April 8, 2003
BILLY MORRIS: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. We want to welcome Phil Mickelson.
Phil, we're delighted to have you with us. Phil is familiar face and a familiar name, not only in Augusta, but professional golf, having won 21 PGA events, four-time Ryder Cup Champion and finished top-10, 6 out of his 10 appearances here at Augusta National Golf Club.
Phil, we're delighted to have you here. Let's start with some questions.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that was quick.
Q. Golf course question: Notably longer than last year about the same as last year given the saturation point out there and what does that do for the guys that blow it high and far?
PHIL MICKELSON: Today's practice round played as long as I've seen the course play. The tees have been brought back on every hole and that was with the colder temperatures and the soft fairways. It played as long as it's ever played because we were no longer able to fly the ball to the peaks of the hills. Number one, you're hitting into that upface, and then the ball would stop. And same on a number of other holes. So it played longer than it ever has.
And 5 certainly played a lot longer this year than it has in years past, and the fairway's much tighter. But these are the conditions that give a player the chance to score the best. Although it's playing long, you have soft greens. And they are greens that you can attack and get the ball stopped close to the hole, as well as be aggressive putting them.
Q. Just today, when you were playing, did you get over into the bunkers on 5, just to see what it looked like, if you happened to get in there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Did I look at them? They were very deep. And interestingly enough, the first bunker was the first and only bunker I've seen here at Augusta National Golf Club that actually has an elevated or a kind of a roll in it. Most bunkers are like on 18, just a straight face. But that first bunker on 5 had a little hump in the middle that would give you not only a shot that you had to be uphill, hit uphill or hit high quick, but you also could have the ball above your feet or below your feet depending upon what side of the hump it was on.
Q. The first one as you're going to the green?
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly.
Q. Is it like they say, all you see is sky?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, it's very deep. It will be very difficult to get it on the surface from there.
Q. Did you throw any in there?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, because I'm planning on not going in there.
Q. That conference call you did for Doral, you were very candid about some of the criticism you received. I'm wondering, when you have a situation like last week -- I don't know whether you saw this -- but when you have a national magazine get six teaching pros to analyze your swing and they find six different things wrong and what they would do to correct it, is it getting a little extreme as to --
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see that. What magazine was that in?
Q. Sports Illustrated.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, was it?
Q. And every one of them found six different things wrong with your swing. And I would assume that if there really was that much wrong, you would never have been here in the first place.
PHIL MICKELSON: So do I criticize their teaching or do they?
Q. I guess but --
PHIL MICKELSON: They keep criticizing my swing.
Q. Has some of this gotten on your nerves or do you just not pay attention to it any more?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have stopped -- I really have stopped worry about it or thinking about it, and the reason is there are golf swings out on tour that are unique to each player. Ray Floyd is a great champion, but you wouldn't try to emulate his back swing.
Jack Nicklaus is a wonderful champion as well, but his right elbow at the top of his swing isn't what you would try to emulate. But those swings are what work for those guys. And if you change it, you change their ability to play well. And if I were to listen to -- I equate it to this: If you're trying to reach an end goal, there are many different ways to reach that end goal. But if you keep going vertically from one path to another you're never moving forward to accomplish your goal. So I've chosen a certain path of my golf swing lie that I can, feel comfortable with. It allows me to play my best and I continue to try to refine it on that same direction on that same path.
Q. I wonder how many of those teaching pros were left-handed, just out of curiosity. Does that --
PHIL MICKELSON: It doesn't make a difference, no. I think if you're a really good teacher -- and I don't know what teachers dissected that -- but if you were a good teacher you could teach either side of the golf ball because right and left don't really come into effect. Right arm/left arm, as much as forward leg/rear leg, forward arm/rear arm, so forth.
Q. There's a belief or theory out there that when a guy comes to a tournament like this under the radar a little bit without expectations, it's easier for them to win because they don't have the pressure and all that. Do you buy into that at all and do you see any of that for you this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, let's see, the winner of the last two years didn't slip in under the radar, by any means. He played pretty well.
(Laughter.) But there is some truth to that. And that it's easier to prepare, be ready mentally when you don't have as many distractions, as many questions to answer, as many autographs to sign. It's easier to spend more time preparing on the range, on the putting green, without interruption. And that can often times lead to a player performing better.
