Tiger Woods’ bulging muscles and Phil Mickelson’s aging ones may be to blame for golf’s needle-movers missing last week’s Farmers Insurance Open finale.
Mickelson, who withdrew after his second round from the PGA Tour’s 2014-opening event at Torrey Pines, has seen a specialist for a flareup of a sore back, which he injured in Abu Dhabi and tweaked at Torrey and initially believed was muscular in nature. The defending champion hopes to return to the lineup for this week’s Waste Management Phoenix Open but it will be a game-time decision.
"If it was any other tournament I’d skip it," Mickelson, who pulled out of Wednesday's pro-am, said in a statement, "but I’m defending, it’s my second hometown and I love the event. I’ll have a light practice session and if it goes well I may try to play."
"My opinion is he did too much [working out]," Haney said during his SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio show on Sunday. "You need to be in shape [for golf], you need to avoid injury, but my opinion is he really overdoes that."
Haney, Woods’ swing coach from 2004-2010, offered his remarks after his former student flamed out at the Farmers by matching his second-highest score as a professional. In responding to a caller’s question, the author of "The Big Miss," which he penned about about his six years by Tiger’s side, echoed observations from the TV broadcast team covering the Farmers.
"I look at him now and a lot of guys mentioned on the telecast, he looks bigger this year," Haney said. "I think Peter Kostis mentioned that. He looks like he’s gained more muscle mass. When he was thinner and younger he was actually faster then. The strength maybe helps you get out of the rough but I’d agree that he’s overdone it."
Take a break from the gym and work on your putting, Haney advised Woods, a five-time victor in 2013 who will try to get back on the winning track starting Thursday in the Middle East.
"Let me tell you what his real key to golf is, it’s getting out there and practicing his putting. He had five three-putts in 54 holes at Torrey Pines and you’re not going to fix that in the gym," said Haney, who termed Woods the "best lag putter" he had ever witnessed.
"For him to go out and three-putt five times at Torrey Pines, I can’t even believe it," he added. "There’s just no way that he put in the time on the putting green and practicing. It’s impossible. He’s too good. His stroke is too consistent. He’s too great a putter.
"So I’m right there with you," Haney told the listener. "Less time in the gym, more time on the putting green."
Woods will put his bulging biceps and sputtering putter back in play this week at the Omega Dubai Desert Classic.
As for Mickelson, who sort of joked on Friday that "just getting old" caused his back pain, the 43-year-old, 42-time tour titleholder consulted with back specialist Tom Boers in Georgia on Friday.
"My facet joints had locked up," the world’s fourth-ranked golfer said in a statement on Monday. "Tom restored my mobility, but I still have inflammation that will take a week or two to subside."
Mickelson, always a crowd favorite but even more so at golf’s version of "Animal House," thanks to his tenure at Arizona State, has earned 19 victories on the West Coast. His short-term schedule calls for him to play at TPC Scottsdale and in next week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, but it all depends on his aching back.
"I’m itching to play, but I have to look at the big picture," said Mickelson, whose primary goal this year is to be fit and ready for the four majors, especially the U.S. Open, the one grand slam event still missing from his resume. "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."