Mickelson provides another strange twist to things

By Randall MellAugust 11, 2010, 4:37 am

2010 PGA ChampionshipSHEBOYGAN, Wis. – A strange year in golf tilted in another unexpected direction Tuesday at the PGA Championship.

But at least Phil Mickelson was able to make us laugh about it.

Though there was nothing funny about his revealing that he is suffering from psoriatic arthritis, the fact that he could make fun of his other major revelation gives his legion of fans reassurance that he’s going to prevail after yet another health scare for the Mickelson family.

After explaining that a wonder drug called Enbrel has apparently put his psoriatic arthritis “in remission” over the last two weeks or so, he revealed that he’s become a vegetarian.

The opening he left for wisecracks was wider than the fairways here at Whistling Straits, and Mickelson lunged in eagerly.

This, after all, is a man who has ownership interest in a burger chain called Five Guys.

“We’re working on a veggie burger,” Mickelson cracked.

Nobody was shocked seeing those photos of Mickelson in his green jacket in the drive-through window of a Krispy Kreme donut shop the day after he won the Masters in April, but there are plenty of PGA Tour pros who would drop their salad plates seeing Mickelson load up on phytochemical packed tomatoes, mineral-rich mushrooms and crunchy jicama.

“I know, this is crazy,” Mickelson said. “I know, I know.”

Crazier yet is the story behind his erratic play this summer.

Mickelson was the big story going to the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach as he vied to win back-to-back majors. His Masters victory was an uplifting tale with his wife, Amy, there to hug him in her first public appearance since her diagnosis and treatment for breast cancer.

Going to Pebble Beach, Mickelson confided to Amy how strong he was feeling: “I said, `I’ve never felt this good. I have no aches and pains. My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I’ve ever been.’ Four days later . . . it’s crazy.”

Five days before the U.S. Open, Mickelson said he felt the first strike of pain from the onset of psoriatic arthritis. It’s a disease that causes inflammation of the joints. He said the pain was so bad he couldn’t walk upon waking up. His hip muscles were sore, his right wrist felt sprained, his left index finger too.

“Usually, that stuff kind of comes and goes,” Mickelson said. “It progressively got worse.”

Mickelson gave himself a chance to win the U.S. Open, tying for fourth. He wasn’t as good at the British Open, tying for 48th. But on a trip to Hawaii after that major, his condition worsened.

“Every joint in my body started to hurt,” Mickelson said.

That led Mickelson to doctors at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota, who confirmed the psoriatic arthritis diagnosis and prescribed treatment that’s taken his pain away. After his practice round Tuesday, he said he was due to give himself another shot of Enbrel. He gives himself the shot once a week. This marks his third week using the drug.

“This has put it in remission,” Mickelson said. “I feel great. I’m able to work out, lift and don’t have any pain.”

Mickelson said he became a vegeterian in hopes it would help his condition.

Though Mickelson wouldn’t blame his erratic summer play on his illness, his swing coach knows better.

“It’s been a very big deal,” Butch Harmon said. “It definitely affected his focus, and he was in a lot of pain in different parts of his body, but it was not knowing what was causing the pain that was troublesome, not knowing how serious it was, or if it was going to get more serious.

“He’s found some medication that’s helped him a lot. I’ve seen a huge lift in his spirits.”

Sean Cochran, Mickelson’s trainer, said Mickelson is already regaining lost strength.

“I looked at it like a 14-day disabled list,” said Cochran, who once worked with the San Diego Padres.

Mickelson said he didn't want to divulge the news until he knew exactly what he was dealing with. He is hopeful the disease is under control.

“It’s very treatable,” he said. “I’ll probably take this drug for about a year and feel 100 percent.

“It’s not that it’s cured, but it may never come back. If it does come back, I’ll start the treatment again and should be able to live a normal life without having any adverse effects. I’m not very concerned about it.”

Mickelson’s recovery comes in time to make this a giant season. He tied for sixth when the PGA Championship was played at Whistling Straits in 2004. A victory this week would vault him to No. 1 in the world rankings for the first time and likely lock up his first PGA Tour Player of the Year award.

“It would make the year remarkable,” Mickelson said. “It would make it a super year.”

Though Mickelson won the Masters, he has disappointed in failed bids to wrest the No. 1 ranking from Tiger Woods. He has just the one victory this season.

“To have won the Masters made this year great,” Mickelson said. “I haven’t really played like I feel I can. I haven’t won as much as I would like, but winning one major, winning the Masters has made this a year I’ll always remember. If I were somehow able to come out on top at the end of this week, it would be an incredible year.”

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HOFer Stephenson: Robbie wants to play me in movie

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 4:20 pm

Margot Robbie has already starred in one sports-related biopic, and if she gets her way a second opportunity might not be far behind.

Robbie earned an Academy Award nomination for her work last year as former Olympic figure skater Tonya Harding in the movie, I Tonya. She also has a desire to assume the role of her fellow Aussie, Jan Stephenson, in a movie where she would trade in her skates for a set of golf clubs.

That's at least according to Stephenson, who floated out the idea during an interview with Golf Australia's Inside the Ropes podcast shortly after being announced as part of the next class of World Golf Hall of Fame inductees.

"We've talked about doing a movie. Margot Robbie wants to play me," Stephenson said.

