Lefty to take break to be with wife

Updated: June 17, 2009, 4:38 PM ET
By Bob Harig | ESPN.com

FARMINGDALE, N.Y. -- Phil Mickelson's streak of 61 straight major championships will likely come to an end after this week's U.S. Open as his wife, Amy, will begin treatment for breast cancer next month.

Appearing at Bethpage Black on Wednesday morning for the first time since a practice round last week, Mickelson said he "most likely" would not play the British Open at Turnberry, which will be held July 16-19.

"I'm putting everything I have into this week, because I don't anticipate being able to play for a little while," Mickelson said before a practice round at the site of the 109th U.S. Open. "And the fact that my normal support system, Amy and the kids and so forth, aren't going to make the trip this week ... I'm kind of hoping to have that [same support from the New York fans in 2002] to kind of help me through the week."

Mickelson, who celebrated his 39th birthday on Tuesday, is a huge fan favorite in the New York metropolitan area, where he finished second at Bethpage in 2002, second at Shinnecock Hills in 2004, tied for second at Winged Foot in 2006 and won the 2005 PGA Championship at Baltusrol, which is in New Jersey.

If Mickelson is unable to play the British Open, it would be the first time he will miss a major championship since the 1994 Masters, which he missed because of a skiing accident that winter.

I'm putting everything I have into this week, because I don't anticipate being able to play for a little while.

-- Phil Mickelson

The winner of 36 PGA Tour titles, including two this year, and three major championships, Mickelson learned last month that Amy has breast cancer. He immediately suspended his schedule to be with his family as a treatment plan was discussed.

Mickelson has since said that the cancer was caught early, and it appears Amy will have surgery in early July, which means Mickelson will put the clubs away again.

"I would say probably August would be the earliest," he said. "We don't know our treatment schedule after surgery until about a week or two, until we have some other tests done."

How Mickelson fares this week is a mystery even to him. Due to his family circumstances, he has been unable to put in the detailed preparation that has become his custom heading into majors.

Although Mickelson visited Bethpage last week for a day, he did not return until Tuesday night. After a tie for 59th at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, Mickelson went home to San Diego to be with his family before returning to New York.

"I've actually been hitting the ball better than I have in a long time. And possibly ever," Mickelson said. "I know it doesn't seem like it after my score at Memphis. Didn't score very well. But I'm really excited about how things have come along ballstriking-wise.

"I love playing in the New York area. The people here have treated me and my family incredibly, and I love coming back here and playing here. Bethpage is one of my favorite golf courses. To be able to play this Open, I'm excited that things worked out.

"But I'm more excited that the reason I'm able to play is we've had some good news that has not rushed treatment, has given us the time, an opportunity to see some test results and give us better direction on what we should do to not just cure her but prevent it from coming back in the future."

Before leaving home, Mickelson said his wife gave him plenty of encouragement.

"She's left me a number of little notes, texts, cards, hints, that she would like to have a silver trophy in her hospital room," Mickelson said. "So I'm going to try to accommodate that."

Bob Harig covers golf for ESPN.com.

Bob Harig | email

Golf Writer, ESPN.com