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Phil Mickelson, an arthritic vegetarian? The world's gone crazy!

Jay Busbee
Devil Ball Golf

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Phil Mickelson is preparing to tee it up at the PGA Championship, and as is par for the course with Lefty, there's plenty going on off the course that will have a dramatic impact on what happens between the ropes.

At his first PGA Championship press conference, Mickelson revealed that he has psoriatic arthritis, a condition that rendered him unable to even walk prior to the U.S. Open:

"About eight weeks ago, about five days before the U.S. Open started, I woke up and had some intense pain in some areas of my body," Mickelson said, "some joints and tendons and so forth, so much so that I couldn't walk. And it progressively got worse ... ultimately where I had to figure something that was wrong and had to go get it checked."

Mickelson visited the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota and sought treatment for the condition, which he says is "very treatable." He now projects himself at "90 percent," and notes that he hasn't played sharply in weeks. (That should come as no surprise to fans who have seen him fail again and again to play well enough to take over the No. 1 spot from Tiger Woods.)

[Photos: See PGA star 'Lefty' in action]

As Mickelson noted, psoriatic arthritis is a condition where the immune system attacks the joints, but it's also highly treatable through a combination of shots and anti-inflammatories.

To his credit, Mickelson did not wallow in self-pity. When asked about whether this, in addition to the illnesses that have struck his wife and mother, might ask a man to wonder "why me?", Mickelson replied, "No, it's, I mean ... stuff happens."

In lighter -- in every sense of the word -- news, Mickelson revealed that he is also now a vegetarian, and has been for several weeks now. On the advice of a book and doctor, he's switched to a vegetarian diet to help with both his arthritic condition and his overall health. "Can you believe that?" he smiled. "I mean, it just, it's not really me, but, it has been." When asked how his newfound vegetarianism would affect his interest, both financial and gastronomical, in the Five Guys burger chain, he replied with a laugh, "We're working on a veggie burger."

The illness and vegetarianism -- and the public revelations of both -- are another way that Mickelson and Woods are dividing themselves from one another in the public realm. And while it's far too easy to paint Mickelson as the saint and Woods as the sinner -- not that that's stopped several sportswriters in search of a cheap hook -- the truth is that Mickelson is absolutely schooling Woods in the court of public opinion. If Woods has any desire of recapturing the public's acclaim, he'd do well to pay attention to the way Mickelson approaches the public eye-to-eye, not looking downward.

Mickelson, for his part, is interested in far more mundane matters:

"The real test [for his vegetarianism] is driving by a Five Guys and not stopping," he said. "I don't know if I can do that yet, but we'll see."

For coverage of the PGA Championship all weekend long, follow Yahoo! Sports' Devil Ball Golf on Facebook and follow Jay Busbee on Twitter at @jaybusbee.

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