After Phil Mickelson met with the media Wednesday morning, he played a practice round with Jim Furyk, Justin Leonard and Darron Stiles.
Nick Laham/Getty Images
Monday, January 23, 2012

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. — Phil Mickelson said Wednesday that he likely won't play the British Open at Turnberry next month as he drops off the Tour "for a little while" to join his wife, Amy, as she battles breast cancer.

"We'll start treatment July 1st," Mickelson said. "We'll have a great family vacation next week, and we have kind of a game plan on moving forward."

That plan includes a long break after the U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, which starts Thursday. Mickelson said he is hoping the rowdy fans will serve as a surrogate for his usual support system of Amy and their three kids, who are home in San Diego.

Having finished second four times but never won the U.S. Open, Mickelson said his wife has been leaving hints in the form of notes and text messages that she would like the silver trophy in her hospital room. Because his next start will most likely be in August, at the earliest, Mickelson said he's pouring everything into this week.

Still, in a departure from his usual major championship preparations, Mickelson flew home to San Diego after carding a 75 for a T59 finish at the St. Jude Classic on Sunday, and he didn't play his first practice round this week until Wednesday. That was partly to be with his family in a time of crisis, but also to be home for his 39th birthday on Tuesday.

"We all went to breakfast together, my favorite little breakfast joint," Mickelson said. "My kids brought me breakfast in bed first, but then we decided to go out." Several reporters laughed.

As usual, Amy took the cake for the most memorable birthday present. (She gave Phil a dinosaur head for his 38th birthday.) This year's big gift was a mini camera with 30-frames-per-second capability, so Mickelson's caddie Jim Mackay or coach Butch Harmon can film his swing and give him instant feedback.

"I've actually been hitting the ball better than I have in a long time, and possibly ever," said Mickelson, who finished second to Tiger Woods the last time Bethpage hosted the Open, in 2002. "I know it doesn't seem like it after my score at Memphis."

Prior to the St. Jude, Amy, one of the most popular wives on Tour, went through tests and Phil sat in hospital rooms for hours, his mind wandering. Inevitably he would take a break and think about golf. He spoke to Harmon by phone and was encouraged.

"Even though we didn't hit any balls, I actually got my swing to where we wanted it, to be able to hit little cut shots, control my misses," Mickelson said. "I'm very optimistic about my ball-striking this week. I think the key for me will be on the greens. I putted these greens very well in '02, and if I have a good putting week, I expect to be in contention on Sunday."

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