Phil Mickelson finds himself in a better place


WGC-Bridgestone - 125wAKRON, Ohio ' It wasnt New York, not even New Jersey, but it was something. A cool morning in the heart of America was lifted by the presence of a single man doing a job he loves.
No, not Tiger Woods ' although its always a good table when the world No. 1 is about. But Wednesdays stage at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational was saved for Phil Mickelson.
Watching the world No. 2 work his way around the South Course, it was easy to become mesmerized by competing skill sets, and were not talking about that magicians short game and slashing swing.
Phil Mickelson at WGC Bridgestone
Phil Mickelson is playing for the first time since the U.S. Open. (Getty Images)
This Phil, the one drained by months of emotional toil, has acquired the uncanny ability to compartmentalize and to keep things in perspective. Good news on the home front has sent Lefty back out into the Tour universe, our gain. And, maybe more importantly, a different view of the world has given him the ability to see beyond the scorecard.
Golf is better with Mickelson and his presence here sends the unquestionable message that Amy Mickelson, who was diagnosed with breast cancer earlier this year and underwent treatment shortly after the U.S. Open, is 1 up in a much more important match.
Although his voice still cracks when he talks about Amy and the Pink Out day officials had at Colonial for her and the outpouring of support they have received, hes finding a way to make Tour life his own version of Vegas ' what happens outside the ropes, stays outside the ropes.
He has to, its the only option Amy would accept.
I dont know if you really separate it, Mickelson said. Weve been fortunate. Both my mom (who was diagnosed with breast cancer shortly after Amy) and Amy have caught it early and weve been able to have some wonderful care.
So, you march on.
He didnt plan to be spending the dog days of summer so far from Amy. Hadnt even allowed himself to think that far ahead. But circumstances opened a door, and after everything the Mickelsons have been through of late you dont ignore karma.
If you had asked me two months ago would I be able to play again in August I didnt think that would be possible, he said. But weve had some good things happen along the way and Im fortunate to be able to play.
As for perspective, its inevitable in these types of brushes with mortality. Three footers dont seem so crucial, missed drives dont make the mental highlight reel and hazards seem much less hazardous.
Even major championships dont haunt ones thoughts. The same man who bounced his U.S. Open hopes off a corporate tent on the 72nd hole at Winged Foot and could manage only, Im such an idiot, can find solace in his circumstances.
Even that fifth silver medal at Bethpage last month, the door prize for finishing second at the national championship, had less bite than previous near misses.
Asked on Wednesday if his Bethpage finish had the same emotional impact as, say, Winged Foot in 2006 or Pinehurst in 1999, he was quiet, yeah, that would be fair to say.
Six weeks of untold procedures and almost not a single swing of a golf club has passed since Mickelson last found his way onto a Tour tee sheet. Its the longest mid-summer layoff of his career and, in a clarity of thought way, the best possible way to prepare for next weeks PGA Championship.
Mental rehearsal is every bit as important as physical rehearsal, Mickelson said. When I had my nurse gown on, I would mentally rehearse shots and stuff to just think about ' just kind of keep myself sharp, even though I wasn't touching a club. So I think when I came back and was finally able to swing a club, I was able to play fairly decently.
Make no mistake, Mickelsons expectations are high. Always are.
He went to Hazeltine National last Wednesday to do some pre-major homework, spent extra time with swing coach Butch Harmon on Wednesday working on the practice range. He still talks about his swing in abstract tones, but now hes not consumed by it.
Mickelson was asked about his schedule beyond the PGA and the answer came without hesitation: Well see.
Its the reality of the New Phil and a welcome sign. On a Tour defined by scorecards, Mickelson is more than happy to just play the cards hes been dealt.
Simply put, Mickelson is in a better place now.
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - 2009 WGC - Bridgestone Invitational
  • Golf Channel Airtimes