Q. Could you talk a little about your layoff and what you did and what it's like to be back and where you are.
PHIL MICKELSON: We had a baby.
Q. I know that.
PHIL MICKELSON: And?
Q. I was talking about before you were talking about it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we actually expected the birth to come the week of Doral and Amy had gone into labor twice that week, as a matter of fact, and unbeknownst to us there was something that prevented her from -- or the baby from coming. So we had to actually break her water. Without inducement, she wouldn't have gone into labor. So I expected to play the Players Championship. I thought that we would have the baby the week of Doral. Our goal was to just get her pregnancy to March. We thought that that would be a great timeline, given that we thought the baby was going to come early. And he just, he never came. He just hung in there. And finally when he was more than full term, we went in and induced labor. And so that prohibited me from playing the Players Championship.
But I had a chance to play last week, and although I didn't play well, it was an important chance for me to play competitively and get in kind of a competitive frame of mind.
Q. What were your impression of Ricky Barnes, as a former US Amateur champion yourself? He's kind of walking in your shoes. What advice would you give him playing in the first Masters, for him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Ricky Barnes is an incredible player. He's a very talented player. And as a matter of fact, he has been somewhat of an inspiration for me to get in the gym. Because I look at young guys coming through college, and the physical strength that they have now and the ability to swing the club so much faster than many of us out on Tour today, and I used that as a motivation for me to get in the gym to work out, get stronger, and be able to take advantage of some of the technology now days.
He has an incredible workout regime and he has the ability to do whatever it takes to play well. And I've always thought that that is a very motivated individual.
Q. Out there today did you play the ball as it lay or did you wipe and clean?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wiped lot of the mud off, yeah. It wasn't going to do me any good to hit shots with a bunch of mud on it.
Q. Do you think they will change that rule?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. We'll play it down with mud.
Q. You already know that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I don't know that, but they have never done it in the past. History just tells us that we'll play it down. We may have lift, cleaned, and placed awhile ago, but I don't believe we'll do it again.
Q. After going through an emotional experience like having a baby, how difficult was it to come back and refocus on your game? And where are you at emotionally? A hundred percent?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that I'm a hundred percent competitively, based on my performance last week. It was more difficult than I thought to get back into it. As much time I had spent with my family, it was that much harder to leave them when it was time to go. And I hadn't been in a very competitive frame of mind.
And starting last week with the greens as hard and fast as any tournament we have played this year on Tour, it was a very difficult week to get back into it. Because any of the courses that I play a practice on, obviously the greens are much slower and softer. So that type of course conditioning was difficult to get adjusted to. But I'm glad I did because it would be a shock coming here without it.
Q. Are your expectations as high coming into this event, given you had that layoff and the way you played last week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, expectations, as far as result, I'm not going to worry about. I think that for me to play well or my mindset going in is that I'm just going to try as best as I can. I feel like I'm playing okay. And I'll try as hard as I can over every shot over 72 holes and I'm not really going to worry about the outcome or the result.
Q. Butch was on The Golf Channel a couple weeks ago and said in no uncertain terms that he feels like you're obsessed with distance. Do you think that's accurate or do you think you are an equipment junky? Do you see yourself that way? Could you gear down and hit more fairways? And what's your take on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when you say "hit more fairways," I would love to hit more fairways. As many drivers as I hit, my driving stats will never show that I hit a lot of fairways. And it's because I'm hitting too a much smaller fairway most of the time and I have less margin of error. But last year I hit one fairway out of a hundred less than Tiger did, and he, if you judge, if you use him as a barometer, as many times more as I hit driver, to hit only one less fairway, that to me is not where I need areas of improvement.
Distance, I wouldn't say that I'm obsessed with it, but I see the game changing. I'm looking five, ten years down the road. And I see these guys coming out of college with strength that are ultimately going to be long drive champions who can chip and putt and who can play. And you look at Hank Kuehne's performance last week, Hank Kuehne can fly the ball 345 yards. And when he is able to chip and putt as good as anybody in the world, he will be, you know, beatable.
So that is the next generation of players. And for me to keep pace with that, I have to get stronger. I have to hit the ball farther, because that is the only style of play that I like to play. I am never going to be a Fred Funk. I'm never going to hit 80 percent of the fairways, hitting it 270 or 260 off the tee. So the game is evolving, it's changing. And you have to adapt or change with it.
