July 14, 2003
ROYAL ST. GEORGE'S, ENGLAND
STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, welcome Phil Mickelson, to the Open Championship. Phil, this is the 11th time in the Open Championship. How do you rate your chances this year in Sandwich.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I played the golf course today, though, and it's spectacular. It's a wonderful, wonderful place. I did not play here in '93 when Greg Norman won. I watched in '85 when Sandy Lyle won, and made 5 from down in the swale, watching the ball roll back to him, and everybody thought he may have lost his chances and gets up-and-down and wins by 2. I remember watching on television, and being able to play it gives you a great feel for the character of the course. It's got a lot of difficult, difficult greens, a lot of slopes. It's going to be a fun test, but I really enjoyed it.
Q. How different is it to the others?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that it's much different. I thought that Muirfield last year was a little flatter in front of the balls and the ball kicked a little straighter. And I would say this is more of the norm. It's more normal here to have the rolls to where in the middle of the fairway balls will hit and go into the rough, where balls hit into the middle of the green will kick and go into the corners of the green, I think that's more normal. Knowing the nuances of the course will be a big factor here. I think guys that played a lot here in the past will play well knowing where they can and cannot go.
Q. You used the word spectacular. Can you describe what you really liked about the place, and also a little bit on how linksy this place really is.
PHIL MICKELSON: What I really -- the reason I called it spectacular is because I thought it had a lot of character to it. Around the greens there's a lot of character. There's a lot of slopes, not soft pitches, but a lot of definition to it. Edges of greens that you can see, fall off that you can see. It made shot making into the greens very important, because there will be -- one side of the green you can get up-and-down from, and the other side you can't. Now typically we hear about that at the U.S. Open, but in links golf most of the time you can get up and down from around the greens. But here there will be half the green that you really can't. I think that angles and approaches into greens will be very important, as it is in most Open championships, but I think here especially because of how well the bunkering around the greens is. I think it's been a very fair test off the tee, given the bunker placement. It requires a lot of strategy. But also it gives you a very good or reasonable size fairway to hit it to.
Q. It's been like 20 years since anyone's repeated their Open championship. Why do you think that is? And No. 2, what do you think Ernie's position is now coming off his big win to maybe break that streak?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Ernie has been playing great golf all year. He started the year off hot and he's played some of his best golf right now with his great performance last week, and he's going to be a strong factor and a player to watch out for. Obviously you have to watch out for Tiger. I don't know why somebody has not defended more here. I do think that it's more difficult to defend when you play a different course every year, much like it's difficult to defend the U.S. Open. I think it's very difficult to defend the British Open because of the fact that you change courses. When you get to know a course and people in the past, like Sam Snead at Greensboro, who consistently won there, I think he won 6 or 8 times, you get to know a golf course, and it gets easier every time you come back. But you have to relearn it every time you come back to play an Open spot here.
Q. How hot is this to you and do you have air conditioning in your accommodation and do you need it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I actually thought that the temperature here was very pleasant. The wind made it very comfortable. I think that here in the press tent it's just a little warmer than it is outside. But the temperature has been very comfortable. I think the breeze helped. At our accommodations we don't -- I don't believe we have air conditioning, but we haven't needed it yet either.
Q. Phil, you talked about watching the '85 open. You played in the Walker Cup. I don't know if you played a links course in Ireland. But the first time you played a links course, even though reading about them, watching on TV, what did you think, and did you think "it was unfair" or did you eat it up right away?
PHIL MICKELSON: I played Portmarnock. It's certainly one of the greatest links courses around. And that was in Ireland in '91. I very much enjoyed it. And that particular course, that setup was just spectacular, and it made me very excited about links golf. That was my first exposure to it and I really loved it. I played the '91 Open at Birkdale and I thought that was spectacular, too. What a great tract that is. I may have played the Walker Cup first. I forget the order they were in. I loved both golf courses. And when I played Birkdale, it was the 16th hole where Palmer lashed out of a bush onto the green to make par and win. And they had a plaque there and I thought that was cool. Each course has some history to it and a lot of character to it.
Q. Tiger has gone four majors without a win. Do you think that's attributed to others raising their level or maybe to him slipping and how dangerous is he?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what it's attributed to, and he's always dangerous. He played very well after the Western Open win. He's played great this year. So he's always the guy to watch out for.
Q. Phil, you had your best British Open when you came over early. I wanted to know if you feel that's just coincidence or is it maybe something that helped you and did it have any influence on what you did this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, as you know, it started about three years ago, where I kind of found that I'm playing better in the Majors when I play the week before. I don't think it was a coincidence that my best performance in this Open Championship came in 2000, after playing in Loch Lomond the week before, getting adjusted to the time, playing competitively. So I anticipate doing this pretty regularly now, adding the Scottish Open to my schedule. Next year it's an easy fit, since we're at Troon, I believe. And they're so close together. But I believe that has helped me in the past. And I feel that's the best way for me to prepare for a major, is to play the week before.
