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Mickelson’s Return to Golf a ‘Mental Break’

Phil Mickelson, who always has used golf to block out life's problems, returns to the PGA Tour today at the St. Jude Classic in Memphis, playing for the first time since his wife, Amy, was diagnosed with breast cancer last month.

"I'm looking forward to having a four- or five-hour mental break where I force myself to focus on something else," Mickelson said at a news conference Wednesday. He hasn't played since The Players Championship on May 10. "We're scared, yeah. I think a lot of it is the unknown."

The St. Jude is a tuneup for the U.S. Open next week at Bethpage Black in Farmingdale, N.Y. Mickelson flew to New York from California on Monday and played Tuesday at Bethpage, greeting fans and signing autographs after his practice round. The Open will be his last tournament for a while. "I don't know when I'll play again," he said.

Mickelson said Amy's treatment will begin July 1, but it might take two weeks to get the pathology tests completed. They plan a tropical vacation after the U.S. Open and before Amy's surgery.

"I've never been this emotional, where if I'm driving alone or what have you, I'll just start crying," he said

Mickelson has practiced sporadically since The Players, and he thinks his game is close, but he's unsure of his ability to concentrate.

Mickelson has never won the Open, but he has finished second four times by a total of seven strokes. One of those was 2002, when Tiger Woods won by three shots at Bethpage.

"I'm not playing just to be playing," he said of the Open. "Bethpage suits my game. I love playing in the New York area. I'm playing (in Memphis) because I believe I can win next week.

"I'm fortunate to be able to play. I hope to play well. I know that after (the Open) I have something going on that's more important."

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