Look at how driving distance has changed the last 10 years. I remember when I came on tour, 272 or 274 was leading in distance. And now 272 would be the bottom, the bottom five percentile. 300 yard drives are the norm and it's going to get longer. Even if equipment doesn't change, if you take today's ball's and today's drivers, the athletes are going to get better and stronger and be able to take advantage of it and fly it like Hank Kuehne does, 345 yards. And if you don't keep up, or I don't, I'm going to be out of a job.
Q. How difficult is it to win two in a row of anything out here let alone three in a row in a Major? And does this guy use that even more as a motivator? Do you see that in him, that because people say he can't, he does?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I haven't seen him this week. I know he came in earlier to play. I think that only two other people have done what he's done, winning this tournament back to back. And he's trying, he's attempting to do something that's never been done. But that's never stopped him before. In fact, it has been a motivating factor, to do things that have never been done. So I would be surprised if he played less than his best.
Q. You admitted on Sunday after Buick that you really didn't have your game. Your game wasn't that good, even though you got in the final group after Saturday and didn't really play like you wanted to play. Where is your game now in regards to where it was at Buick?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I really don't know. Sorry.
Q. There are people saying Tiger's best is even better than it was in 2000. Is that a little scary to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if that's true or not. Fear is not really probably the best word. Impressive, yeah, that's very impressive if it is, yeah.
Q. Getting back to the layoff, the fact that you've gone through this twice before, does that help know what you got to expect and how long you should expect things to come and what did you name your child?
PHIL MICKELSON: The baby was Evan Samual. What was the first part?
Q. The fact that you've been through this a couple of times, this is child number three, does that help any knowing that you know what to expect?
PHIL MICKELSON: About having kids?
Q. No, about coming back, coming back from a layoff like that where you've got that distraction and how long it takes to get your focus back.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I'm not -- I don't really understand that totally, the question, but I think that when you have a family, when you have other priorities in your life, it's important to develop strategic time management and use your time wisely so that when I practice and have practice sessions, they might not be as long in duration but they're more focused and more intense. And that when I have time with my family I make the most of it and make sure that we do things constructively and so forth rather than just lay around.
So because we have a third kid, for me to play at my best, for me to be the father that I want to be, I have to have good time management.
Q. Are you content with your game or concerned about it coming in here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm never content. I wouldn't say I'm concerned. I think that I'm looking forward for Thursday. That's kind of the way I would see it. That I wish tomorrow was Thursday instead of Wednesday.
Q. Given what you've said about how the game has changed and if you look at this course and how long it is, and then a short hitter or the shot makers, can they win here? Especially --
PHIL MICKELSON: It's very unlikely. What's interesting about the four Majors is that each Major tests a certain area. The U.S. Open tests your ability to hit fairways, to hit greens, to keep the ball in play. The British Open tests your ability to control the ball in wind and trajectory on the PGA, it varies. Sometimes it's accuracy, sometimes it's distance.
But here at Augusta National Golf Club, it's very evident that you need to be able to hit the ball long. And it tests your ability to hit the ball far, high and soft and be creative around the greens. And I think that's why winning the career slam is so impressive, because you have to be such a complete player to win all four Majors. But this one clearly stresses distance, and although certainly a less than long hitter can win here, and certainly they have contended and have won here in the past, the odds are that a long hitter will win.
Q. One left-hander has won a Major, Bob Charles. Who do you foresee as the next one?
PHIL MICKELSON: I can't tell if you're being facetious or if you want me to really answer that.
Q. Very serious. Very serious. Yes.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well.
Q. There is not just one out there, there are five or six pretty good players.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm going to leave that one unanswered. I think we all know the answer to that.
Q. A few weeks ago Ernie Els was talking about obviously he's been -- he's coming off a little bit of a disappointment spell and he's obviously -- he's been hot this year, he was talking about in terms of challenging Tiger, that kind of now is the time, it's now or never kind of thing for him.
Do you feel that at all in terms of -- I mean, you're still a young guy, but do you feel the window closing to any degree in terms of trying to put a dent into his dominance or whatever.
PHIL MICKELSON: I have stopped looking at it as such. I don't think that it is my job or any other player's job to try to challenge another individual. And what I have started to look at is, this is a chance for me to try to play at a different level of golf, with a different mental approach, with a more of an aggressive mindset and more of a strategic mindset to be able to shoot lower scores. And we're seeing some scores that have never been shot in tournament golf before.
