Planet Golf — 26 January 2014 by GW staff and news services
Next up for PGA: Waste Management

SCOTTSDALE, Az — Phil Mickelson flew to Georgia last Friday to see a doctor about his lower back pain and still hopes to defend his Waste Management Phoenix Open title this week.

Mickelson made the cut at the Farmers Insurance Open but withdrew prior to the third round and went to Dalton, Ga., to see specialist Tom Boers. The facet joints had locked up according to a press release issued Monday.

“Tom restored my mobility but I still have inflammation that will take a week or two to subside,” said Mickelson, who plans to fly to Arizona on Wednesday in hopes of playing at TPC Scottsdale.

Mickelson, who attended Airzona State and once made his home in the area, says he would sit out this week if it were any other tournament. He plans a light practice session on Wednesday, and if everything feels good, he’ll consider playing.

Mickelson, who has won 19 of his 42 titles on the West Coast, had originally planned to play in Scottsdale and at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am next week. He will then take two weeks off while his kids are on spring break.

“I’m itching to play,” Mickelson said, “but I have to look at the big picture. I have a number of tournaments I want to play and play well this year, including the majors, so I have to be realistic about how I feel in the short term.”

Meanwhile, here’s a quick peak at the Waste Management Open, which starts Thursday in Scottsdale, AZ.

COURSE: TPC Scottsdale (Stadium), 7,216 yards, par 71. Built in 1986 specifically for the Open’s move to the suburbs, the Tom Weiskopf/Jay Morrish design quickly carved its niche as the best-attended – and most raucous – venue on the PGA TOUR. The centerpiece is the par-3 16th, now an enclosed arena that holds some 20,000 spectators at once. Tiger Woods scored a hole-in-one there in 1997, one of just eight at the hole. Andrew Magee made PGA TOUR history with his ace at No. 17 – the first on a par-4.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: Thunderbirds Charities, which has raised more than $80 million for Arizona charities since the host organization was created in 1937. More than 200 outlets have received aid over the years, with a goal to assist “families, children and others in need.”

• FIELD WATCH: Defending champion Phil Mickelson, making his 25th Waste Management start, and former Masters winner Bubba Watson highlight a field that features eight of the top 30 and 21 of the top 50 in the current Official World Golf Ranking. Mickelson has been battling back woes that hampered his play at Torrey Pines this week. … Former world No. 1 Lee Westwood makes his first visit, altering his schedule to play the Arizona desert instead of the Middle East’s desert stops. … Spencer Levin, who squandered a six-shot lead on the final day two years ago, returns after a one-year hiatus. Thumb surgery forced Levin to sit out all of last season.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 256, Mark Calcavecchia (2001), Phil Mickelson (2013).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 60, Grant Waite (4th round, 1996), Mark Calcavecchia (2nd round, 2001), Phil Mickelson (2nd round, 2005), Phil Mickelson (1st round, 2013).

• LAST YEAR: Mickelson began his week flirting with a historic 59 and ended it just short of the PGA TOUR scoring record, going wire-to-wire for a four-shot romp that was the 41st of his career. Mickelson completed 72 holes in 28-under 256, matching the tournament scoring record and two off the TOUR mark by Tommy Armour III at the 2003 Texas Open. The biggest drama came in the opening round, when Mickelson’s 25-foot try attempt on the final hole caught the lip and spun back toward the Hall of Famer. Ensuing rounds of 65 and 64 pushed his lead to six shots entering the final round. Brandt Snedeker was second after a closing 65.

• STORYLINES: Mickelson, Phoenix’s “favorite son” going back to his Arizona State days, seeks to become the event’s first four-time winner. Last year’s victory, coupled with wins in 1996 and 2005, lifted him alongside Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler and Mark Calcavecchia. Mickelson’s career earnings at TPC Scottsdale come to $3,689,782. … Harris English (Sony Open) and Patrick Reed (Humana Challenge) seek to become the first man with two wins in 2014. They would join Jimmy Walker with two wins in the wraparound season. … Sang-Moon Bae and Derek Ernst are the only men to enter each of the first five events since winter break.

• SHORT CHIPS: A Mickelson victory also would break a tie with Johnny Miller for the most PGA Tour wins in Arizona. Both have six – Mickelson also owns three wins at the old Nortel Open in Tucson; Miller won four times in Tucson and twice in Phoenix. … Last year’s cumulative scoring average of 68.95 was the lowest in the tournament’s 82-year history. The previous best came in 2003, when the field averaged 69.13. It also marked the first time four players finished at 24-under or lower. … Attending fans are encouraged to wear green on Saturday, in support of Waste Management’s eco-sensitive initiatives.

• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, noon-4 p.m. PT (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 10 a.m.-11:30 p.m. (GC), noon-3 p.m. (CBS).

• RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. PT. Saturday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-3 p.m. (PGA Tour Radio on SiriusXM and

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