Mickelson Reveals Health Problems


For the past eight weeks No. 2-ranked Phil Mickelson has been experiencing health problems. And, for the first time since he's been undergoing treatment for a condition called psoriatic arthritis, whereby the immune system attacks joints and tendons, Lefty opened up about the issue on the eve of the PGA Championship set to start Thursday at Whistling Straits.

As told in the interview below, Mickelson said, "I had some intense pain in some areas of my body, some joints and tendons and so forth; so much so that I couldn't walk. And it progressively got worse, and to ultimately where I had to figure something that was wrong and had to go get it checked."

After a visit to the famed Mayo Clinic, Mickelson said he's back on track thanks to medications and treatment, adding, "The last couple of weeks . . . I've been able to swing and practice full bore, I guess starting last Monday or Tuesday. It's been only about a week now."

Here's what the 2005 PGA champion said during his extensive session with the media Tuesday in Kohler, Wis.

MODERATOR: Phil Mickelson, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 92nd PGA Championship at Whistling Straits. Phil won the 2005 PGA Championship. This will be Phil's 18th PGA Championship. He's had eight top-10 finishes, including the win in 2005 at Baltusrol. Phil, welcome back to Whistling Straits. In 2004, you tied for sixth here. Comments on the golf course that you've seen so far.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the golf course looks terrific and I think we're going to have a great week here. I'm looking forward to it and things have been good. So but before we get into it I want to share something with you that's kind of been going on the last eight weeks that I haven't really discussed yet but I know a couple of you know, and it's probably going to get out so I want to clear it up. About eight weeks ago about five days before the U.S. Open started, I woke up and I had some intense pain in some areas of my body, some joints and tendons and so forth; so much so that I couldn't walk. And it progressively got worse, and to ultimately where I had to figure something that was wrong and had to go get it checked.

So I ended up going and seeing a doctor, and I ended up going back to the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota right after the British Open to get checked, get a second opinion. And I have this thing called psoriatic arthritis where your immune system attacks your joints and tendons and so forth. And so I say that because everything is fine now. I've been starting treatment and things have been great, and the last couple of weeks and I've been able to swing and practice full bore, I guess starting last Monday or Tuesday. It's been only about a week now. But I've been a little bit concerned because we would be on a trip in Hawaii right after The Open, and I wasn't able to move and it was a little bit concerning. But I've had some great doctors and things have been looking great and long-term there shouldn't be any issues. It's very treatable and the medicine I've been taking has been very helpful. I feel 90 percent.

I haven't been able to work out for the last seven weeks, and last week I've been able to start working out. I'm about back to 80 percent of the weight I was at before, and so things look good. And I've been able to put in some longer workdays practicing here this last week. But 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 and I believe that the game's coming around. I'm not sure again where I'll be on Thursday but hopefully I'll be ready. So I just wanted to share that with you.

MODERATOR: Do you have a specific doctors who has been working with you or overseeing your care or a team?

PHIL MICKELSON: Just Mayo Clinic. That's all I really want to go into.

Q. The first time that this kind of whacked you, where were you, and what did it feel like? And what's running through your head? Run us through that day, I guess.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was Sunday before the U.S. Open and in San Diego, and I came up to Pebble and I every time I would wake up in the morning I couldn't walk. It was my Achilles and my piriformis muscle my left index finger was sprained, and I couldn't bend it and my right wrist was sprained; and there was no injury and it got worse. It would loosen up throughout the day; after about three or four hours of stretching and walking and pressure on it, I was able to play very effectively and so forth, and also with some pain, Advil and stuff, but then it started getting worse into other joints started into the hips and ankle and elbows and shoulders and that's when I got concerned. I didn't think much of it. Usually that stuff kind of comes and goes. And it progressively got worse as through the Open, as well as after the U.S. Open in my two weeks off. So I went and saw a doctor, had an initial diagnosis of the same thing and then was reaffirmed at the Mayo Clinic.

Q. Did it affect you at all during the either one of the Opens that you played in in terms of being able to play and physically being able to take the shots that you wanted and what is the treatment; is it just medicine?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, what's treatment? The treatment -- well, the treatment is a thing called Enbrel. I give myself a shot a week and it stops my lowers my immune system and stops it from attacking the joints. And I've only been I've been doing it two weeks now, just about two weeks and I seem to have some pretty immediate progress so it's been great. I took some and anti-inflamms while I was over at the British and so forth, British and Scottish, as a way of functioning, and it was not quite as effective as this new stuff is. And I'm able to get off of it, and the anti-inflamms now, I feel great I'm able to work out, lift, and don't have any pain. So I've had some good immediate response. And that's why I feel comfortable talking about it, knowing that long-term and short-term things are fine. But I was certainly concerned. And you had a two-part question. I forgot the first part.

Q. Did it affect your play?

PHIL MICKELSON: Did it affect my play? I don't think it did. It may have had an effect on my preparation for Europe. It didn't affect my play at The Open. I was able to prep the way I did. I had to play with my left index finger off the grip, but it's irrelevant; I just let it hang from the club and didn't notice an issue. My right wrist was a little sprained, but that didn't seem to have any pain during the swing, so I would say no.

