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Second spot leaves Lefty with bitter-sweet taste

By Mark Lamport-Stokes

LOUISVILLE Kentucky (Reuters) - Phil Mickelson had bitter-sweet feelings about his second-place finish at the PGA Championship on Sunday, happy to be back in the title hunt after a disappointing season but frustrated to have fallen one stroke short at Valhalla.

The American left-hander had dueled with compatriot Rickie Fowler, Swede Henrik Stenson and eventual winner Rory McIlroy throughout Sunday's final round before a bogey at the par-four 16th effectively ended his bid.

"That was a costly bogey in the end," Mickelson told reporters after firing a five-under 66 at a rain-soaked Valhalla Golf Club to finish at 15-under 269, a shot behind the triumphant McIlroy.

"It was a fun day for me to get in the mix and a fun day for me to make some birdies and move up early so that I had a good chance on the back nine.

"I'm disappointed in the outcome. I thought that, had I been able to finish those last five, six holes strong, it could have totally flipped the way I look at this year," added Mickelson, who had been bidding for a sixth major victory.

A 42-times winner on the PGA Tour, Mickelson had not recorded a single top-10 this season in 17 starts heading into Valhalla, though he had been encouraged by a closing 62 at last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational in Ohio.

"Now I've got some regrouping to do these next three for four months," said the 44-year-old Californian. "I have some glaring areas in my game that I have to work on.

"I feel like if I'm able to continue to be strong and healthy and sharp in these areas of my game, I should have four or five good years that I really want to focus in on.

"These next three or four months will be critical for me, making sure that I address the issues and that I'm ready to go in 2015."

NEEDING IMPROVEMENT

Asked to specify the areas of his game that needed improvement, Mickelson replied: "Driving, short irons were terrible this year as a whole. It's usually a strength and I've got to get that back."

For much of Sunday's final round, however, it was the old 'Phil the Thrill' in action, five birdies in the first 11 holes generating huge roars from his faithful fans.

Known for his magical short-game skills, Mickelson made a series of clutch putts, none better than a 30-footer to save par at the 12th.

At that point, though, Mickelson failed to kick on over the closing stretch.

"After the good par putt on 12, I had a good chance on 13, didn't hit a great putt," said the American, who is popularly known as 'Lefty'.

"Hit a good shot on 14, didn't hit a great putt. Hit a good putt on 15. Thought that might go in. It just fell off low.

"I feel like I'm a lot closer to great play than what this year showed, and this is just a little glimpse of what I feel I can do. I'll see if I can work on it some more, but I'm optimistic that I'll be able to address these issues."

(Editing by Peter Rutherford)

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