A year ago he skipped his title defense in The Tour Championship. In fact, he took off a full four months after the birth of his second daughter.
Next year hell again put family before finance and fame.
'We are expecting the birth of our third child in March. That rules out The Players Championship, said Mickelson, who added he was 99 percent sure such a scenario would take place.
But Mickelson fans can certainly get their fill of Phil prior to 2003. The lefthander plans on playing in three unofficial events, two of which will be contested against his biggest rival.
Mickelson and Tiger Woods are both in the Thanksgiving weekend Skins Game. Woods also invited Mickelson to compete in his own Target World Challenge for the first time. The two would have been teammates in the World Cup, but Woods pulled out, leaving Mickelson to play alongside Ryder Cup partner David Toms.
Given that Ive added tournaments here in the off-seasonthats going to delay my start on the tour next year until the Phoenix Open, Mickelson said at this years Tour Championship.
Phoenix is the third stop on tour next season, with the Bob Hope ' which Mickelson won this year ' the following week. Mickelson said he expects to play the Hope, but few things are certain right now.
Im not sure which tournaments I will play and how that will fit schedule-wise, he said. It will be more week-to-week than having a clear-cut schedule throughout the year.
Mickelson has played in at least 23 official events each of the last five years, and said he plans to reduce that number in 2003. One event he would add, however, would be the one contested at Doral, which like he is sponsored by Ford Motor Company.
I would expect the Ford Championship to be the final event for me until the birth and until a couple of weeks after, he said. I will play again most likely at either the BellSouth or the Masters, barring any unforeseen complications.
That would mean Mickelson would miss the Bay Hill Invitational, where he won in 1997 and has battled Tiger for the title each of the last two years.
This year, Lefty was again in contention until he bogeyed his final three holes. His demise started at the par-5 16th. Trailing by one, he pulled his tee shot into the right trees. With his ball on a deadpan lie and nestled against a twig, he tried to play a 4-iron under the limbs and over the water. The ball plummeted into the hazard, along with his chance of denying Woods a three-peat.
Mickelson was heavily criticized for his aggressive approach, but he made no excuses, saying then and now thats the only way to challenge Woods.
To beat him when he's in the lead is something very difficult to do, Mickelson said. He doesn't make mistakes when he's in contention on Sunday.
And because of that, Mickelson feels its necessary to be assertive and play full-throttle when competing against Woods. Its an approach that has yet to garner him any major titles, but one he will continue to implement.
Look at the way we've always thought the greatest player in the game attacked a major, which was Jack Nicklaus, Mickelson said. He always said he would wait and wait and let other people fall back, and he would be right there to get the trophy at the end.
That doesn't happen with Tiger any more. He doesn't make those mistakes. You have to go attack and make birdies and play some exceptional golf to win championships in which he's in the field.
It may not always be the most effective method, but its the one Mickelson loves to apply, and one he will always defend.
I would think that after 10 years, after 25 tournaments a year, four rounds a week ... you've seen me play roughly 1,000 competitive rounds, and every single one of them I play aggressive and attacking, Mickelson said. I would think we would just come to accept it, because I certainly have.
And if not for Woods, that style would be good enough to make him the games best.
Mickelson is ranked second in the Official World Golf Ranking ' behind Woods. Hes finished second on the PGA Tour money list each of the last three years ' each occasion behind Woods. Hes won eight times on tour over the last three seasons ' second only to Woods.
Much has been made of the relationship ' or lack thereof ' between the games top-two ranked players.
At this years Masters, Mark Calcavecchia, who is close friends with both players, was quoted in Golf Digest as saying: They put up with each other, but they aren't the best of friendsI think some of the things Phil says might rub Tiger a little the wrong way. Tiger might think [Mickelson] is a know-it-all and cocky.
Mickelson was incensed at the time, and reiterated at The Tour Championship ' where he and Woods played two rounds together ' that there is no bitterness between the two.
I keep saying it, but Tiger and I get along very well, Mickelson said. People just dont want to believe it.
Regardless of their level of friendship, Mickelson has proven to be Tigers most formidable foe.
The San Diego native has won 12 times over the past five years, six of which have come with Tiger in the field. Hes one of only four men (on 34 occasions) to knock off Woods when hes held the 54-hole lead in a tournament (2000 Tour Championship).
This year he won twice ' neither of which came at Woods expense - and made over $4 million for the third straight season. But there are improvements that need to be made in 2003.
I contended very much so at the Masters, U.S. Open, and had two wins at the Chrysler Bob Hope Classic and the Greater Hartford Open. So those two wins were nice, Mickelson said. I certainly would have liked to have won some more, so thats something Ill try to improve on.