Q. It's been well documented that you've got a lot on your plate the last few months years whatever you want to say, did you ever sit there and wonder what's next, why me, what's going on here?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I mean it's stuff happens. I should also add -- I should probably add to this too. The last seven weeks -- this will be the shocker. I've actually been a vegetarian believe it or not. I know this is crazy, but I know, I know. No, this wasn't recommended by a doctor, I read a book and just thought maybe it will help. And if it helps my situation, I'm all for it. So for the last actually eight weeks, two months now, I've been a vegetarian. Can you believe that? I mean it just, it's not really me, but, it has been.

Q. What does this do with Five Guys? What about Five Guys now and what about all that stuff?

PHIL MICKELSON: We're working on a veggie burger. (Laughter.).

Q. Was there any sign before this really hit you? In past years, have you had any problem along these lines?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. No. It just is one of those things, it just kind of happens overnight. And it happened three or four days before my 40th birthday. And I was commenting to Amy the week before the Open, I said, I've never felt this good. My body's never -- I have no aches and pains. My back feels great. I feel stronger and more flexible than I've ever been. Four days later, you know, it just -- it's crazy. But I feel great now and things have been much much better.

Q. Can you kind of explain what this means, and is this a disabling thing that gets chronically worse, or does it stay at bay? Is there a remission? Can you explain a little bit about this disease or condition?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I'm no expert, but I've got the best kind that you can possibly have, and it's very treatable. This has put it in remission; I'll probably take this drug for about a year, and feel a hundred percent. I'll stop it and see if it goes into remission and it may never come back. It may be gone forever. I mean, it's not that it's cured, but it may never come back; or if it does come back, I'll start the treatment again and should be able to live a normal life without having any adverse effects. So it's -- I'm not very concerned about it.

Q. You've had a bunch of chances to seize the No. 1 ranking. What you've been through in the last couple months, did that make that whole ranking seem incredibly insignificant?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when I said I wasn't thinking about it too much, I really wasn't. I was more concerned about getting through some of this stuff. Now that we seem to have a treatment that works and I feel great and I can work out and practice again, I'm looking forward to getting my game sharp for this week and the FedEx Cup and the Ryder Cup.

Q. And the ranking?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, as I said about the ranking, it's more like a process. It's like I said when I was trying to win my first major; if I keep getting better, if I keep working on my game eventually it will happen, and if can I keep improving; and I've had some poor performances here the last couple months. So if I can get my game back to where I know it can be, I should be able to accomplish that goal of becoming No. 1.

Q. First of all, any vegetarian tips? Any cooking tips? What do you like? What are your favorites?

PHIL MICKELSON: Just been a lot of fruits and vegetables and some whole grain wheats and pastas and stuff. And it's actually been great. I've eaten some great stuff. Foods that I've always avoided I get to eat and it's been good.

Q. Does it look like you will continue to do that?

PHIL MICKELSON: As long as I believe that there's a possibility that it will help me overall, yeah, I'll continue to do that. If it will somehow keep this in remission or stop it from coming back, yeah, I'll be able to do it. But I haven't been put to the real test. The real test is driving by a Five Guys and not stopping. I don't know if I can do that yet, but we'll see.

Q. Winning off the back of your Masters win this year winning the PGA Championship for the second time in your career, given all you've been through, what would winning two majors in the one year mean to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: It would make the year remarkable. It would just make it a super year. I think the last -- I mean just -- yeah, anybody who wins the PGA is going to turn a pretty good year into a great year. And to have won the Masters has made this year great. I really haven't played like I feel I can. I haven't won as much as I would like to, but winning one major, winning the Masters has made this a year I'll always remember. If I were somehow able to come out on top at the end of this week, it would just be an incredible year.

Q. If I can ask a course question, what do you think of the new bunker on No. 6 that sort of cleaves the green into two parts, and do you like that design element and how will it affect how the hole is played?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's cool. I think it's a really cool bunker and a really cool hole, and I like it because it's a short hole. You're going to hit a wedge into it. It's almost a drivable par 4 to get the right wind conditions, and I think that it's an exciting, fun golf hole. It is a huge penalty if you mishit your wedge and go in that bunkers; you're going to make a five at best. But you're hitting a wedge. It's just not -- it's not a hard hole, and I just think it's a very well-designed hole where the penalty is deserved if you happen to go in there.

Q. Coming out of college, you were a highly-regarded player with a lot of expectations, this year on Tour there's been a lot of young kids that have done really well. I was hoping you could comment on how they have handled the pressure and how you think they may be able to compete as well as they have.

