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Phil Mickelson plays Bethpage Black, says wife is 'hanging in there'

One day after Tiger Woods played at Bethpage Black, Phil Mickelson completed a nearly seven-hour practice round of his own despite some early morning rain and lightning.

Mickelson finished his practice round at 5:19 p.m., one minute shy of the seven-hour mark.

Mickelson took six tee shots on the 18th hole, and tried various other shots on 18 as he finished up his day. He said he used four different clubs for the tee shots.

>> Photos: Phil Mickelson

As he walked off the course, he told the 31 fans assembled, "You have a terrific course here."

A fan asked Mickelson about his wife, Amy, who is battling breast cancer. Mickelson said, "She's hanging in there. We don't get started [with the treatment] for a couple of weeks."

Mickelson, who stopped and spoke with fans for a few minutes after his round, said he wouldn't answer any questions from the media about his wife until Wednesday's press conference in Tennessee, site of this week's St. Jude Classic. Mickelson, who put his PGA Tour schedule on hold when his wife was first diagnosed, will play in the St. Jude Classic.

As far as the Bethpage Black course, Mickelson said the one major difference from the 2002 Open is the rough. He said the rough is still thick, but not as thick as 2002.

"What a wonderful golf course," Mickelson said.

At 10:09 a.m., Mickelson took three tee shots -- there was a crack of thunder on his second swing -- in the rain on the first hole with five spectators behind him. Dressed in black rain gear, Mickelson then turned around and returned to the clubhouse without comment.

"I didn't think I was getting [the round] in," Mickelson said later after finishing his round.

About 15 minutes later, however, with the rain lightening up, Mickelson came back to the first tee. He hit one shot then headed down the fairway, apparently hopeful of getting at least a few holes in.

Mickelson was later spotted just off the first green. He placed two balls about 10 feet away as he worked on his chipping game. He was trailed by two state park police troopers, just like Tiger Woods and Zach Johnson were during their private rounds Monday.

At 3:52 p.m., Mickelson was visible at the 15th hole. Nine people were waiting for him. Paul Casey, who started a half hour after Mickelson teed off on his practice round, just finished.

Mickelson's arrival came with far less fanfare than Woods' a day ago. At 8:58 a.m., he pulled up in a black Lincoln SUV amid a thunder and lightning storm, driving himself.

Mickelson parked the car a few spots from the door to the clubhouse, then sprinted through the rain to the doors. Dressed in tan shorts, a black golf shirt and black hat, and with a cup of coffee in his left hand, Mickelson spoke with course superintendent Craig Currier, Bethpage State Park director Dave Catalano and others for 40 minutes under an overhang outside the doors to the clubhouse.

The courses at Bethpage were closed for the day because of the rain. However, a set of golf clubs was brought inside from Mickelson's car, and two state troopers arrived on the scene.

Mickelson's short game guru, Dave Pelz, was believed to be here with him as well.

Mickelson announced recently he was taking an indefinite leave from the PGA Tour as his wife fights breast cancer. But last week he changed mind, citing a positive diagnosis by the doctors.

After playing in the St. Jude Classic this weekend, Mickelson will return to Long Island for the U.S. Open next week.

- Photos: Tiger Woods practices at Bethpage

- Photo Tour: Bethpage Black

Stay tuned to Newsday.com for updates throughout the day on Phil Mickelson's visit to Bethpage Black.

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