Mickelson being treated for arthritis (AP)

Aug 10th, 2010 | By sportsnews | Category: Sports

SHEBOYGAN, Wisconsin (AP)—Phil Mickelson is being treated for arthritis that
surfaced just before the U.S. Open and left him in so much pain he couldn’t
walk.

Mickelson revealed Tuesday he has psoriatic arthritis, which causes his
immune system to attack his joints and tendons. He noticed the first symptoms
five days before the U.S. Open, and the pain eventually got so bad he made a
visit to the Mayo Clinic.

Weekly shots have brought the disease under control, and Mickelson said
there shouldn’t be any negative impact on his long- or even short-term health.

“I’m surprised at how quickly it’s gone away, and how quickly it’s been
able to be managed and controlled,” he said. “I feel 100 percent, like I say.
But when I (was) laying there on the couch and I (couldn’t) move, yeah, I had
some concerns. But I feel a lot better now.”

As if that bombshell wasn’t enough for the day, Mickelson dropped another
one: he’s now a vegetarian.

“I know, I know,” he said as reporters laughed. “As long as I believe
that there’s a possibility that it will help me overall, yeah, I’ll continue to
do that. 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 put it to the real test.”

Mickelson has been threatening to replace Tiger Woods as world No. 1 since
The Players Championship in early May, only to stumble at each opportunity.
That’s led many to wonder what’s ailing him, particularly after his lackluster
round Sunday at Firestone, where he made seven bogeys and a double-bogey—and
just one birdie—on his way to a 78.

Turns out, the ranking was the least of his worries.

Mickelson, who turned 40 in June, said he woke up five days before the U.S.
Open with “intense pain” in his tendons and joints that left him unable to
move and his joints feeling sprained. Stretching, walking and
anti-inflammatories alleviated the pain, and he went ahead and played Pebble
Beach, where he shot 66 on Friday to put himself in contention. He wound up
equal fourth.

But the condition got progressively worse during the U.S. Open and a family
vacation to Hawaii afterward, spreading to his knees, hips and elbows.

“That’s when I got concerned,” he said. “I certainly had the gamut of
thoughts. … I would just lay down and I couldn’t roll over. I was concerned
about being able to swing a club and so forth.”

After the British Open, doctors confirmed the diagnosis of psoriatic
arthritis. According to the Mayo Clinic website, the condition causes joint
pain, stiffness and swelling. While it can be linked to psoriasis, the arthritis
can appear without the presence of skin lesions.

Weekly shots of Enbrel lower his immune system, and Mickelson said the
difference was noticeable almost immediately.

“I feel great now and things have been much, much better,” he said. “I’ll
probably take this drug for about a year, and feel 100 percent. I’ll stop it and
see if it goes into remission and it may never come back. It may be gone
forever.”

“It’s not that it’s cured, but it may never come back,” he added. “Or if
it does come back, I’ll start the treatment again and should be able to live a
normal life without having any adverse effects. So I’m not very concerned about
it.”

The arthritis is the latest health scare for Mickelson’s family. His wife,
Amy, and mother are both battling breast cancer; the long-term prognosis for
both is good.

While Mickelson said the arthritis didn’t affect his play at Pebble Beach or
St. Andrews, where he was never a factor, he only resumed his regular practice
routine last week. Revealing his condition earlier might have lessened some of
the criticism of his game these last few weeks.

But that’s not his style.

“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,” Mickelson said.
“For five or six weeks, I was a little unsure of how this was going to affect
me long term. 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 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.”

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