Phil Mickelson gave rise to speculation that he was indeed saving himself for the Masters by withdrawing midway through Saturday’s third round of the Valero Texas Open when he showed up, with 14-year-old daughter Amanda, at the San Antonio Spurs game later.
Mickelson, who called it quits at TPC San Antonio after 10 holes, apparently had a prior engagement court-side with Amanda, according to Bernie McGuire, who posted photos of the green jacket-wearing mascot of the Spurs welcoming the three-time Masters winner to what turned out to be the team’s 17th straight win, a 96-80 laugher over the Pelicans.
The 43-year-old Mickelson joined Tiger Woods, another aging superstar with back problems, on the DL and questionable-for-Augusta roster with what playing partner Stuart Appleby suggested could be a a more serious injury than originally appeared when Lefty called it quits.
"Phil had hit a few poor shots but it was the first hole of our back nine when I really noticed there was something wrong, as he just didn’t look right," Appleby told McGuire. "Then he sort of feathered one down the next and that was it.
"He then came over to John [Merrick, the third member of the threesome] and myself and said, ‘Look guys. I think something’s going on in my back and I’m out of here.’ He had been saying his back was fine but then we’re all getting to that age when these things start happening in our bodies."
After leaving the course in a cart, Mickelson released a statement that indicated his injury was not all that big a deal.
"I pulled a muscle on my downswing trying to hit it hard," Mickelson said a statement. "It just killed and it wouldn't subside for 10 or 12 seconds."
Mickelson, who tweaked his back in Abu Dhabi and withdrew before the third round at Torrey Pines with similar pain, was fortunate to make it to the weekend of the Texas Open at all, starting with a 5-over 77 on Thursday and rebounding with a second-round 70 to make the cut on the number. And while he may have disappointed PGA Tour golf fans with his early retirement, the popular 42-time tour winner delighted NBA fans after he was introduced during the contest.
Mickelson is slated to start next week’s Shell Houston Open and then the Masters the following week. He was reportedly going to hit Augusta for some practice before the Houston event, but his schedule is up in the air at this point.
"I'm going back to San Diego [for] a couple of days and have a doctor look at it, but there's really not much you can do for a pulled muscle," Mickelson said. "I hope I'll be OK to play ... in Houston, but I just don't know."