Mickelson talks about wife's scare last year

LA QUINTA, Calif. -- Last year was a scary one for Phil Mickelson, in ways far more significant than concerns that his golf game was unraveling.

The birth of his and wife Amy's third child was life-threatening
both for her and the baby, Mickelson said.

''I didn't really get into it too much, but Amy had a very
dangerous delivery with the birth of Evan,'' Mickelson said. ''He
had a very difficult delivery, too.

''He didn't breathe for seven minutes, and had the emergency
nurses not been there with the equipment ready, he might have had
some severe brain damage or other circumstances.''

It was also touch-and-go for his wife during the birth last
March.

''We were two or three minutes away from losing her,'' Mickelson
said.

He explained that the radiologist was nearby when the problem
was discovered, so was able to quickly perform an emergency
procedure.

''They had to stop a six-inch tear in a major artery, or I would
have been without my wife,'' Mickelson said.

And now?

''I am so excited about 2004 because my wife's health is 100
percent, my son's health is 100 percent, and my two daughters are
doing great,'' he said.

The 33-year-old Mickelson also believes his game is going to be
100 percent this year after his worst season on the PGA Tour.

He failed to win last year -- with his most recent victory coming
in the 2003 Greater Hartford Open -- and didn't make the Tour Championship
for the first time. He also fell to 38th on the 2003 earnings list.

The left-hander, still looking for his first win in a major, had
not finished lower than 28th previously in his 11-year career.

He's ready to play his way back toward the top.

''I've had a wonderful time off the last couple of months and am
really looking forward to the year,'' Mickelson said Tuesday in the
press tent on the eve of the 45th Hope Classic. ''I feel it's going
to be a great year.

''I've been chipping and putting for two months. I want to get
rid of the bad swing mechanics from 2003. I was pathetic last year
from 130 yards in; before that, I was one of the best.''

He said he was aware that some have questioned his heart and
motivation.

''I think that I still have the same heart, the same desire, the
same motivation that has led to 21 tour wins, and I expect it to
carry through this year, too,'' he said.

This is the first time the Hope tournament has been played since
the death of its namesake last summer.

''He really took the responsibility to bring golf up,''
Mickelson said of the late comedian. ''By associating his name with
the tournament, he helped bring the game to the masses.''

Mickelson is one of the favorites in the five-day, 90-hole
tournament that is played on four courses.

Most of the pros are teamed in rotation with celebrity and
amateur partners for the first four days, then the pros go it alone
on Sunday.

The tour players can opt out of playing with amateurs, and
Mickelson has gone that route in recent years, saying he can focus
better when he plays with other pros.

He will be competing with a field that includes defending
champion Mike Weir, who began his breakout year with a Hope
victory. Weir went on to win The Masters and the Nissan Open.

''I didn't know I was going to play as well as I did, but I did
and now I know I can,'' Weir said of the year that ended with him
fifth on the earnings list. ''Now it's a matter of just keep
working to improve my game.''