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Phil Mickelson abandons vegetarian diet used to fight arthritis

ABU DHABI (Reuters) - U.S. Masters champion Phil Mickelson has abandoned the strict vegetarian diet he adopted to combat psoriatic arthritis during his disappointing 2010 season when victory in Georgia was his only success.

Phil Mickelson of the U.S. walks down the seventh green with his caddie during the second round of the Singapore Open golf tournament at the Serapong golf course on Sentosa island November 12, 2010. REUTERS/Edgar Su

The 34-year-old American joins his three fellow major champions -- Graeme McDowell, Louis Oosthuizen and defending titleholder Martin Kaymer -- on Thursday in the strongest Abu Dhabi championship in the event’s six-year history.

“I was a strict vegetarian for five months, and that went okay but ultimately, it was doomed to fail,” he told a news conference on Wednesday. “I learned a lot from that as far as eating habits and diet and so I’ve implemented a lot of the things from that.

“I continue to eat a lot more vegetables than I have in the past and I’m trying to have a better balance now than instead of all protein.

“But as far as the arthritis, that’s something that will never go away but I was fortunate. I was fortunate because I got on it right away.

“So the key for me now was getting on it right away before there was permanent damage to any joints or whatnot.”

Mickelson, who is making his competitive debut in the Middle East, has slipped to fourth in the world rankings alongside McDowell. The pair will play alongside on the first two days at the National Club course.

“My goal this year in 2011 is to have the year I expected 2010 to be,” Mickelson said. “With the exception of the Masters, it wasn’t the year I had hoped for. And so I’ve been working hard in the off-season to make 2011 the year I believe I can have and the one I had hoped for last year.”

The former world number two said he had struggled with his strength work in the gymnasium.

“I had lost a lot of strength over the summer from some medications I took before I was really getting treatment,” he said.

“I was having difficulty getting that strength back, and so I have added protein back into my diet, and since then I’ve been able to get back to lifting weights and so forth to what I was lifting before.”

Editing by John Mehaffey