5 Things: Mickelson talks 2011, Tiger, Torrey

Phil Mickelson while playing a practice round at Torrey Pines.

Phil Mickelson while playing a practice round at Torrey Pines.

SAN DIEGO – Phil Mickelson met with the U.S. media Wednesday for the first time this year. Here are five things you need to know from his press conference at Torrey Pines:

1. Mickelson said he has the symptoms of his arthritis under control.

“I was able to get on top of it right away, before there was any permanent damage,” he said. “I’ve been able to manage my symptoms very well to where I’ve been able to go about my daily life as I was before.”

2. Mickelson started preparing for this season Dec. 28, one week earlier than usual. He said he was unhappy with the way he closed 2010. He didn’t win after the Masters, and had just one top 10 on the PGA Tour after his T-4 at the U.S. Open. He closed his Tour season with a 22nd-place finish at the 30-player Tour Championship, an event he won in 2009.

“I didn’t finish the year last year the way I wanted to, and I wanted to try to make 2011 the year that I thought 2010 was going to be,” Mickelson said. “So I started getting to work a little bit earlier.

“What I have felt heading into this year is that I’m 40 years old and I’ve been playing this game a long time, and I no longer need to go about changes in my game. ... I feel this is a year where I don’t have to have any change. It’s a year of refinement.”

3. On Tiger, Mickelson said, “I saw last year when I played with him in Chicago and saw him at the Ryder Cup, I saw his game getting back to where it was. His speed was back up. He was hitting it long. His touch was coming back, and I expect that he’ll be the Tiger that we’ve known for over a decade, unfortunately.”

4. On Tuesday, PGA Tour commissioner Tim Finchem said “virtually 100 percent” of players expressed willingness to support “designated events,” the voluntary policy designed to get top players to play weaker events. When Mickelson was asked if he planned to add a new event to his schedule, he avoided the question and replied, “There isn’t one. There isn’t a policy.”

He’s technically correct. “Designated events” is voluntary, though the Tour may make it mandatory if Tour leaders are not happy with player participation. “Designated events” will never have a serious impact unless Tiger Woods or Mickelson are onboard.

5. Mickelson played the Abu Dhabi Championship last week, finishing 37th. Mickelson has finished worse than 35th in his past three starts. Abu Dhabi did provide his family the opportunity for sightseeing.

“Amy and the kids went to Jordan, a couple-hour flight away over to see Petra, which is one of the wonders of the world,” Mickelson said. “They enjoyed that day. They went to the mosque that they built in Abu Dhabi that was – I don’t know how to describe it verbally. It was a $165 billion mosque. It was pretty impressive.”

That’s an understatement.

“They went to see some parts of Dubai, and went skiing indoors and some other fun things over there,” Mickelson said. “The Emirates Palace where we stayed was off the charts of the experience, to see the marvel and opulence of that place. It was very educational, especially for Amy and I, who were in North Africa and Egypt only a month ago. To see the difference between Egypt and Abu Dhabi, the difference in poverty and wealth and opulence, I thought was pretty fascinating.”

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