SAN DIEGO – The ongoing saga of Phil Mickelson’s back continued in earnest Friday at Torrey Pines.
A three-time winner of the Farmers Insurance Open, Mickelson showed clear signs of discomfort during his opening-round 69. Afterward, he opened the possibility of withdrawing from his hometown event. Following treatment for the injury, though, the five-time major champion opted to give it a go Friday on the more difficult South Course.
Despite the injury, Mickelson was able to put forth a respectable showing and stood at even par before a sloppy bogey from the middle of the 18th fairway left him with a 1-over 73.
After holing his final putt, Mickelson explained that he was “repeatedly” forced to swing defensively in order to protect his injured back, and again offered signs that his week may still come to a premature end.
“I’m a little bit unsure – I mean, I love this tournament and I want to play here,” said Mickelson. “Part of me also says that I’m getting in bad habits, and if I hit it in this rough here, I’ve really got an issue because I’ve got to swing awfully hard to get it out and it jars it, so I’m a little torn right now on the best plan of action.”
Should Mickelson decide to tee it up in Saturday’s third round, he’ll begin in a tie for 32nd at 2 under, eight shots behind leader Jordan Spieth.
“I’ll see tonight. I would love to go out and at least give it a try early on and see if I can get a hot hand and maybe get something going,” Mickelson said, “but I also want to be smart about this.”
After speaking in the offseason about scaling back his playing schedule, Mickelson is in the midst of a busy stretch of play that could potentially influence his decision to continue in San Diego.
Following his runner-up showing last week in Abu Dhabi, Mickelson flew back to California for this event and next week will defend his title at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He’s also slated to play the following week at Pebble Beach.
“I have the entire year, I’ve got majors coming up, I’ve got other tournaments coming up and I don’t want to get in bad habits,” he explained. “My game is pretty sharp getting ready to start the year, and I could tell I’m making terrible swings out there relative to the way I’ve been swinging.”