Aug
11
2010
Mickelson Reveals Debilitating Arthritis That’s Under Control, Becomes Vegetarian
By Merf under PGA Championship

Five days before this year’s U.S. Open, Phil Mickelson woke up with pain in his tendons and joints so intense that he couldn’t walk. Mickelson revealed in Tuesday’s pre-PGA Championship press conference that he suffers from psoriatic arthritis, a condition that causes the immune system to attack the body’s joints and tendons.

And Mickelson’s combatting the disease in part by becoming a vegetarian.

“As long as I believe that there’s a possibility that it will help me overall, yeah, I’ll continue to do that,” said Mickelson, who has been a vegetarian for eight weeks. “If it will somehow keep this in remission or stop it from coming back, yeah, I’ll be able to do it. But I haven’t been put to the real test. The real test is driving by a Five Guys and not stopping.”

What’s next? No more gambling? Bye-bye Krispe Kreme? That’s got to be right up there with Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder announcing he’s a vegetarian.

The news on both fronts was jolting, since six days after Mickelson was immobile, he shot a second-round 66 at the U.S. Open to jump into second place.

Of course, Mickelson is also a noted burger connoisseur and investor in the chain Five Guys. As CBSsports.com’s Steve Elling wrote, the latter surprise was tougher to comprehend.

True story: A friend of mine set up an interview with Mickelson a few years ago and Lefty agreed to hold the discussion in the front of his SUV. Before the writer could climb into the cab of the vehicle, Mickelson had to remove a bunch of McDonalds hamburger wrappers from the seat.

A notorious binge eater, Mickelson, 40, can blow through two or three hamburgers in a sitting faster than some guys blow back-nine leads. Now he’s a lettuce lover?

Apparently.

“We’re working on a veggie burger,” joked Mickelson about the Five Guys menu.

Mickelson said that he feels 100 percent this week, and that he was not affected during the U.S. Open, although the AP story notes that the condition worsened as the week went on. Weekly shots of Embrel, which lowers his immune system, have kept the disease in check.

“I would just lay down and I couldn’t roll over. I was concerned about being able to swing a club and so forth,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson also refused to use the disease as an excuse for his poor showing at the British Open (tie for 46th), but it could be an explanation for his inability to take over the No. 1 spot in the world, an opportunity he’s had since the Players Championship. Mickelson’s mediocre play has even opened the door for Steve Stricker to jump to the No. 1 spot this week.

As for why he decided to drop this bombshell two day before the PGA Championship?

“First of all, I don’t want excuses. And second, I don’t want to discuss something when I don’t know what the outcome is going to be. For five or six weeks, I was a little unsure of how this was going to affect me long term, career, what have you. Now that I feel confident it’s not going to affect not only the rest of my career or the rest of my life, but even in the short term it shouldn’t have an effect, I feel a lot better about it and I’m a lot more at ease to discuss it.”

Mickelson wasn’t able to resume his normal practice schedule last week, but he organized his traditional money game on Tuesday at Whistling Straits. Per the AP:

Mickelson certainly looked at ease Tuesday during his practice round at Whistling Straits. He joked and laughed often with playing partners Dustin Johnson, Jeff Overton and Steve Marino, and it was clear there was more riding on the round than simple practice.

When Mickelson drained a 10-footer on 18, he gave a hearty fist pump.

“I’m probably not as sharp as I would like to be,” the four-time major champion said. “I didn’t play well at the British, obviously. I didn’t play well last week, on the weekend, but I’m able to work on it. I believe that the game’s coming around. I’m not sure where I’ll be on Thursday, but hopefully I’ll be ready.”