Mickelson WDs from Farmers with back pain

Phil Mickelson dealt with muscle pain in his lower back at the Farmers Insurance Open. He withdrew from the event on Friday night.

SAN DIEGO – Virtually all the props are in place for a stage that has been a fixture on the PGA Tour’s winter schedule since 1952. Brilliant sunshine. Blue sky. Soft Santa Ana breezes. Breathtaking scenes along the cliffs high above Black’s Beach. Phil Mickelson thrilling the hometown folks.

Oops, let’s take a mulligan on that last entry.

For just the second time in 12 years and the fifth time since 1991 at the Farmers Insurance Open, they will hold weekend festivities without the local hero. Late Friday night, some five hours after Mickelson had completed 36 holes at 2 under, he withdrew, citing nagging back discomfort.

“I love playing in San Diego. It’s a place where I grew up playing high school golf and coming out as a kid, so I love competing here,” said Mickelson in a release through his management company, Lagardere. “It’s a place that gets me excited. But I also have to be smart because I’m getting into some bad habits, so I’ve got to weigh where I’m at.”

It turns out that Mickelson’s back pain was an issue at last week’s Abu Dhabi Championship, and he nearly withdrew there. But he received several treatments and wound up playing well enough on the weekend to come within a stroke of forcing a playoff. That performance lifted Mickelson’s spirits, and he rode into Torrey Pines with a buoyancy.

But just after his warm-up session Thursday morning, the left-hander said his back “locked up” on him and that he “milked it” just to shoot 3-under 69 on the North Course. He talked late Thursday of being on the fence about playing the South Course Friday, but again, he had what he thought was a good treatment from the physical therapists and he got it around in 1-over 73 to sit in a tie for 32nd, eight off the lead.

He hedged his answers to questions about his back after Friday’s second round, saying he needed time to assess the situation. “I’m a little bit unsure,” he said. “I really want to play, (but) part of me also says that I’m getting in bad habits and if I hit it into this rough here, I’ve really got an issue, because I’ve got to swing awfully hard to get it out and it jars (the back).”

Before leaving Friday night, Mickelson added: “I would like to get out and play (Saturday). But then I also want to have the big picture in mind, so I'm not quite sure where I'm at yet.”

Three or four hours later, he knew where he was: Headed for the sidelines, just the fourth time in his PGA Tour career that he has withdrawn from a tournament, and the first time since the Memorial in 2011.

It was his 25th start in this hometown tournament. He has won it three times, though not since going back-to-back in 2000-01. Now he’ll miss the weekend action for the sixth time, dating to his debut as an amateur in 1988.

More pressing is this: It puts into doubt his upcoming schedule, which is supposed to include his title defense next week at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and one of his favorite tournaments the following week, the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

The press release from Lagardere indicated Mickelson would seek advice from doctors in coming days about the best course of action.

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