SAN DIEGO -- Silent for two-plus months on perhaps the most head-turning topic in sports, Phil Mickelson launched a preventive strike Wednesday and backed away from the issue as though it were a coiled rattlesnake.
The world No. 2, making his 2010 debut this week at the newly titled Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines, said before he began fielding media questions that he had nothing to offer on Tiger Woods' increasingly delicate personal situation.
Mickelson, a three-time winner at Torrey, said Wednesday that Woods and wife Elin are friends and he doesn't care to bruise that personal connection. He hadn't offered any public comment on the Woods issue since the affair began the day after Thanksgiving and wasn't about to offer any opinions now.
In an attempt to head off any questioning regarding Woods, Mickelson broached the issue without prompting at his pre-tournament press session and attempted to spray a fire extinguisher on it before the first match was struck.
"The game of golf needs him to come back," Mickelson said. "It's important for him to come back and be a part of the sport, but right now he's got a lot more important things going on in his life. Amy and I are good friends with both Tiger and Elin, and we care deeply about how this turns out. But I'm going to choose not to talk about it publicly anymore, and I appreciate your understanding on that."
There's an old axiom that seems to apply here: Don't poke the bear.
He also declined to specify whether he had made any contact with Woods.
"We've had limited communication with the Woodses, and again, I just feel like discussing any of that is just not appropriate," he said.
As for which Woods they contacted, draw your own conclusions. It sounds like it was with Mrs. Woods.
"With the family," he said of their outreach. "[I'm] not necessarily saying with who in the family."
Mickelson has probably endured more wild and unsubstantiated rumors on the personal front than any prominent player in the past two decades, to the point that his wife makes jokes about it. He elected not to provide any more fuel to the Woods embroglio.
"I don't want to talk about it publicly for the reason that we're friends and we have a personal relationship, and I feel like it's a violation of our trust and our relationship," he said.