As Phil Mickelson walked off the 18th hole of Bethpage Black late yesterday afternoon following a nearly seven-hour practice round, he told the 31 spectators waiting for him that his wife "is hanging in there."
Speaking publicly for the first time since his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer last month, Mickelson also told the fans, "We don't get started for a few weeks," referring to her treatment procedures.
That coincides with the Golf Digest report from last week that said Mickelson decided to return from his "indefinite leave" because his wife would not undergo surgery likely until "late June or early July."
Those, however, were Mickelson's only comments regarding his wife's health, as he said he will wait until today's news conference at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis to address all of those questions.
"I'm not ready to talk yet," he said. "I will tomorrow in Memphis. I'm sorry."
On his way to Memphis for his first tournament back since his wife's diagnosis, Mickelson made a pit stop at Bethpage Black Tuesday with caddie Jim "Bones" MacKay and short-game coach Dave Pelz.
One day earlier, Tiger Woods played a 17-hole round in cloudy, cool weather, which is perfect for golf. But Mickelson received a golfer's nightmare - thunder and lightning. So much so that the other four public courses at Bethpage State Park had to be closed.
After driving himself in a black Lincoln Navigator, Mickelson jumped out of his SUV and sprinted through the rain to the front door. There, he spoke with course superintendent Craig Currier and park director Dave Catalano for 40 minutes under an overhang as the rain pelted the ground around him.
Finally, at 10:09 a.m., Mickelson tried to play in the rain, and it didn't go well. As he hit the second of three tee-shots on the first hole, a loud clap of thunder struck. Mickelson also saw lightning, which was why he told his caddie after his third shot, "That's enough," and they returned to the clubhouse.
"I didn't think I was going to get it in," he later said of his practice round.
But 10 minutes later the heavy rain subsided, and Mickelson gave it another go. And that proved to be the right decision, as he didn't return the clubhouse for six hours and 59 minutes.
As he walked off the 18th green, the sun was out and 31 people gave him an ovation. Mickelson tipped his cap and said, "You guys have a terrific course here . . . What a great place. What a wonderful golf course."
Having not played a tournament since May 10, Mickelson clearly wanted a lot of practice. On the 18th hole, he took six tee shots - using four different clubs - and spent significant time working on putting and chip shots. That explains why his round took nearly seven hours.
Mickelson became a fan favorite when he last played in a U.S. Open at Bethpage Black in 2002, finishing as the runner-up to Tiger Woods.
"I'm looking forward to getting back to Bethpage next week," he said as he stopped to sign autographs on his walk back to the clubhouse. "I'm excited about the prospects this course presents . . . It's as good a golf course as I've seen. It's one of my favorite courses I've ever played."