Doug Ferguson-AP Golf Writer
MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The idea was for Phil Mickelson to return to a routine as best as possible in his world now shaken with fear.
It has been three turbulent weeks since he announced his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer.
Mickelson has always felt like he was in control, even if his golf at times suggested otherwise. Now he feels helpless.
“I’ve never been this emotional, where if I’m driving alone or what have you, I’ll just start crying,” he said Wednesday at the St. Jude Classic, his eyes tinged with streaks of pink, his voice no longer steady and sure.
“We’re scared, yeah,” he said. “I think a lot of it is the unknown.”
Tests on his 38-year-old wife have provided enough optimism that surgery has been pushed back to the first week of July, allowing Mickelson to return to competition this week, then go to the U.S. Open in New York, where he is beloved under normal circumstances.
His wife faces treatment for at least a year, so they decided to do what they normally would — play golf tournaments, take their three children to camps and activities. They plan a tropical vacation after the U.S. Open and before Amy’s surgery.
Even so, this was not a normal routine for Mickelson in Memphis.
Some 300 fans lined the walkway at the bottom of the stairs leading to the clubhouse where Mickelson had lunch, waiting for autographs or pictures, some wearing pink shirts in support.
Mickelson, however, went around the front of the clubhouse to avoid the crowd, setting up shop at the far end of the range that had been reserved for the amateurs before his pro-am round, far away from his peers. Woody Austin, his partner at the Presidents Cup last time, and defending champion Justin Leonard walked over to welcome him back with a handshake that turned into a hug.
He does not know what to expect from his game. Mickelson said he would hit balls for an hour while his wife was resting, and he feels he is not far off from earlier this year, when he won at Riviera and Doral.
“But certainly, I haven’t played in a while,” he said. “I had an emotional month, and I don’t know where I will be on the golf course as far as being able to focus. I don’t know that yet.”
If nothing else, Mickelson said he looked forward to being inside the ropes, allowing him to get his mind off cancer.
But there was no escaping it Wednesday.
He started on No. 10, hitting driver down the hill into the water, hitting the next one in a bunker. Then came the par-3 11th over water, and a tournament tradition that hit home like never before.
Patients at the St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital caddie for the professional on this hole. Mickelson met Michael Anderson, 27, who is coming off his fourth surgery for a brain tumor. A half-dozen children suddenly surrounded him, most of them losing their hair.