Mickelson getting a grip on his game

The golfer's wrist injury last month set him back, but the U.S. Open won't wait.

Posted: June 13, 2007

OAKMONT, Pa. - Phil Mickelson did not speak with the confidence and certainty that he would contend for the 2007 U.S. Open championship and make amends for the one that got away last year.

In fact, one wondered in listening to Mickelson yesterday whether he would be able to get through even one round over the brutal Oakmont Country Club course, once the tournament starts tomorrow, because of a left wrist injury.

Mickelson played nine holes yesterday, when he hit only one driver and never once attempted a shot out of the deep rough. He intends to play nine more holes today.

Still, there was nothing in Mickelson's words or demeanor that suggested he expected to do anything but just try to make it through the week.

"I'm focused on trying to play well and trying to get healthy to execute the shots I need to execute," Mickelson said. "I'm really not able to think about the results or think about trying to win or top-10 or make cuts or anything like that. That's not really in my thought process."

Mickelson said his wrist had prevented him from putting in the necessary practice and preparation time. He admitted he would like to sit out another week before returning to competitive golf, but this is the U.S. Open.

Mickelson suffered the injury here during a practice session last month. The number of balls he hit out of Oakmont's unforgiving rough caused inflammation in his left wrist. He withdrew from the Memorial during the first round and dropped out of last week's Stanford St. Jude Classic before the event began.

Mickelson had a cortisone shot last week and said the wrist was starting to feel better. He will wear a brace when he plays. But his concerns once competition begins are getting the distance and accuracy needed with a driver and having to hit full iron shots out of the rough.

"I haven't been able to practice [the driver] as well as go at it 100 percent with confidence that it's not going to flare up again," he said. "But this should not be a long-term problem if I don't aggravate the inflammation, and this unfortunately isn't the best week for that, given my driving history."

He said the last phrase with a grin, but Mickelson and the world know that cost him last year on the 72d hole at Winged Foot. Holding a 1-stroke lead on the tee, Mickelson drove the ball far to the left off a tent, wound up with a double-bogey 6, and lost to Geoff Ogilvy by 1.

"I don't ever want to put it totally behind me," Mickelson said of his 2006 collapse. "I still want to look back on it and recall what happened, because I used that analysis to design a game plan to start driving the ball better. If I just forget about it, I'm not taking advantage of the opportunity to take advantage of some weaknesses and hopefully turn them into strengths."

Mickelson enjoyed a terrific run after the Masters, tying for third place in the Byron Nelson Classic and the Wachovia Championship and winning the Players Championship, and appeared ready to come here as a favorite. But the wrist injury followed, making for limited preparation and an uncertain week.

He hopes it won't be a problem, but he'll take it one day at a time.

"I've been looking forward to getting back here for a year," he said, "and looking forward to getting out here for the last three weeks, and I've been thinking about this event. I'm excited it's finally here. I wish I had one more week of recovery and practice time to prepare properly, but you do the best you can."

Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.

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