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January 27, 2010

Mickelson: We've had 'limited communication' with 'Woods family'

SAN DIEGO -- Phil Mickelson addressed a standing-room only crowd of about 60 journalists at his press conference at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines on Wednesday, and before taking questions made a prepared statement to address several pressing issues.Jan27_mickelson_600x400

"The first is obviously the Tiger, uh, topic," Mickelson said. "The game of golf needs him to come back. I mean it's important for him to come back and be a part of the sport, but right now he's got a lot more important things going on in his life. And Amy and I are good friends with both Tiger and Elin and we care deeply about how this turns out, but I'm going to choose not to talk about it publicly anymore, and I appreciate you guys' understanding on that."

Asked why he, like others, has been reluctant to talk about Woods, Mickelson responded:

"Well, again, I don't want to talk about it publicly for the reason that we're friends and we have a personal relationship, and I just don't feel--I feel like it's a violation of our trust and our relationship."

Mickelson did allow that he and his wife, Amy, have had "limited communication" with the Woods family, although "not necessary saying with who in the family."

Asked to comment on the coverage of the Woods scandal, Mickelson threw it back to his questioners.

"As far as the media exposure or coverage, I think it's more of a question for you," he said. "That's your industry. That's what you guys do for a living. How do you feel it was covered? I don't know. That's more of a question for you guys."

Mickelson also announced that he would take advantage of the loophole that allows players to use square grooves as long as they're on Ping Eye2 wedges manufactured before April 1, 1990, and that he will skip the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship in Tucson, Ariz., Feb. 17-21.

Mickelson said he experimented with several old Ping clubs that he had kept from his collegiate career before deciding to bend a 60-degree wedge to 64 degrees for tournament use. It is the only Ping Eye2 club he will use. Mickelson's clubs are mostly made by Callaway.

"After talking about it to the Tour and the USGA, the only thing that matters is are they approved for play," Mickelson said. "So I don't feel that there's any problem if I were to play those clubs or if anybody else were. All that matters is that it is okay under the rules of golf."

Mark Calcavecchia, John Daly and Dean Wilson also have found old Ping wedges to use to circumvent the new groove rule, which went into effect this year and forces players to substitute V-groove wedges for their old U grooves.

"I used one at the Hope, but I didn't chip worth a damn," Calcavecchia said. "So that'll be the end of that."

Because U grooves are deeper and impart more spin on the ball, especially useful from the rough, some players have reverted to the Ping Eye2s, which are exempt under the terms of a 1990 settlement between litigants Karsten Manufacturing and the USGA.

Stewart Cink and Bob Estes are among the players on Tour who have said publicly that the use of the old wedges violates the spirit of the new rule banning square grooves. Asked how much time he'd spent analyzing the rules change, Mickelson said, "Quite a bit."

"This affects my career," he added. "This is a big change. I think it's a ridiculous change. I think it costs each manufacturer millions of dollars. I think it's confusing, and I don't agree with it one bit." 

Mickelson also made news when he announced that he would skip the match play in order to take a family vacation that was rescheduled because of Amy's ongoing battle with breast cancer.

"We had a couple of procedures scheduled for this off-season that got postponed for various reasons, and we had to move it into March," Mickelson said. "And this affected some of our family trips. So how this is playing out is the week of the Tucson Match Play is a week that my kids are out of school, and I'm going to end up skipping [the tournament] this year, not because I want to. I think it's a wonderful tournament, I love the Match Play, I love Tucson. But it was the best week for us to have a family vacation that we had to reschedule because, again, of our procedures."

Mickelson's mother, Mary, is also battling breast cancer. Both she and Amy are doing well, he said, but added that the rest of his 2010 schedule may be similarly affected by their circumstances.

Assuming Tiger Woods extends his indefinite leave from the game, the match play, one of the PGA Tour's marquee events, will be without the top two players in the World Ranking. Mickelson, who has never won the event since its inception in 1999, said he expects to play a fairly full West Coast schedule from here on, including the Northern Trust Open (L.A., where he is two-time defending champion), the AT&T (Pebble Beach) and the Waste Management Phoenix Open in his old hometown.

He added that he would probably play in the year's second WGC event, the CA Championship at Doral, where he is also defending champion.

(Photo: Chris Carlson/AP)

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