Mickelson reveals game hampered by serious illness
Those who believed Phil Mickelson's disappointing form of late could be attributed to an inability to step up and seize the momentum from a vulnerable Tiger Woods will be chastened this morning, after Mickelson revealed he has been suffering with arthritis in the last few months.
The world No. 2, who has had several chances to dislodge Woods from the top spot at recent tournaments, explained that he has recently been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis, an illness that causes the immune system to attack the joints and tendons, resulting in painful swelling.
Mickelson first noticed the pain in the week prior to the US Open in June, the 40-year-old waking up one morning to find he was in such pain that he "couldn't even walk", Mickelson commented, though the pain would lessen through the day.
"And it progressively got worse, and to ultimately where I had to figure something that was wrong and had to go get it checked," the golfer added at a pre-PGA Championship press conference yesterday.
After using one form of anti-inflammatory medication during the Open, in the last fortnight the Californian has begun injecting himself with the drug Enbrel in order to combat the problem. So far, the new treatment seems to be working, Mickelson insisting that "everything is fine now."
"The treatment is a thing called Enbrel. I give myself a shot a week [...] I've only been doing it two weeks now, and I seem to have some pretty immediate progress so it's been great. The last couple of weeks I've been able to swing and practice full bore, I guess starting last Monday or Tuesday."
Mickelson admitted that his game wasn't quite where he hoped it would be, however, explaining: "Heading into the PGA, heading into the last week, I'm probably not as sharp as I would like to be. I didn't play well at the British, obviously. I didn't play well last week, on the weekend, but I'm able to work on it. I had a good session with Butch [Harmon] and I believe that the game's coming around."
The man known as "Lefty" also claimed he didn't believe the illness had affected his game at the Open, commenting: "It may have had an effect on my preparation for Europe. It didn't affect my play at The Open."
One unexpected side effect of Mickelson's illness is that the four-time major winner has decided to become a vegetarian - in Mickelson's own words: "I read a book and just thought maybe it will help." The golfer admitted that revelation was "the shocker"; Mickelson has ties with a group that own a burger chain, and the man who celebrated this year's win at the Masters with a visit to a well known donut store has never struck us as a man overly concerned with a healthy diet in the past.
Mickelson has clearly been forced to address that now, pointing out to laughter that his restaurants were "working on a veggie burger."
Mickelson is not the only notable golfer to succumb to arthritic illness, Spain's José María Olazábal's recurring rheumatism forcing the player to take an extended break from the game in recent months. Pain in his shoulder, forearms and hands affected his swing to such a degree that Olazábal has only made one appearance on the European Tour this year, at the French Open, where he missed the cut.
This is the second time the Spaniard has battled the disease, however; when Olazábal first encountered the illness in 1996, he managed to win his second green jacket at the Masters three years later. Buoyed by the good wishes of his fans, maybe Phil Mickelson can win his second Wanamaker Trophy this week at the PGA Championship.