SHANGHAI – Phil Mickelson isn’t making any excuses about all the chances he had to reach No. 1 for the first time in his career, nor does he begrudge Lee Westwood for being the player to finally topple Tiger Woods in the world ranking.
He also doesn’t want to blame his health for keeping him down.
Mickelson has been coping with psoriatic arthritis since the week before the U.S. Open, and those around him have said it affected him far more than the Masters champion let on. Given a chance to reach No. 1 in every tournament this summer, the best he could manage was a tie for eighth in the BMW Championship.
A lost summer? Mickelson isn’t sure.
“I don’t know. It’s hard to say,” he said as he walked down the range at Sheshan International. “The U.S. Open, I might have been affected. But I’ve had good time off. I’m on a good medicine. Things feel pretty good. I’m excited where I’m at, excited I can work out the same and get back into the gym, and get back to work again.”
For the first time since Pebble Beach, Mickelson feels as though he is back to normal.
Having already dealt with the unknown when his wife and mother were diagnosed with breast cancer in 2009, Mickelson had his own worries five days before the U.S. Open
He woke up with intense pain in his tendons and joints. He got through the U.S. Open with stretching and anti-inflammatories, and nearly won the major he covets except for a few putts on the back nine on some rough greens at Pebble Beach. But his condition got worse, to the point Mickelson wasn’t sure what was going on.
Lefty is happy to report that, finally, everything feels right.
“I’ve been taking one drug and I feel 100 percent,” he said. “I feel terrific. I cannot believe the difference. I’ve been able to do all the normal activities in my life. I’ve been able to practice at whatever level, and I honestly don’t feel any different than I did before.”
Mickelson began his medication around the PGA Championship, and he said it took a full eight weeks for it to kick in. That would have been a week after the Ryder Cup, where he hammered Peter Hanson in singles to avoid going 0-for-Celtic Manor.
Now his attention shifts toward his final two weeks of the year.
Mickelson is the defending champion in Shanghai. A year ago in the HSBC Champions, he was in the final group with Tiger Woods and buried him on the front nine. His win allowed him to join Woods as the only players to capture two World Golf Championships in one year.
And that No. 1 ranking is still within reach.
Westwood has a narrow lead over Woods and PGA champion Martin Kaymer, with Mickelson now at No. 4. Mickelson likely would need at least a fourth-place finish to have a chance to get to No. 1, depending on how the others fared.
Asked if it was frustrating to see the No. 1 spot change hands – just not into his – he didn’t seem bothered.
“I haven’t played well since the Masters – or as well as I expected – maybe since the U.S. Open,” he said. “So I don’t feel like I’ve earned it. I’ve got to play well and win more tournaments, and then I feel like those results will take care of itself.”
It might be particularly annoying that Westwood hardly played at all since July, although the 37-year-old Englishman might well have gone to No. 1 much sooner had he been playing.
All that matters to Mickelson is how he performs at the HSBC Champions, then next week at the Singapore Open. That will be his final event of the year before starting up a new season in January.
Besides, Mickelson doesn’t think the battle for No. 1 will be settled until early next year, right about the time the World Golf Championships are played leading into the major championship season.
“It’s fun to be a part of it and have a chance,” he said.
And at least he feels now that he has a fighting chance. Whatever aches and pains he felt are now gone. The occasional listless feeling has been replaced with a normal supply of energy.
Still to be determined is whether Mickelson remains a vegetarian.
He made that shocking revelation at the PGA Championship, but the guy known for his eating prowess seemed to hedge when asked for an update on his ban of meat.
“I’ve been doing it for just over four months and I’m just having second thoughts,” he said. “I don’t know if it really is going to make a difference or what. So we’ll see. We can talk about it in January, and I’ll have a better idea – see how the holidays go.”