Q. Why do you think Americans seem to have done better over the last eight years at the British, where they went through a dry spell for about a decade, winning only once? Can you describe how the look of this course and courses in Britain look so different than what Americans are used to in terms of not having trees and the lushness of the fairway, and they like that over here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know why there was a dry spell. I don't have an answer for you there. But this is a very unique look here, and the interesting thing about this golf course is that you can get a glimpse of the fairway on just about every hole. You can see paths of the fairways. There are a lot of links courses that you can't, that every tee shot is blind. Even though you may not be able to see the exact landing area, you can get an idea of how the fairway moves. So I think the visuals and the esthetics here at St. George's are very, very good, and I've enjoyed it. And I find it's the case on most links courses, you have to play it a few times to get a feel for each hole.
Q. How would you assess your frame of mind and your game as you get ready for this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously I've had a great year. But I've started to play a lot better, I feel, of late, after spending a couple of days with Rick Smith over at Treetops. We seem to have touched on a couple of things that have added consistency in my ball-striking, and given me a lot more confidence, but also a lot better control of my miss hits, on which direction to miss them. And I think that will be a big factor. I have not put it together into four good rounds. I didn't score very well at the Western, even though I felt I hit it okay. I hit it actually pretty good at Loch Lomond but scored horrendously for the way I felt I was playing. I'm hoping to put it together. Hopefully it will happen this week. But if not, I feel like it's much closer.
Q. I'm curious, does it change the nature of the course or of links golf at all when it's hot and windy as compared to chilly and blustery?
PHIL MICKELSON: The ball goes a lot further in the heat and plays quite a bit shorter. The density altitude is much higher when it's hotter, so the ball seems to go through the air a little better. When it's colder that wind grabs the ball much more so. And it's also not going nearly as far. So it plays a lot easier when it's warmer, in my opinion.
Q. We had two 63s here the last time, and Greg won with a closing 64. Are we going to see more of the same, is that your initial feeling?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I think that it's very possible to -- if you get some benign conditions without the wind. That's very feasible. When we get blustery conditions, the wind blows 20, 30 knots, it's difficult to control the ball and keep it in play and shoot those kind of scores. I think it's a wonderful setup, a very fair setup. Even though the rough is up, I think it's very fair. It's one of the best setups that I've seen.
Q. Do you have a new ball that you're putting into play this week that lowers your ball flight? And if so, can you describe it?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's the same Pro V1 I've been playing all year. The reason I'm excited about playing with this this week is it's the first time to play the Open. It's low spinning and goes through the air better, and in the wind it's better performing for me. I don't have to alter my swing to keep the ball down and control it in winds that we see at this championship. That's why I've been excited about it. But it's the same ball I've been playing all year.
Q. The last three major Champions have been first-time major Champions, do you think this venue will give way to a player like that? A lot of people talk that experience is so in demand here.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that's accurate, actually, because last year Ernie won, and I think he'd won a couple of U.S. opens prior to that.
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't thought that much about that.
Q. The venue, do you think it will call for a very experienced player or do you think it will allow someone to break through?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the biggest element in becoming the champion this week is playing well, whoever is playing well. I don't think experience is going to be as big a factor. If you take guys that have been playing well -- Tiger won Western, Ernie won last week at Loch Lomond. I think those are the guys you have to watch out for -- not only because they've done so well in the past, but because they're playing well right now. You look at the players that have been consistent -- Kenny Perry, he's been playing terrific. He's a guy to watch out for. Obviously Jim Furyk and Mike Weir, they've had phenomenal years. And there have been a number of multiple players on Tour, like Freddie Couples, I played with him today. There are a lot of players to watch out for.
Q. There are a lot of reverse canted fairways here, do you have to play into those slopes or can you allow it to run out on those cants and have a shot from the rough?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's the best way for me to handle it, and I don't know how others will, is that -- not worry about where it bounces. If it runs into the rough, it does. I had a couple of those today, where I hit it down the middle and it kicks 45 degrees into the rough. It's not necessarily a bad thing to be in that first cut, because it takes spin off, you hit a flier, and you play for the ball to release up the green. So it's not a bad thing. I think what's more important is to be on the correct side of the fairway when you miss it in the first cut. Because the better the angle allows you to get closer.
In the U.S. where the greens are soft, we don't worry about angle into the pin, because we're going to fly it and get the ball stopped. But when you play over here angle is very important. So you want to make sure that knowing that the ball is going to bounce, make sure you favor the correct side.
STEWART McDOUGALL: Phil, thank you very much.
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