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September 28, 2016

Phil Mickelson

Minneapolis, Minnesota

JOHN DEVER: Good morning, everyone. Welcome to the 41st Ryder Cup. I'd like to thank Phil Mickelson for joining me here early this morning.

Phil, this is your 11th consecutive Ryder Cup for the United States Team, and you never have been a captain's pick in all that time. Maybe could you reflect upon that streak and what you've seen and experienced.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's been 22 years of qualifying for the team and it's become some of my favorite weeks, and these weeks mean a lot to me. I'm very proud of the streak to have been a part of this team for the last 22 years and never required a captain's pick. It's been something special.

JOHN DEVER: So I'm going to ask you now about Hazeltine and what you've experienced out there the last day, day and a half, and what it might compare to, what you remember from the 2002, 2009 PGA Championships.

PHIL MICKELSON: The course has always been a great golf course to host, even major championships. I even played back in the '91 Open here when I believe Payne Stewart won, I believe, did he not?

The PGAs in 2002 and 2009, it's been a great venue to host people but I think the greatest thing for me is that the people here don't get golf a lot, so when we do have a big major championship like The Ryder Cup or the PGA, they are very supportive. The community feel and the support that we feel as golfers is incredible here.

Q. Over all the years, what type of advice have you given to rookies and what they can expect come Friday, Saturday, Sunday?
PHIL MICKELSON: These weeks are so much fun, and it is a little bit surprising to everyone in our first Ryder Cup, the pressure that we feel and the anxiety, and yet the anticipation and excitement that we feel going to the first tee for the first time.

And there's nothing you can really say; you just want them to enjoy it and enjoy the challenge of it and appreciate being a part of it.

Q. Davis mentioned yesterday that you and Tiger are his leaders. Has it been fun working with Tiger in his new assistant captain's role?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been great. The last few weeks, we've been talking on the phone multiple times a day. It's been really exciting for us because we've been on so many teams for so many years, and to have this much input and involvement in the process, the way Davis has implemented everybody's input, the way he's brought everybody together and their ideas, has been truly an inclusive process and it's been fun for Tiger and I to be a part of something like that.

Q. If you look at your performance, there's been some remarkable weeks, whether it was Troon or Memphis or Pebble, and some fairly ordinary weeks, based on the campaign a few years ago, what will Phil do next; do you even know yourself sometimes?
PHIL MICKELSON: About how I'll play? I usually have a sense of when things are coming, of when things are about to click. You can tell from the ball-striking when it gets easy. You can tell from putting when it gets easy. You just kind of know when you're going to have good weeks or not.

I went through a tough three-week stretch after the British Open, and my swing wasn't how I wanted it and my putting wasn't quite there. And this last year, although it's taken me a little bit longer to piece everything together and get it back on track with the help of Andrew Getson. I've been really excited about where my game has been headed and it seems to, although there's highs and lows as we go, it seems to be on a steady uptick throughout the year and I feel like my game is getting better and better and it reminds me of ten, 15 years ago when I was playing with that type of ease and shot-making and confidence with the putter, things like that.

So it's been a fun year to where I want to use this more as a foundation and springboard for the upcoming few years.

Q. Could you talk about a couple things, Sunday night obviously, was a sad night for all of us with Arnie's passing, but the stage that you're on here and the ability to celebrate in front of the world, could you talk about that and how important he is?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the passing of Arnold is a hole in the game that is not going to be replaced. He brought the game to this level, to this prominence. He brought people to television and drew people in with his charisma.

He made people feel good about themselves through his interpersonal skills and his personal touch, the way he could sense when somebody is uncomfortable and make them feel comfortable, the way he treated with respect by simply looking people in the eyes, acknowledging them, showing signs of appreciation, thanking them for their acts of kindness and their hard work to allow us to play golf; all the little subtleties and nuances of greatness was in him off the golf course, as well as on. He was just really something special, as we all know.

We've all had those personal interactions and we all know when we walked away from Arnold Palmer, he left us feeling good about ourselves. He did that with everybody he came in contact with. He's just one of the best men.

Being able to play The Ryder Cup this week, it means a lot to the U.S. Team. It brings an emotional element and appreciation for what he's done for the game of golf, The Ryder Cup, but the game of golf in general. To play here in Minnesota where people have been so supportive and I think are going to be a big asset for us, to feel that energy that they provide, to feel the excitement that they provide, is going to be a really important boost for the U.S. side in allowing us to play our best.

Q. Obviously it's been a pretty tough run for the U.S. in recent years. How confident are you that that has not created any sort of psychological barrier as far as the players are concerned, particularly with such expectations here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that we are all very excited to be here this week. We have a very different feel and you know, we've had a lot of success together as a unit. Although it has not been at maybe this event, we've certainly had a lot of success in The Presidents Cups. And we've had a lot of success playing together, working together as a unit and bringing out some of our best golf.

I think that when you look back on what the difference is, when we are -- when players are put in a position to succeed, oftentimes, more often than not, they tend to succeed and when they are put in positions to fail, most of the time they tend to fail.

This is a year where we feel as though Captain Love has been putting us in a position to succeed. He's taken input from all parties. He's making decisions that have allowed us to prepare our best and play our best, and I believe that we will play our best.

Now we are playing a very strong European Team and I don't know what that means results-wise, but our best golf will come out this week and that's our goal.

Q. Given what was said at Gleneagles and the massive input you've had through the task force, Paul McGinley said last week you individually were maybe under the most pressure of any individual to succeed here because of the impact you've had. Is that a fair comment? Do you understand that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I can understand why he would say that. I don't necessarily agree with that because what I feel is that this is, in my 20 years, the first time that we are actually involved in the decision-making process. And the decisions we are accountable for every single year, we now have involvement in those decisions and that gives us a whole platform to work forward.

