Phil Mickelson glad to be back for Colonial
Phil Mickelson is finally back at the Colonial, two years after
winning there and now with a chance to express appreciation to a
pink-swathed community that embraced his family from afar a year
Mickelson wasn’t at “Hogan’s Alley” to defend his title last
May after finding out that his wife had breast cancer, yet the
couple were in everyone’s thoughts. The tournament held a “Pink
Out” during the third round to honor Amy Mickelson and raise
awareness of the disease.
“They were without their defending champion, and yet they went
out of their way to show one of the nicest gestures I’ve seen,”
Mickelson said Wednesday. “So there is certainly an emotional
loyalty on my part toward Colonial.”
When Mickelson won the Masters last month, his wife was behind
the 18th green with their three children to share in the victory.
That is the only time Amy Mickelson has been at a golf course since
her diagnosis last year.
Amy Mickelson will not be at Colonial this week, when most
players and tournament officials are expected to wear pink for
another “Pink Out” on Saturday.
“Last week, Amy and I commiserated over our one-year
anniversary and this event really helped us get through some tough
times,” Mickelson said. “It meant a lot to us and gave us a huge
emotional boost at a very difficult time for us. We will always
remember that and be appreciative of that.”
Amid the emotional aspects of returning to Colonial, Mickelson
also has a chance this week to overtake Tiger Woods as the No. 1
player in the world rankings. Mickelson will take over top spot for
the first time in his career if he wins his third championship
plaid jacket at the Colonial.
“It would be something very special. But to accomplish that, I
can’t focus on that,” he said. “I still need to go out and play
like the No. 1 player in the world.”
Then asked if he was surprised that he has never topped the
world ranking, Mickelson responded, “I would say 13 of those years
were in Tiger years. It hasn’t been the easiest.”
Aside from his appreciation for the support the people at
Colonial showed, Mickelson – whose cap and wristband featured pink
ribbons – wasn’t interested in talking about what he was going
through at this time last year.
“I don’t really want to go back there. … That was a tough
time,” he said. “I’m happy that we are a year down the road and
that long-term things are good, and that I am able to come back and
enjoy this event.”
Mickelson is playing for the first time since tying for 17th at
The Players Championship three weeks ago. He was the runner-up at
Quail Hollow in his only other tournament since the Masters.
While Mickelson’s return is getting most of the attention, the
defending champ is Steve Stricker, who is preparing to play his
first tournament in six weeks. He has been out since after the
Masters because of a chest injury that required rest and
“There is still some tightness or stiffness to it, a twinge
here and there. But it was going to be a hard decision to stay home
this week and give it another week of rest,” Stricker said. “I
don’t know if it’s totally healed yet, but I’m swinging without any
Stricker won here last year with a birdie on the second playoff
hole after tying Tim Clark and Steve Marino at 17-under through 72
holes. Clark blew a two-stroke lead over the final five holes
before the playoff.
But Clark no longer holds the distinction of being one of the
best players to have never won on the PGA Tour. The South African
is playing for the first time since winning this year’s Players
Championship – after more than eight years and 204 tournaments on
golf’s toughest circuit.
Jason Day became a first-time PGA Tour winner last week at the
Byron Nelson Championship. The Australian, who now calls Fort Worth
home and plays out of Colonial, has a chance to become the only
player other than Ben Hogan in 1946 to win both Dallas-Fort Worth
tournaments the same year.
But the field will be much tougher this week. With Mickelson,
Stricker, Jim Furyk, Ian Poulter and Paul Casey, the Colonial
boasts five of the top eight players in the world. The
highest-ranked player at the Nelson was Hunter Mahan, who was
Mickelson won the 2008 Colonial by one stroke after a miracle
birdie on the final hole, making a 9-foot putt after his 140-yard
wedge shot from heavy rough went under one tree and over another,
the ball clipping branches while headed sky-high. He had to jog
through the trees just to see the ball fall on the green.
“He is almost the defending champion as well this week. I
thought it was the greatest feel-good story in golf when he won at
the Masters, and seeing Amy there,” Stricker said. “I think he is
going to be tough to beat here, too. I think he will be coming back
here with his game in shape and winning here a couple of years ago,
obviously he’s got some good vibes, too.”
The Colonial is sponsored by Crowne Plaza.