Mickelsons Season Starts in Phoenix


Phil Mickelson makes his season debut in this weeks Phoenix Open. The lefthander skipped the first two tournaments in Hawaii, despite having qualified for the winners-only Mercedes Championships.
Mickelson has been spending time in his new Southern California home with his family in preparation for a heavy West Coast schedule.
He said at the end of 2002 that he planned to play extensively before the tour heads east for the Florida Swing. His wife, Amy, is expecting their third child in late March.
It hasnt been a complete lounge act for Mickelson during his break, however, as he has been practicing with his swing instructor, Rick Smith, and working with a personal trainer who is a martial arts expert.
A year ago, Mickelson also skipped the season-opening Mercedes Championships and then won in his first start, the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic.
Hes hoping for a repeat performance this go-around, in a tournament he won over Justin Leonard in a playoff in 1996.
To do so, hell have to knock off defending champion Chris DiMarco.
DiMarco blew a four-shot lead in three holes and blew off a heckler in holding on to edge Kenny Perry and Kaname Yokoo by a shot.
It was DiMarcos lone victory in 2002.
Unfortunately for tournament officials, the event is once again played opposite the Super Bowl. It avoided the conflict last year, and it showed in attendance figures ' 119,600 on Sunday, up from 64,842 in 2001 when Tiger Woods was in the field.
This is the 65th playing of the Phoenix Open, and the 17th straight year it will be contested at the par-71 TPC of Scottsdale.
The purse is $4 million, with $720,000 going to the winner. Twenty-seven tour winners from a year ago are in the reduced field of 132. There are eight of the top 15 from the Official World Golf Ranking, including Sergio Garcia, Retief Goosen, David Toms and Vijay Singh.
Mark Calcavecchia owns the 72-hole tournament scoring record. He was 28-under-par 256 in running away with his third career Phoenix title, in 2001.
That mark stood as the PGA Tours all-time scoring record in relation to par, until Ernie Els won this years Mercedes at 31-under.
Calcavecchia was inducted into the Phoenix Open Hall of Fame last year. He, Arnold Palmer and Gene Littler are the only players to win this event three times.
The 42-year-old struggled in 2002, finishing 53rd on the money list. One of the reasons for his decline can be attributed to sleep apnea, a medical disorder where breathing stops for a few seconds during sleep. Hal Sutton suffers from the same disorder.
Like Sutton, Calcavecchia is using a sleeping mask to regulate his breathing. He said it has helped him sleep better, and, in turn, play better.
Related Links
  • Full coverage of the Phoenix Open
  • Phil Mickelson's Bio
  • PGA Tour Statistical Preview