get into the course management aspect, to play the rounds properly, to be patient, to know when to attack, when not to."
Editing by Frank Pingue