AKRON, August 6 – Phil Mickelson returns to competition after a six-week layoff helping his wife and mother through breast cancer treatments when the World Golf Championships Bridgestone Invitational begins on Thursday.
The three-time major winner skipped last month’s British Open at Turnberry, snapping the longest active run of playing in majors at 61, but has seen his wife Amy and his mother make significant improvement through treatment.
"Things at home are going much better. We’ve had a great six weeks," said Mickelson. "We’re in a much better place now than we were. I’m excited about that. I’m excited about the chance to play a little golf too."
World number two Mickelson has not played a competitive round since settling for his record fifth runner-up showing at the US Open in mid-June and returns in time to use this 8.5 million-dollar event as a tuneup for next week’s PGA Championship.
"Mentally right now I’m in a much better place because we’re just in a better place than where we were waiting to get (treatment) started," Mickelson said.
"I just feel very fortunate to be where we’re at. We still have a lot to go through but we’re just in a much better place.
"The most important thing is that Amy and my mom are doing well, I’m excited about that and it lets me practice a little bit with a better frame of mind. The week before the PGA is a great week to get ready."
Fiji’s Vijay Singh won the Bridgestone event last year to become the winningest non-US player in PGA history and went on to win the Barclays and Deutsche Bank titles on the way to the US PGA playoff title.
World number one Tiger Woods, a six-time winner at this event, will make the second of three starts in a row this week after taking his fourth title of the season last week at the Buick Open.
Woods won the Bridgestone from 1999-2001 and again from 2005-2007.
Mickelson put away his clubs for a month to concentrate on caring for his family but has practiced over the past two weeks and is confident his game will be competitive.
"I won’t know exactly until I play, but I’m optimistic," Mickelson said. "I expect to play like I always have. I expect to play well. I think that mental rehearsal is every bit as important as physical rehearsal.
"When I had my nurse gown on, I would mentally rehearse shots and stuff to just keep myself sharp, even though I wasn’t touching a club. So when I came back and was finally able to swing a club, I was able to play fairly decently."
Having his wife and mother detect their cancer early is a greater break than Mickelson has ever found on a golf course.
"We’ve been able to have some wonderful care. Not only have the doctors been incredible in their science, but they’ve also been very compassionate to us. We feel lucky to be, for a bad situation, in as good a situation as it can be.
"As we did research and saw there was a lot of treatment and had many of our questions answered, it got easier and easier. Although it’ll never be easy. It’s a life-long disease and it’s something that’s never easy."
Mickelson would not commit to October’s Presidents Cup, saying it would be at least a year before he could plan on competing in an event two months ahead.
"If you had asked me two months ago would I be able to play again in August, I didn’t think that would be possible, but we’ve had some good things happen," Mickelson said. "I just don’t want to commit to anything long-term."