There certainly would be a resemblance between the two Australian blondes, as Robbie has become one of Hollywood's leading ladies while Stephenson was on the cutting edge of sex appeal during her playing career. In addition to several magazine covers, Stephenson also racked up 16 LPGA wins between 1976-87 including three majors.

Robbie, 28, has also had starring roles in Suicide Squad and The Wolf of Wall Street.

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Azinger: 'Can't see anybody beating Tiger' at his best

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:44 pm

There's a new world No. 1, and a fresh crop of young guns eager to make their mark on the PGA Tour in 2019. But according to Paul Azinger, the player with the highest ceiling is still the same as it was when he was walking inside the ropes.

Azinger was named Monday as lead golf analyst for NBC Sports, and on "Morning Drive" he was asked which player is the best when all are playing their best. The former PGA champion pondered new world No. 1 Brooks Koepka and former No. 1 Dustin Johnson, but he came back around to a familiar answer: Tiger Woods.

"I just can't see anybody beating Tiger when Tiger's at his best. I just can't see it," Azinger said. "He's not his best yet, but he's almost his best. And when Tiger's his best, there's more that comes with Tiger than just the score he shoots. That crowd comes with Tiger, and it's a whole 'nother dynamic when Tiger's at his best. And I'm just going to have to say that when Tiger's at his best, he's still the best."

Woods, 42, started this year ranked No. 656 in the world but had a resurgent season that included a pair of near-misses at The Open and PGA Championship and culminated with his win at the Tour Championship that ended a five-year victory drought. For Azinger, the question now becomes how he can follow up a breakthrough campaign as he looks to contend consistently against players from a younger generation.

"That's why we watch, to see if he can maintain that. To see what he's capable of," Azinger said. "Now longevity becomes the issue for Tiger Woods. In seven or eight years, he's going to be 50 years old. That goes fast. I'm telling you, that goes really fast."

When Woods returns to action, he'll do so with a focus on the upcoming Masters as he looks to capture the 15th major title that has eluded him for more than a decade. With bombers like Koepka and Johnson currently reigning on the PGA Tour, Azinger believes the key for Woods will be remaining accurate while relying on the world-class iron play that has been a strength throughout his career.

"I think he's going to have to recognize that he's not the beast out there when it comes to smacking that ball off the tee. But I'd like to see him try to hit a couple more fairways periodically. That'd be nice," he said. "If he can drive that ball in the fairway, with that putter, we've seen what his putter is capable of. The sky's the limit, boys."

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Spieth drops out of top 10 for first time since 2014

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 2:08 pm

As Brooks Koepka ascended to the top of the Official World Golf Ranking, a former No. 1 continued a notable decline.

Jordan Spieth didn't play last week's CJ Cup, where Koepka won by four shots. But Jason Day did, and his T-5 finish in South Korea moved him up two spots from No. 12 to No. 10 in the latest rankings. Spieth dropped from 10th to 11th, marking the first time that he has been outside the top 10 in the world rankings since November 2014.

Since that time, he has won 12 times around the world, including three majors, while spending 26 weeks as world No. 1. But he hasn't won a tournament since The Open last July, and this year he missed the Tour Championship for the first time in his career. Spieth is expected to make his season debut next week in Las Vegas at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.

Updated Official World Golf Ranking

Koepka and Day were the only movers among the top 10 on a week that saw many top players remain in place. Sergio Garcia's rain-delayed win at the Andalucia Valderrama Masters moved him up four spots to No. 27, while Gary Woodland went from 38th to 30th after finishing second behind Koepka on Jeju Island.

Koepka will tee off as world No. 1 for the first time this week at the WGC-HSBC Champions, where new No. 2 Dustin Johnson will look to regain the top spot. Justin Rose is now third in the world, with Justin Thomas, Rory McIlroy, Francesco Molinari, Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Rickie Fowler and Day rounding out the top 10.

With his next competitive start unknown, Tiger Woods remained 13th in the world for the fifth straight week.

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Pavin's season nearly ends after slow-play penalty

By Will GrayOctober 22, 2018, 1:50 pm

Corey Pavin's season on the PGA Tour Champions nearly came to an end because of a slow-play penalty.

Penalties for pace are often discussed or threatened, but rarely doled out on either the PGA Tour or the over-50 circuit. But that changed Sunday during the final round of the Dominion Energy Charity Classic, where Pavin was told by a rules official after completing his round that he would receive a 1-stroke penalty for slow play.

The penalty was on the surface rather harmless, turning an even-par 72 into a 1-over 73 and dropping Pavin into a tie for 15th. But this was the first event of a three-tournament postseason for PGA Tour Champions players, and only the top 54 in points advanced to this week's Invesco QQQ Championship.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

Pavin, who has two top-10 finishes in 20 starts this season, barely held on at 53rd place after the penalty was enforced.

Slow-play discussions came up earlier this season surrounding Bernhard Langer at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship, but Golf Channel analyst Lanny Wadkins expressed his surprise on the telecast that it was Pavin who got a shot added to his score.

"Of all the things to happen with all the times I have played - I can't even count the number of rounds - I never thought Corey Pavin was a slow player," Wadkins said. "All the guys we know are slow players have never been penalized out here. Where has this been for the last 15 years?"

The subject of the penalty also raised an eyebrow from Stephen Ames, who finished alongside Pavin in 15th place while Langer finished second behind Woody Austin: