Mickelson: Feds' questions haven't affected season

Phil Mickelson during Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Memorial at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.

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DUBLIN, Ohio – Phil Mickelson hasn’t had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since August, his longest such drought in a 22-year professional career. But Mickelson said Saturday that a federal investigation into potential insider trading hasn’t negatively affected his golf performance for a prolonged period, even though The New York Times reported the FBI interviewed him last year at a New Jersey airport.

Mickelson, who claims innocence and pledges cooperation, said the probe hasn’t been a distraction until Thursday, when investigators talked with him at Muirfield Village Golf Club after the first round of the Memorial Tournament. He said the agents “followed” him after he opened with a 72 in which he was 5 over par on the last three holes.

His longtime manager, Steve Loy, concurred, saying the matter “has not been an issue” with regard to his top client’s substandard golf. Instead, Loy cited early-season back issues as a problem and said Mickelson is close to “getting where he needs to get because he’s driving it better than ever.”

He has missed only seven of 28 fairways in the two rounds since the visit from the FBI. He has done that while hitting his driver a lot. His 72 Saturday featured three birdies and three bogeys and apparently some mental interference – for the federal story broke Friday night.

Asked to describe his round, he smiled and said, “Interesting.” That one-word response drew laughter at a packed news conference and a request that he expound. He responded with, “Most of my rounds are, but just for other reasons.”

The investigation was made public a couple weeks before the U.S. Open at Pinehurst, N.C. Mickelson wants to win the Open more than any other tournament because he has finished second in it a record six times. One of his runner-up showings came at Pinehurst in 1999, when he carried a beeper in case wife Amy went into labor. As it happened, daughter Amanda was born the day after.

Asked if he thinks he can put the distraction aside leading up to and at the Open, Mickelson said, “Yes, I do. I think that as a player you have to be able to block out whatever is going on off the golf course and be able to focus on the golf course.

“It’s not going to change the way I carry myself. Honestly, I’ve done nothing wrong. I’m not going to walk around any other way.”

He might be able to block things out at Pinehurst, but the development can’t help someone who hasn’t contended all season. He has had at least six top 10s a season since 1998. Now he has none since August.

Clearly these are not normal times for Phil Mickelson.

“He’ll just keep working with the government,” Loy said. “He’s got nothing to hide, I can tell you that.”

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