Mickelson set to play Phoenix Open 

click to enlarge Phil Mickelson
  • Kamran JebreilI/ap file photo
  • Phil Mickelson will defend his title in the Phoenix Open this week despite pulling out of last week’s PGA event.
Phil Mickelson is going ahead with his Phoenix Open title defense after testing his ailing lower back Wednesday at exclusive Whisper Rock.

“I had a good practice session, though I didn’t go full speed for much of it,” Mickelson said in a statement. “I feel fine. I expect to play and play well.”

He first felt soreness two weeks ago in Abu Dhabi, and then withdrew from the Farmers Insurance Open on Friday after making the cut at Torrey Pines. He flew to Georgia to see back specialist Tom Boers and was told his facet joints locked up.

Last year at TPC Scottsdale, the former Arizona State star opened with an 11-under 60 and matched the Phoenix Open record of 28 under. He was set to make his 25th start in the event that he also won in 1996 and 2005.

Mickelson lived in the Phoenix area for 12 years.

“If it was any other tournament I’d skip it,” Mickelson said this week. “But I’m defending, it’s my second hometown and I love the event.”

Lefty also said he expects to play next week at Pebble Beach, where he’s a five-time champion. He is skipping Riviera and the Match Play Championship because his oldest daughter has spring break a week earlier than his other two children.

Today at TPC Scottsdale, the 43-year-old Mickelson is scheduled to open play on the 10th tee in a morning group with Bill Haas and Ryan Moore.

While Mickelson now lives near his hometown of San Diego, Torrey Pines winner Scott Stallings is setting up a winter base in Scottsdale. He also is joining Whisper Rock, the club where Mickelson and other tour players are members.

“My wife and I are renting in Scottsdale at Grayhawk, so we are five minutes away from here,” Stallings said. “I have been playing and practicing out of here, actually also at Whisper Rock — went through the whole process and we are going to make somewhat of a winter home out here. Especially, with the vile weather that’s been in the South, I don’t miss that at all. We miss our families, but I don’t miss that weather at all.”

Stallings won Sunday in San Diego for his third tour title. “That venue and that event was very special and a huge stepping stone in my career,” he said.

Stallings is getting over an illness that also hit his wife and son.

“Honestly, if you asked me yesterday, I’d say there is no way I’m playing in the tournament,” he said. “The Mayo Clinic and the tournament got me hooked up with some good doctors and nurses, all kind of IVs and fluid and stuff like that. I’m a completely different person than I was yesterday.”

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