Mickelson had expressed optimism Friday morning when he arrived at Torrey Pines, saying that his back felt “much better” after a night of treatment. But he showed visible signs of discomfort during a second-round 73 on the South Course that left him eight shots off the lead heading into the weekend. This is his fourth career WD, and just his second since 2007.
There was a possibility that Mickelson could have withdrawn during Thursday’s round, but he swung with less intensity, relied on a strong short game and managed a 69 on the easier North Course. He said the back pain was a “muscular thing” and unrelated to his injury last week in Abu Dhabi.
“I think I’m just getting old,” he joked.
Mickelson’s absence is a big blow for his hometown tournament, which he has won three times but not since 2001.
He was playing his second of four consecutive events, and in a release by his management company it was unclear whether he would be able to defend his title at next week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.
“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 said Friday. “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.”