The Norman Transcript

National Sports

January 31, 2014

Lefty’s back better than game in Phoenix

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — From the moment Phil Mickelson set foot at TPC Scottsdale early Thursday morning, it was clear that the back pain that sidelined him last weekend was gone.

It also was quickly evident that his game was a little off.

“My back is fine. My game was a little rusty,” Mickelson said after opening his Phoenix Open title defense with an even-par 71.

After effortlessly hitting his opening drive 300 yards down the middle on the par-4 10th, Mickelson dumped a 90-yard wedge shot into the left greenside bunker. He blasted 10 feet past the hole and sighed in relief when his par putt slid in.

A few minutes later on the par-3 12th, Mickelson found the water hazard along the right side of the green. His chip from the fringe stopped about 15 feet short and he two-putted for a double bogey. He three-putted twice, once for par and another for bogey.

“I threw away a lot of shots,” Mickelson said. “I made some careless swings. Hitting it in the water on 12 was just pathetic.”

He was seven strokes behind leaders Bubba Watson and Y.E. Yang.

“I got off to a poor start, played a couple over, and finished poorly,” Mickelson said. “In the middle of the round, though, I hit a lot of good shots and had a good little run, but it just wasn’t quite sharp. I wasn’t quite focused on every shot the way I need to be and let way too many shots slide.”

Mickelson first felt soreness in his back two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, and pulled out of his hometown event in San Diego after making the 36-hole cut at Torrey Pines.

He flew to Georgia to see back specialist Tom Boers and was told his facet joints locked up.

“It’s fine. Honestly, it’s no big deal,” Mickelson said. “It was a five-minute fix. I just have to be careful for a week or two as it heals up. It’s fine. Mobility is back. It’s just not a big deal. ... It happens every now and then. Last time was about four years ago.”

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