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January 28, 2015

Phil Mickelson


THE MODERATOR: Welcome Phil Mickelson, three-time champion and alumnus of ASU. You have great fan support this week. Maybe you can start off by telling us what it's like to be out here at TPC Scottsdale and open it up for questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: What a great place to hold a golf tournament. Great support from the community, and the final back 9 has such a great -- a lot of great words there. It's a wonderful test on the back side with some risk reward that really makes for an exciting event.

Q. What's your take on the course changes?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think, for the most part, they're very well done. The first year you always have to cut some slack because the greens are firm and unreceptive because the roots haven't had a chance to grow in. You just want to be -- you want to cut it some slack the first year. But it looks -- I think it looks really good. Surprisingly, the greens are putting very true and in wonderful shape. I was pleasantly surprised.

Q. How was the fairway bunker, where he moved those?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was strategic and well-placed in a lot of holes. I have always liked Weiskopf's stuff. He has great strategy from a player's standpoint. Really not too much was done differently other than three or four holes; otherwise, very similar throughout.

Q. I know you tried to reshape your body a little bit this offseason. How much weight have you lost? What exactly have you done? How do you think it will move you forward?
PHIL MICKELSON: The specifics aren't important, but I put in three or four, I guess four months now, of being pretty diligent. I feel better than I have in a long time, and I've been able to practice hard and work on my game. I think long term having a little bit less pressure on my joints is going to be good for somebody who's got arthritis. I also find that the more I work out, the better I feel and the less symptoms I feel. So I have been -- I'm excited. I'm excited, and I have been slowly, over the last four or five years, cutting out things in my diet that cause inflammation in my body. I feel better and better.

Q. Last year was only one of four times in your career that you didn't pick up a win in any way, shape, or form. Your thoughts of this year, trying to get back on track?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that after '03 I had a similar situation where I had terrible year, came back in '04 determined to play well, and it was the same type of determination I felt in the offseason this year to get back to the level of play that I know I'm capable of. I had a good offseason, like I say, to get physically able to practice and work as hard as I need to to play at this level, and I feel like my game is where I want it to be. I just have to now shoot the scores. Last week was pretty encouraging. I didn't do all the things I want as well as I believe I can, and yet it was pretty close. Hopefully going to fine-tune that here this week and have a performance that I feel I'm capable of.

Q. Looked like Chris Berman had a little trouble on 16. Can you talk about an amateur going into that atmosphere and what it's like on that hole in golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the 16th can be intimidating for anybody. I saw that an amateur had a hole in one today. I heard the roar. How could you not? It was so loud. It was terrific to hear. What a thrill. I wonder who that is. But that hole can be intimidating. When you're not used to those circumstances and you're not comfortable in a sport, to walk up on that tee box might have a negative impact on some players. Some people hit some great shots. I know that Berman had four or five net birdies today, and I thought he played really, really well. His best shot wasn't on 16, unfortunately, but he did hit a lot of good shots throughout the day.

Q. I know you talked about your schedule a little bit last week. Are you excited to sort of change things up a little bit this year? How far in advance have you plotted out where you're going to play?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have done the whole year, so I have pretty much mapped out where I want to play. It's pretty easy now, because really the goal for me is to try to get my best game the weeks of the majors, and so I build my entire schedule now around that and don't worry too much thereafter. I find playing my way into the majors gets me in the sharpest and best competitive frame of mind. I will plan on doing that like I have in the past.

Q. At any point during your hiatus, did you find yourself really missing the competition and really feeling antsy like you wanted to get back?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was always looking forward to getting back, but I knew I wasn't ready at the time. I knew I needed that extra couple of months to finish what I started and to get to this point to start the year. So although I was anxious, I knew I wasn't quite ready yet, and the last week or two before last week's tournament I felt like I was starting to get ready.

Q. As a veteran, do you sometimes worry that you won't feel that eagerness to get back, that there are so many things at home pulling at you and that you just like living a so-called more normal life?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I think that -- I think that -- I love having balance. I love the ability to have balance, to make my own schedule, to be at events that are important to me with my kids, my family and what have you. I love that I can skip two tournaments that I normally would play because it's their spring break, and to have that type of flexibility means a lot to me. Really, it's only the run up to the majors and getting ready for the majors where my schedule kind of takes precedence, and everything else I will accommodate around them.

