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Phil Mickelson set for PGA Tour return

World number two Phil Mickelson can expect an emotional welcome from players, caddies and fans when he returns to the PGA Tour for this week’s St. Jude Classic.

The American left-hander has not competed since the Players Championship five weeks ago, having suspended his campaign last month after his wife Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

Mickelson has long been a fan favourite because of his spectacular shot-making and the amount of time he devotes to signing autographs and handing over golf balls to children.

His wife is also a popular figure on the U.S. circuit and the couple were overwhelmed by the support they received after news of Amy’s cancer first broke.

“It is hard to describe how much the outpouring of support has meant to us,” Mickelson said after the Tour’s Wives Association urged players and their wives to wear pink during last month’s Colonial Invitational in a “Pink Out” of breast cancer support.

“We both had tears rolling down our faces. That is such an incredibly thoughtful gesture, not only for Amy but for the 200,000 women who are diagnosed with breast cancer each year.”

A three-times major winner, Mickelson is playing at the TPC Southwind in Memphis mainly to prepare for next week’s U.S. Open in New York.

The 38-year-old Californian heads a strong field in Memphis with four other players in the world’s top 12.

Fourth-ranked Spaniard Sergio Garcia is competing, along with Swede Henrik Stenson (sixth), Ireland’s Padraig Harrington (11th) and Colombian Camilo Villegas (12th).

Fellow American Justin Leonard is back in Tennessee to defend his title and, like Mickelson, he is using this week as an ideal warm-up for the U.S. Open.

“It’s a good way to get ready,” Leonard told reporters in the build-up to Thursday’s opening round.

“Par is a good score and you’ve got to come here this week and grind out a lot of pars. That’s certainly going to be part of the task next week.

“And I enjoy coming here,” added the Texan, tournament champion in 2005 and again last year after he beat Australian Robert Allenby and South African Trevor Immelman in a playoff.

“It’s laid back and obviously I like the golf course quite a bit.”


June 10, 2009

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