Troubles Build For Mickelson

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA l This wasn’t what the Farmers Insurance Open needed, the hometown kid – well, he’s no longer a kid and maybe this is the issue – missing the cut. And, because that Tiger guy wasn’t around, other than around the world, it left a void in the superstar category.
Phil Mickelson had won the tournament, once known as the Buick Invitational, three times. He was the biggest name on site at Torrey Pines. What a site and sight it is, rambling along the bluffs above the breaking surf.
His participation, however, was brief.
The explanations were hardly out of the ordinary from golfers at any level: Phil was hitting it well on the practice tee. He wasn’t hitting it so well from the real tees or on the fairways or in the numerous bunkers he found himself.
“I’m not bringing it from the practice session to the golf course,” said Phil. “I’m not sure why, but the good news is my practice sessions have been great in every area.”
Put that on your scorecard.
These have been a difficult two weeks for Phil. These have been a difficult few years for Phil.
While playing in the Humana Challenge, the tournament in the desert that preceded the Farmers, Mickelson was notified his 10-year-old daughter, Sophia, fainted and had a small seizure while at school.
Phil’s wife, Amy, persuaded Phil not to leave the Humana, which as the crow flies – or the jet flies – was beyond the mountains about 75 miles east of Phil’s San Diego home.
Sophia was hospitalized, released and returned for tests the Thursday of the Farmers, while her father was shooting a 5-over par 77. His 68 Friday wasn’t good enough to reach the 142 needed to play the final two rounds.
“It’s been a rough week,” Amy Mickelson told Tod Leonard of the San Diego Union Tribune. “But you get through it … She’s doing okay. I’m confident in the doctor who specializes in (Sophia’s) situation.”
Amy herself continues to recover from the breast cancer diagnosed in May 2009. Phil Mickelson’s, mother, Mary, was diagnosed with the same disease two months later. Then, in August 2010, Mickelson disclosed he had been stricken with psoriatic arthritis.
Maybe the pain and worry finally have caught up with Phil. If he said as much it would be understandable. The family and Phil have had a lifetime’s suffering in only a matter of months.
Yet, Mickelson came to the Farmers insisting, “I’m ready to get myself back in it.”
From the start, he was out of it. The first-day 77? “I don’t know what to say about the score,” was Mickelson’s observation, “except it was pathetic.”
Phil never has been terribly accurate with a driver. The compensation came in the magnificent short game. You don’t win three Masters and a PGA Championship if you can’t chip and putt. That he tried a belly putter for a couple months in the fall of 2011 was a hint perhaps he no longer could putt.
“I had to make a decision on what direction I was going to go,” said Mickelson. “Was I going to try and get a better feel and touch (with the belly putter) for the breaking putts? Was I going to go back and try to putt like I did when I was a kid?”
The answer came with the club, an Odyssey with the same specifications of the putter he used way back when. The trouble is five months from his 42nd birthday, Mickelson probably may not use that putter with the same efficiency as way back when.
No champion athlete is willing to surrender to age, part of the reason he or she is a champion. They work harder, seek alternatives, throwing curves instead of fastballs for example, standing farther behind the back line to receive in tennis.
They change putters, change racquets, change coaches. The basic thought never changes. They see themselves the winners they always were.
When someone wondered if he were a better player than two years ago, and remember there was a Masters win in 2010, Mickelson answered, “I believe by quite a bit. I enjoy putting and I’ve got it dialed in.”
After two tournaments in 2012, Mickelson was 161st in putting from inside five feet and 156th in three-putt avoidance.
Before last year’s Open Championship, in which Mickelson tied for second, dispelling the idea he could not play links courses, Phil received a text from Dave Stockton, who won two PGA Championships and now is a putting guru.
One sentence advised Mickelson “go out and putt and play like you’ve won” four majors. In effect, stop thinking, start swinging. Mickelson complied brilliantly.
The stumbling start to his first two tournaments this year, a tie for 49th at the Humana, a missed cut at the Farmers, could be an aberration. Or it could be an indication.
“The scores,’’ he said, “look like it’s way off, but it doesn’t feel that far off.”
Then he offered the ultimate truth of golf. “It doesn’t matter how you hit it, it just matters what the final number is.”


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