PHIL MICKELSON: We have a lot of good young players out on Tour from all over the world. And I think that the game of golf is in good hands. I don't know how they're able to do it. I don't know how Ryo Ishikawa is able to play such great golf at such a young age all around the world. But he is able to. So we have Rory McIlroy, we have got some a great players here with Rickie Fowler, and we have some guys on our team in their mid 20s that are incredible players; Dustin Johnson, Haas and Jeff Overton I believe both are going to be on the Ryder Cup team. We have got some great youth here. I think we have some other ones, too. Well, obviously Anthony Kim is playing some tremendous golf and you can't overlook Nick Watney, Sean O'Hair. Golf's in good hands. Ricky Barnes has been playing well. Good to see him up there. Golf's in good hands.

Q. You played with Dustin and Jeff today; other than length perhaps what impresses you about their games?

PHIL MICKELSON: I played with Jeff Overton today and he's playing some great golf. His irons, his ball-striking is incredible. His putting is wonderful. This guy's an aggressive player. I just love seeing him play without fear. Same thing with Dustin. They play without fear. They attack pins; they hit drivers off the tee and they play to win, as opposed to letting others make mistakes. They go out there to try to grab that tournament title and win it. And I think that they're going to be great assets for the Ryder Cup team and really strong players for the rest of their career.

Q. Don't know if you still follow the Vegas line much or anything but for the first time since '97, Tiger's not favored to win a major. And this week you're the favorite. Just wondering what your thoughts are on being a marked man for the first time probably ever.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've got some work to do to live up to those odds. I don't know how that stuff works there. I've got to play, I've got to get my game sharp here, and after the weekend that I had last week, I'm a little nervous going into this week. Because I felt pretty good, I felt like things were coming around, and so this has put me back on edge and I've got some work to do.

Q. Given his incredible dominance and consistency, what's your reaction to the week Tiger Woods just endured?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it happens to the best of them. We all have off day. We all have tough days. We're not used to seeing it happen to him, but it does happen to the best players. It's happened to Nicklaus over his career. It's happened to Snead and Hogan and all the greats. So it is just one of those things that over a long career, you're eventually going to have a rough week or two.

Q. Ryder Cup question for you. You're about to make your eighth appearance which is going to tie Floyd, Casper and Watkins. Are you aware of that and how important is that for you and is it a milestone in your career to get to that eighth appearance?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's an honor to be on that many teams, and I've enjoyed everyone of them. I want to work on my record in the Ryder Cup. My record in the Ryder Cup has not been what I want, and I need to work on that. And so I'll have an eighth opportunity here to see if I can get a few more points in that W column.

Q. I gather that you weren't going to talk about your condition until you got a handle on it. The last eight weeks people have said, well, what's wrong with Phil, is it the just doesn't want to be No. 1, all sorts of conjecture, what's wrong with Phil. You knew what was wrong. How tough was it just not to be able to tell the world, hey, this is what's going on?

PHIL MICKELSON: I could have, but I don't -- first of all, I don't want excuses. And second, I don't want to discuss something when I don't know what the outcome is going to be. For five or six weeks, I was a little unsure of how this was going to affect me long-term, career, what-have-you. Now that I feel confident it's not going to affect not only the rest of my career or rest of my life, but even in the short-term it shouldn't have an effect. I feel a lot better about it and I'm a lot more at ease to discuss it.

Q. Do you understand how the World Ranking system works? Do players follow that or try to understand it? And how much was that putt worth on 18 that you made today?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was for a lot of confidence. I mean, I needed some confidence I needed a putt to go in. It was a big one. It's not so much about the money as much as it is being able to smack talk with your buddies, you know. And Jeff and I were able to talk a little trash, which is fun. So that's why it was an important putt. But you had one more part. What was the first part of that?

Q. The way the rankings are determined.

PHIL MICKELSON: To we understand the way the rankings are determined. We understand the gist of the rankings that it's taken over a two-year period, and that the better you play, the higher up you're ranked. But week-in and week-out points and how it works, no, I don't think that we really have the details of it; nor do we want to. It's a pretty complex system.

Q. What was the most daunting or most difficult manifestation of the arthritis? And secondly, when you did not know in that five or six week window, what was your fear?

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly had the gamut of thoughts. We were in Hawaii and it progressively got worse. I wasn't on anything. I was just trying to see what was going to happen. And it started, you know, every joint in my body started to hurt to where I couldn't move. I would just lay down and I couldn't roll over. And I was concerned about being able to swing a club and so forth, and I was I'm surprised at how quickly it's gone away, and how quickly it's been able to be managed and controlled. I feel a hundred percent, like I say, but when I'm laying there on the couch and I can't move, you know, yeah, I had some concerns. But I feel a lot better now.

Q. When you think Whistling Straits, I guess what's your impression, what comes to your mind about the course?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a fun -- what's interesting about Whistling Straits for me is that it's a Scottish-looking course that plays like an American course. It doesn't play like a course in Scotland, but yet it has all the aesthetics of it. And so that actually take as little bit of getting used to, the fact that you see the fescues and the sand, the dunes and the pot bunkers and so forth; and you think that you're -- and the openings in front and you think you want to run balls up. But you, it's just, it just doesn't work. It's too soft and the ball stops so you have to fly balls on to the green. So that take as little getting used to, especially when we're just coming from the British Open.

MODERATOR: Phil Mickelson, thank you very much.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.


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