Phil Mickelson lends hand to vets with charity

Action on the links starts Wednesday at the Barclays in Paramus, New Jersey, with the beginning of the Pro-am Tournament.

But the festivities got under way Tuesday with practice rounds and ceremonies honoring the military and their families.

At the center of it all, golf great Phil Mickelson and his charity program, "CBS This Morning" Co-Host Norah O'Donnell reports.

"It's really flattering and cool that we have a chance to honor our military," Mickelson said. "All citizens I feel have the obligation to do something for this country and making the lives of the men and women more enjoyable when they return. ... That's the greatest thing we can do as citizens."

Mickelson at ceremony at Barclays
Michael Cohen, Getty Images

Part of that appreciation for the men and women in uniform was a shower for 40 military moms and moms-to-be.

It was thrown by the nonprofit organization Operation Shower in partnership with Barclays and Birdies For The Brave, a military outreach program Mickelson started in 2006 with his wife Amy.

The program provides support to combat-wounded veterans and their families, from financial aid, rehabilitation services, counseling and housing to educational scholarships and career development.

"It's very difficult to understand being a single parent even though you have a spouse," Mickelson said. "When your husband or wife is gone for six or eight months on each deployment and you're going through a pregnancy and the emotions and the highs and the lows of that pregnancy, many times on your own, hopefully you have family to support you. But many times without your spouse, that's very difficult."

Family has always been front and center in Mickelson's life. It was his father Phil Sr., a former air force fighter pilot, who taught his son to love golf. And during the 1999 U.S. Open, when Amy was pregnant with their first child, Phil famously wore a pager, ready to drop everything if she went into labor. The couple have suffered through health scares -- Mickelson battles psoriatic arthritis, and in 2009, Amy was diagnosed with breast cancer.

"Amy just had her fifth-year cancer-free celebration July 1 and we're so excited because that's a huge milestone and things [have] been going really well, so we've been fortunate," Mickelson said. "You know we had a tough time there for a few years but we've been very fortunate to be in a much better place now."

In terms of golf, Mickelson says he loves the sport now more than ever.

"I realized last few years how much I love the game of golf," he said. "I think that you take things for granted but that when it gets taken away, you realize how much you enjoy it. And what I found is that when I was dealing with my own diagnosis of psoriatic arthritis or when Amy was going through her battle, I found myself going out and playing a couple of holes and it was very therapeutic for me to kind of gather my thoughts and figure out some solutions to some problems, and what have you."

Mickelson hopes to make the next five years the best of his career.

"I'm physically in as good of shape as I've ever been," he said. "I've been able to, through not just through medicine but through diet and exercise and some other ways, manage my symptoms of my arthritis and I've been able to practice and work hard on my game. I want to make the next five years the best five years of my career."

For the golfer, that means winning the U.S. Open.

"That's part of it. That's absolutely part of it. That final piece of the career grand slam would be a huge thing for me," Mickelson said. "All the players that have won all four majors have proven themselves to be complete players and that's the greatest honor I think in the history of the game to win all four major championships. I'm one leg shy."

Mickelson has come in second six times in the U.S. Open, including in 2002 when he lost to Tiger Woods, who practically owned the sport beginning in the 1990s.

"We both have had an off year," Mickelson said of Woods. "He's been injured; I had some struggles early on ... it's been the worst year of my career and it happens."

For Mickeson, watching Woods struggle this year was disheartening, but he's hoping their rivalry will be restored next year.

"It was painful for me to watch at the PGA Championship because I saw, I didn't see him struggling with the injury per se, I saw him struggling with his game and I think it was due to the fact that he couldn't work on his game because of injury," Mickelson said. "I think he needs these next four months to get healthy and get his game sharp, and I think next year he's gonna have a great year. I'm trying to do the same and hopefully we'll get that rivalry back next year."