Q. Keegan was up here earlier and said that he outdrove you and he left you a note saying the senior tees are not that far away. Was that true?
PHIL MICKELSON: Last week we had an event, Madison Club, and it was kind of a fun fundraiser event Discovery Properties, Ben Crane put on, and Keegan and I had a long drive contest. I flew it by him 25 yards. I have gotten a lot more speed in the offseason. That really bothered him (laughter). So the 14th hole is a dogleg right to left. I guess he really hammered one. I had not played the hole before. I just hit a little stock cut just to comfortably cut out there. He was 11 yards by me. If that's what it takes to stroke his ego, then that's what it takes. Had I known that he was going to make a big deal about it, I would have swung a fraction harder and put it past him.

Q. Rickie Fowler was in here, jokingly referred to you as an old man who still has a lot of fire in him. What makes you believe, at 45, that you still have maybe another major in you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I just -- I think that when I play to the level I'm capable of playing, I'm very confident that will be enough. I had a terrible year last year and I still almost won the PGA. I'm playing a lot better now.

Q. When you're away from tournaments but still in kind of golf mode, what's the ratio of time you spend working on your game on the range and playing golf? Has that changed over the years?
PHIL MICKELSON: It hasn't changed too much. I think you have to play to really figure out what you need to work on and to work on shot-making and hitting shots, learning to score. I think the range can only do so much, but I do still continue to do my drills and so forth at home. So there is a balance. You have to play to find out where you're weak and what areas you need to improve on, and then you have to have that time to be able to fix it. It's still the same kind of ratio, I guess. I don't know what that is, but you still have to play.

Q. In the offseason, you added assistant coach to your résumé. Can you explain what that entailed and how cool it is to help out your Alma Mater and your brother?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I recently got fired from that position. He needed some real help (laughter). We had developed a plan to where I could call some recruits. We weren't really going to say anything and hadn't said anything for a few weeks until one of the players had Tweeted it and it looked like there were some improprieties, which there weren't, so we had to publicly announce I was assistant captain; otherwise, I wouldn't be able to make the phone calls I had been making. As of the first week of January, Tim needed, my brother, needed a real assistant to help out with a bunch of the things going on with the traveling and I got fired.

Q. Was that Ryan Ruffels?
PHIL MICKELSON: Ryan was the one that texted that I had called him, yes.

Q. He thought you were one of his mates playing a joke on him.
PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't a joke. We really want him to come here, and I think that it would be really a great thing for him to come to Arizona State. I know what it did for me and my golf game. I think it would be great for him, especially on the international level, to spend more time in the States and get acclimated and travel inside of the United States. I think it would be really helpful long term for his golf game.

Q. In '96 you won here when the Super Bowl was here. In '08 you were in the playoff when Super Bowl was here. Is that just a coincidence or do you feed off the buzz of the Super Bowl being in town?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's fun. I really enjoy it. I think it's fun the Super Bowl is here. I think this is a great place to host the Super Bowl. This town, as you can see from this golf tournament, really supports sporting events, from Arizona State athletics to every professional sport. Having a Super Bowl here means a lot and for me to play well means a lot, too. '96 was a great memory for me, winning the tournament for the first time. I had not played well in this event prior to that. I really wanted to experience the feel coming down the stretch in contention with a chance to win. And all those people -- I hit a shot on 16 I will never forget. The pin was back left. I hit it about three or four feet and it was the loudest roar I think I still remember to this day. It was amazing. I want to experience that again. There is something about bringing football that just has a good synergy.

Q. With Jon Rahm now playing in this event, so many former Sun Devils, what do you think it means for the Sun Devil legacy for him to join those ranks?
PHIL MICKELSON: Jon Rahm is the third-ranked amateur in the world. He's a phenomenal player. I think it says a lot with the Thunderbirds, saying with support of the Arizona State athletic program, as well as supporting the community here and the game of golf, to give him an exemption and let him compete against the pros. The guy is a tremendous talent. Hits the ball a long ways, great feel with the putter, and he's the guy that's always wanting to know what he has to do down the stretch to win and he finds a way to do it so often. I think he's going to be a real stud on the PGA TOUR, and I'm really proud and appreciative of the fact that the Thunderbirds gave him a spot and let him compete. It's really a big thing for him.

Q. One more Arizona State question. Why did you major in psychology? How have you used your major, if you have?
PHIL MICKELSON: I use it a lot with Keegan. I don't know if you've seen that (laughter). I find it very easy to get in his head. I had a great teacher. I think the teacher really makes it for somebody, and I had a teacher in high school that made it interesting and really was fascinating. So I ended up going down that direction. I found the studies in human behavior and why they interact a certain way, I always found that interesting. So that was the main reason. I had a really good teacher in high school that inspired me in that area.

Q. Who was it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Mrs. Beecher, my teacher? Mrs. Beecher.
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