This is the foundation week for us. This is the week where all the past captains, past vice captains, PGA of America officials, caddies, have had involvement in the decision-making process. And from this, we'll work forward and keep continuity into 2018 and from that we'll build on in 2020.

It's very much like the model that the Europeans have done with tremendous success in bringing out their best golf, and I give them a lot of credit in their ability to lift each other up to great heights; to play some of their best golf together in these events, and when you get together as a team and work together, you can achieve much greater success than you ever can as an individual.

And we've seen that for decades from the European side. It's exciting to be part of the groundwork and the foundation of the U.S. side trying to do that now going forward.

Q. You've experienced many wonderful moments in your career. Jordan Spieth painted a wonderful picture for us and seemingly had one commissioned of what it's like to get on the first tee at a Ryder Cup; what is it like and what emotions are flooding through you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's truly one of the greatest experiences in the game of golf as a professional golfer to experience walking to the first tee.

I remember four years ago walking to the first tee with Keegan Bradley for his first Ryder Cup experience, and he's teeing off, and I'm talking to him; he's not hearing a word. His eyes are moving all around and the adrenaline is flowing. And he hit a drive on that first hole that was 375 yards. I had a 78-yard L-wedge shot into that first hole that's 550-plus yards. And that type of adrenaline rush and excitement, you just can't recreate it other than in a Ryder Cup.

Q. You've played for ten of them. How much difference can or does a captain make?
PHIL MICKELSON: Unbelievable. It all starts with the captain. I mean, that's the guy that has to bring together 12 strong individuals and bring out their best and allow them on a platform to play their best. That's the whole foundation of the team. You're saying -- I understand and I hear -- well, guys just need to play better or they just need to putt better. Absolutely you do.

But you play how you prepare. And in major championships, when we win or play well in majors, it's because we prepared properly for those events. And that allowed to us bring out our best golf. And in a Ryder Cup, you have to prepare properly for the event.

Now, I see these looks, like what are you talking about. Let me give you an example, if I may (laughter).

JOHN DEVER: You may.

PHIL MICKELSON: Twelve years ago, okay, in 2004, Tiger and I were paired together and we ended up not playing well. And was that really the -- was that the problem? I mean, maybe. But we were told two days before that we were playing together. And that gave us no time to work together and prepare.

He found out the year before when we played at The Presidents Cup in 2003 that the golf ball I was playing was not going to work for him. He plays a very high-spin ball and I play a very low-spin ball, and we had to come up in two days with a solution.

So I grabbed a couple dozen of his balls, I went off to the side, and tried to learn his golf ball in a four- or five-hour session on kind of an isolated -- one of the other holes out there trying to find out how far the ball goes. And it forced me to stop my preparation for the tournament, to stop chipping and stop putting and stop sharpening my game and stop learning the golf course, in an effort to crash-course and learn a whole different golf ball that we were going to be playing.

And in the history of my career, I have never ball-tested two days prior to a major. I've never done it. It doesn't allow me to play my best. What allows me to play my best is to learn the course, sharpen my touch on the greens, sharpen my chipping out of the rough and ball striking and so forth.

Instead, I'm taking four or five hours and I'm out trying to learn another ball to allow us to play our best. Had we known a month in advance, we might have been able to make it work. I think we probably would have made it work. But we didn't know until two days prior.

Now, I loved -- I'm not trying to throw -- to knock anybody here, because I actually loved how decisive Captain Sutton was. I feel like that's a sign of great leadership to be decisive. Had we had time to prepare, I think we would have made it work and could have had some success.

But that's an example of starting with the captain, that put us in a position to fail and we failed monumentally, absolutely. But to say, well, you just need to play better; that is so misinformed because you will play how you prepare.

Q. You're obviously a leader of this team; I wonder if you can talk to the leadership qualities of Jordan Spieth, obviously he's the youngest on the team but obviously in the position of a new leader, as well?
PHIL MICKELSON: This is the fourth team he's been on, second Ryder Cup, and he's played on two Presidents Cups. It's time for him to take over the leadership role because he's going to be the lead guy for the U.S. Team for many years to come.

He's going to help this team win through his play, but he's also going to help this team be successful through his personality, his ability to get people to buy into what he's saying, to believe in what he's saying, and he's a very instrumental part of the U.S. Team this year, but he's going to be an even bigger part in years to come.

Q. Can you just talk a little bit more about ownership, this word you mentioned earlier. The European Tour players, Rory, Westy, they have owned their half of The Ryder Cup since 1990. PGA TOUR doesn't own its half. Have you felt like guests at your own party? Has that been an issue, part of the issue?
PHIL MICKELSON: You're talking about the financial ownership and I'm talking more about the emotional ownership.

I've had to be accountable for that decision 12 years ago. Even a month ago, I hear there's an analyst on the Golf Channel that accuses me of being a non-team player for having to go out and work on an isolated hole away from the team, away from my preparation.

And I've had to be accountable for that decision of which I was not part of. That's a very frustrating thing. I don't know if you can imagine how frustrating it would be to care so much about something like I do about The Ryder Cup and be accountable for many of the decisions that have taken place when you're not a part of those decisions, and that's what I'm talking about ownership.

This is the first year where we have taken -- one of the first years, I shouldn't say that, because there have been a few times. But we start over every two years has been the problem. We haven't built on anything and had the continuity, and none of our captains have been vice captains except for one over the 20 years, and we haven't had that and we are starting that and it's exciting to be a part of it. That's the ownership part of it that I'm talking about, not the financial part.

JOHN DEVER: Thank you, sir, for your time.

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