Mickelson to focus on private battle

World No 2 puts career on hold to support his wife in her fight against cancer
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The Independent Online

Phil Mickelson yesterday announced that he has suspended his playing career indefinitely as his wife, Amy, fights breast cancer. The mother of three is expected to undergo major surgery, possibly within the next two weeks.

A statement from the world No 2's management company revealed that the 37-year-old had an extensive series of tests and is scheduled to undergo further investigations before treatment. The former cheerleader is one of the most visible wives on the PGA Tour and regularly attends events.

Her husband has withdrawn from this week's Byron Nelson Championship in Dallas, and he will not defend his title next week at the Colonial Country Club in Fort Worth. The US Open at Bethpage Black, where Mickelson finished second to Tiger Woods in 2002, is in four weeks' time.

It is not yet known whether the three-times major winner will play in the year's second major or indeed in the Open Championship at Turnberry in July. After winning the WGC CA Championship in Miami in March, the left-hander came close to overhauling Woods at the top of the world rankings and remains just one win away.

Mickelson was not due to compete at the BMW PGA Championship this week but the news overshadowed preparations at Wentworth, where John Daly had been the centre of attention. Paul Casey for one had no doubts who he would be following if he happened to be a paying punter and not Britain's leading hope at the tournament starting today. "I'd watch John Daly," commented Casey. The world No 7 said so in the knowledge that the view would be on the see-nothing side of uninterrupted.

When he arrived on the range yesterday, Casey could not fail to notice a crowd of about 100 huddled around one player. "There were all just standing there behind him, watching what he does," he said. "It's no wonder the sponsors continue to invite him and I hope they continue. When he's out on the course and is playing well he brings a smile to people's faces. You know there's a lot of great players out here. But this man creates memories."

In fact, there are 19 of the world's top 50 chasing the £667,000 first prize. This elite's number was reduced by one by yesterday's withdrawal of Justin Rose (apparently he aggravated a long-standing back injury while bending down to tie a shoelace on the weekend) but the field still retains a high-quality feel. Daly, however, plainly provides the magic as he continues his latest resurrection, although a young Ulsterman also has the capacity to put the ooohs with the pars.

In declaring at last week's Irish Open that the Ryder Cup is "an exhibition" which "is not that important to me" Rory McIlroy was risking the wrath of a few of the European veterans whose fame owes much to their success in the biennial showpiece. Of course, that was not his intention.

"I was trying to say that the main goal of my career is to win majors and not Ryder Cups," said McIlroy when invited to explain himself. "When I was a kid I always had a putt to win the Masters or the Open; it was never to win the Ryder Cup. I've played a lot of team golf and to win is fantastic. But individual success... it's a lot more satisfying."

Wentworth warriors Who'll lead the way?

Angel Cabrera (Arg) 16-1

A leading chance, if he has shaken off last month's Masters hangover.

Ross Fisher (Eng) 33-1

Capitulated when leading two years ago, but a different proposition now.

Nick Dougherty (Eng) 66-1

A torrid last year, but fourth at Irish Open confirmed his return to form.

Paul McGinley (Irl) 100-1

Not the force he was but not to be underestimated, regardless of form.

John Daly (US) 150-1

Insulting odds for a dual major winner who still has power to figure.