Phil Mickelson's many and enthusiastic New York fans did not get a chance to sing "Happy Birthday" to him Tuesday. So he turned 39 without a tribute from the people who had toasted him when he turned 32.
Mickelson spent part of his birthday at home in California with his family, then was expected to travel to New York Tuesday night for his news conference and practice round at Bethpage Black Wednesday. Mickelson had chosen to fly home from Memphis after playing Sunday in the St. Jude Classic, his first tournament since his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Amy Mickelson is scheduled to begin treatment July 1, after he plays in the Open and the family goes on a vacation. He said last week that the family was encouraged by a diagnosis saying that the cancer was detected in its early stages. Mickelson also spoke of how highly he thinks of Bethpage and the reception he received there in 2002.
"I know he is loved up here, and he would love to win the U.S. Open at Bethpage, he really would," said Paul Casey, a friend of Mickelson who played at Arizona State after him. "I spoke to him briefly [last] Tuesday. You could just look in his eyes and see that he's not his usual self. I hope he does play great golf. If I can't win, I think it would be very fitting or great that Phil would win and go away from this and take care of his family."Yeah, I do know Amy and she's a wonderful person," Casey said.
The closest Mickelson's public got to him Tuesday was the unusual sight of his caddie, Jim (Bones) MacKay, accompanying Tiger Woods and his caddie, Steve Williams, on the back nine. MacKay had been walking the holes, pacing off yardages and making notes when Woods and Andrew Svoboda came by. They kept going together, with MacKay talking amiably.
Mickelson finished tied for 59th in Memphis and was especially disappointed with his putting. He added on Sunday that he looked forward to working on that before the Open. But he also wanted to get home to Amy and their three children.
"Amy, as a person, she's a sweetheart," Woods said. "She has been just so nice and so generous to everyone she meets. All the years that we've played doubles in table tennis, Elin and myself and Phil and Amy, those are priceless times."
Woods referred to having lost his father, Earl, the man who shaped his golf career and about whom he thinks every round, to prostate cancer in 2006. But he was quick to add that dealing with a spouse's illness is much different than dealing with a parent's.