Balky Back Hinders Mickelson

San Diego Native Struggles With Injury At Torrey Pines

By Derek Togerson
|  Friday, Jan 24, 2014  |  Updated 8:47 PM PDT
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Balky Back Hinders Mickelson

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LA JOLLA, CA - JANUARY 24: Phil Mickelson hits his tee shot on the 18th hole during the second round of the Farmers Insurance Open on Torrey Pines South in La Jolla, California on January 24, 2014 in La Jolla, California. (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

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During Thursday's opening round of the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, Phil Mickelson's back started giving him problems. He stuck it out and still shot a 3-under 69 on the North course.

Before his round on the more challenging South course on Friday, Mickelson said his back felt better, but that did not last very long.

"I hit it on (the 5th hole) in the rough and (my back) jarred because I had to hit it hard to get it out," said Mickelson after his 1-over 73 left his 2-under for the tournament, eight shots off the lead. "I was just an inch in the rough but I had to hit a hard 6-iron and kind of locked up and I started protecting it a bit thereafter."

Mickelson was visibly uncomfortable throughout his round. His finely-tuned swing was not the same fluid, powerful move we're used to seeing.

"My game is pretty sharp getting ready to start the year," said Mickelson, "and I could tell I'm making terrible swings out there, relative to the way I've been swinging."

Of course, Mickelson's terrible swing is something the rest of us mortals would brag about having in an endless stream of YouTube videos. However, for a five-time Major champion, it's something that could lead to a lost season.

"I've got Majors coming up," said Mickelson. "I've got other tournaments coming up and I don't want to get in bad habits."

As for whether or not he'll tee it up on Saturday in his home town, Phil was not ready to commit just yet.

"I would like to get out and play tomorrow. I'm going to tee off early and see if I can get something hot, get a hot round going and try to make up some ground. But then I want to have the big picture in mind, so I'm not quite sure where I'm at yet."

On the leaderboard, he's located eight shots behind 20-year-old Jordan Spieth. The reigning PGA Tour Rookie of the Year went bonkers on the North course, shooting a bogey-free 63. That's nine birdies and nine pars. Pretty impressive for a kid who made his professional debut at this same tournament in 2013 and missed the cut.

Spieth played the first two rounds with Tiger Woods, a guy who knows a thing or two about winning at Torrey Pines (he's done it eight times as a pro). Tiger could never get it going, shooting a 1-under 71 on the North course to barely make the cut. Tiger was impressed with what he saw from the youngster.

"The kid's got talent," said Woods after Friday's round. "He hits it a long way, he's a phenomenal putter. He putted with a lot of confidence."

Woods used to be the kind of massive name that shook other players' confidence. Now, that invincible aura has worn off. You almost got the feeling Woods has become one of the wise old veterans on Tour that new kids on the block don't fear, but revere.

"I wasn't intimidated by any means," said Spieth. "I can't speak for Saturday or Sunday when he's in contention, but (Woods is) very easy to play with. We were talking a lot for each round. When you can see some of the shots he pulls off, it's cool to play with him."

Unless Tiger makes a run that would be outrageous even by his lofty career standards, it would appear they won't be playing together again at Torrey Pines until at least 2015.

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