He missed the tournament last year for the second time in his career because his wife, Amy, gave birth to their third child. Only later did Mickelson disclose that he was close to losing both his son, Evan Samuel, and his wife during a difficult delivery.
They celebrated his first birthday Tuesday.
'We had a nice little party, so it's nice to be back out playing,' Mickelson said. 'We obviously had a tough year last year and missed a bunch of tournaments at this time.'
Lefty went on to have his toughest season on the course, finishing out of the top 30 for the first time. But he put that behind him quickly, winning the Bob Hope Classic in his first start of the year, then following that with top-10 finishes in his next four tournaments.
What does Sawgrass hold for him?
Mickelson has never played well at The Players Championship, missing the cut four times and only breaking 70 four times in 32 rounds. His best finish was a tie for eighth in 1998.
Mickelson is coming off a two-week break, during which he took a family vacation.
'I haven't played the last two weeks. Typically, when I don't play for a couple of weeks, the first couple of holes I'm on edge as far how the round will go. This is a golf course that penalizes a miss much more than other courses.'
Kevin Sutherland was among the first players on the practice range Wednesday morning, but he didn't hit the first shot. That belonged to his caddie, John Wood, who took one shot with a 9-iron.
Wood had good reason -- Wednesday is when caddies hit a tee shot on the island-green 17th.
The closest to the pin was Robert Ames, the brother of Stephen Ames, who hit his shot to about 4 feet.
So many other players were disappointed.
Phil Mickelson was asked about his guy, Jim 'Bones' McKay, whose handicap is in the single digits.
'Bones,' Mickelson moaned, reliving the shot. 'He fatted a wedge. There was just a little right-to-left wind, and he tried to hit this big hook and caught it heavy.'
And John 'Cubby' Burke, the caddie for Davis Love III?
'Water,' Love said.
Brennan Little, the caddie for Masters champion Mike Weir, found land and would have hit a great shot, except the pin was back center, and Little pushed it to the right.
'He hit it over the Sunday pin,' said Weir, who used to compete against Little during their junior days in Canada. 'He was trying to blame me for the wrong club, but I wouldn't let him get away with that. He didn't hit a very good shot.'
It wasn't all for fun.
Players used to chip in money, and the winning caddie got the pot. This year, Wood spearheaded a move to donate the money to 'Drive 4 Life,' the charity launched last year by Bruce Edwards and Tom Watson to seek a cure for Lou Gehrig's disease. Edwards, a longtime caddie, is dying from the disease.
Players donated $8,250 to the pot this year, and the PGA Tour chipped in $5,000. Ames received $1,000 of the collection, meaning the contest raised $12,250 to the charity.
WEDGE ON DISPLAY
Augusta National Golf Club always asks its Masters champion to donate a club to the trophy room that was instrumental in the victory.
For Mike Weir, it was an easy choice -- his wedge.
'I hit so many great wedge shots that week,' Weir said. 'My putting was great, too. But I didn't' want to give up my putter. I figured I could part with my wedge.'
One of his biggest shots Sunday was a wedge into 5 feet for birdie on the par-5 15th, enabling Weir to pull into a tie with Len Mattiace. After making 6-foot par putts on the final two holes, Weir won in a playoff.
Two assistant captains at the Ryder Cup have one thing in common -- no previous experience.
European captain Bernhard Langer on Wednesday announced that Anders Forsbrand of Sweden will be his vice captain for the Sept. 17-19 matches at Oakland Hills.
Forsbrand never played in a Ryder Cup; neither did Steve Jones, one of Hal Sutton's assistants.
'Anders has enormous respect throughout the world of golf, and with 22 years of competing on the European tour, he is well-known to all our players,' Langer said.
Forsbrand won six times in Europe, and also represented Sweden in the World Cup and Dunhill Cup.
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