Lefty's growth spurt may not be a tall tale

When Phil Mickelson's dimensions cause a stir, the buzz is usually about his weight. Yesterday it was about his height.
"In the last three or four years, through some of the stretching and stuff, I've probably grown a half inch to an inch," the 6-foot-2-inch, sorry, 6-foot-3-inch Mickelson said at a Wachovia Championship press conference.
The revelation surfaced when Lefty was explaining the measures he has taken to improve his putting. Mickelson said he had moved to a longer putter to help accommodate a recent growth spurt.
"I've known that I've become a half inch, inch taller for a few years, but I just thought, gosh, I'm not putting well, and now is the time to make an adjustment if I'm going to go to a longer putter," Mickelson said. "It's easier on my back as much as I practice putting."
But hold on a second here. A one-inch growth spurt? At 37? From stretching? We sought the opinion of people who know about stretching -- yoga instructors.
"It does sound extreme," says Julie Kleinman, a teacher for 15 years and the vice president of programming at Yoga Works in New York City. "But it is possible."
The spine is naturally compressed, Kleinman says, but regular and repeated stretching can expand the "squishy space" between the vertebrae, which over time can make a person stand slightly more erect.
Nicole Persley, an instructor at Yoga and Inner Peace in Lake Worth, Fla.,
says she herself has probably grown about a quarter inch in the eight years she
has been practicing yoga. "And I can attest to having seen other students
experience a lengthening effect as well," Persley says.   
For what it's worth, Lefty's expansion has been public information for months. It's right there in the 2008 PGA Tour Media Guide, which lists Mickelson at 6-3. Two years ago the guide had him listed an inch shorter. (Photo: Robert Beck/SI)

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by Kevin Cunningham