The U.S. Open in 2000 at Pebble Beach, that would have never been possible years ago. And I think that I look at it as just a challenge for myself to try to play my best. And I don't know if that will or will not be good enough to challenge another individual, but you can't look at it as though you're competing against a different person, because as Bobby Jones used to say, he was always competing against Old Man Par, even in match play. And that's the way a player needs to look at it, is how low can he shoot, not what is that player doing, can I score that low. That's not always the case.
There are days when Tiger's not playing well when guys can score lower than what he shoots. So if you judge by his score, then you're not playing your best golf.
Q. And can it also be distracting? If you are worrying about him rather than your deal?
PHIL MICKELSON: It could be. It could distract any player from playing their best, sure.
Q. Ever since last year there's been a lot of anticipation about what effect if any the controversy surrounding this club's membership policies would have once Masters week finally rolled around. Now that you're here, from a player's perspective, can you describe what effect it's had?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think that the affect will be felt until the outside-the-gate protesting starts and so forth. But to date I haven't seen any difference.
Q. You talked about no longer looking at it as trying to pursue Tiger, was that something that you did do at a time and how did that transition for you happen?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I didn't really ever think of it like that before, but all that is discussed is, can anyone challenge so and so. Can anyone compete with him. Can anybody do this like him. And that's not the best way for a player to judge his game or his ability to play and if they want to play their best.
Q. You've been out here for awhile now. A lot of Majors you played. Could you describe your excitement/nervousness level as less, the same or more as when you first came out on Tour, now that you're here at another Major, another Masters?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's very difficult to play well when you're excited. I would say that I look forward to the Majors as much as I ever have. But when I get to the championship, I am much more calm than I used to be. Five, six years ago I would be very fidgety, very antsy, when I would show up ready to play on a Thursday through Sunday.
And before when I got to a Major, I would wonder, is my game going to be there, am I going to hit the shots I need to, are the putts going to fall. And now when I get to a Major championship I feel much more confident. I'm much more calm, that it allows me to play better, but also I have a lot more confidence that if I just play my game I'll have a chance or be in contention on the weekend. And I don't feel like I'm worried now on whether or not the putts are going to fall or what I'll hit the shots I need to.
Q. Given that you talked about your growing family and how important it is to you, does that lessen the importance of winning a Major?
PHIL MICKELSON: Family and career I try to leave separate. One of them shouldn't change the perspective on the other. And as a professional golfer I try to differentiate what goes on on the course and what goes on off the course. And so I try not to let one influence the other.
Q. Kind of a follow-up to that, Tiger's father had said that he wanted him to stay single for a long time because he felt like getting married and having kids could take away from his game. I'm just wondering from someone who has three kids and obviously is very involved in your family, is it a disadvantage at all to have family and be competing against a guy whose whole mindset is just playing golf all the time?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Jack Nicklaus had four kids at this age and he had a pretty good career, so I think that if you manage your time well the way he has done, the way Jack did, you can be just as good in your career as if you were single.
Q. What is your workout regimen now? How long have you been doing it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Let's see, since October what is that? Six months. Seven months. About seven months. And I don't want to get into the details, but just strength and conditioning and core work and self defense and so forth. So speed and strength.
Q. And is it approximately how long?
PHIL MICKELSON: A day?
Q. An hour?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yeah. Hour and a half, two hours.
Q. Okay. Seems like every time you or any other player goes in a press conference 50 percent of the questions always either have something to do with Tiger or mention Tiger's name. As a player on Tour, for you specifically, are you and every other guy, does that have an effect? Do you ever think about, everything's always about Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, you just mentioned his name three times so that would be like 65 percent of the time.
(Laughter.) That's just part of professional golf right now.
Q. What's your opinion on the membership policy here at Augusta National Golf Club?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not going to get into that.
Q. Wondering if at a certain stage in your amateur/college career when you would be out here, was there a Major that you thought you would win first that suited your game best and has this Major become the hardest one to win because of the difference in the course now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that this one has -- I've always thought would be the best opportunity for me to win a Major. I think my record is better in this championship than it is the other Majors. It's very well suited to my game and in that I'm able to hit drivers on all the holes. I'm able to take advantage of creativity around the greens. I have a pretty good feel on these fast greens and the parts of the game that this course stresses, which is again distance, driving the ball well, iron shots into the green, high and soft, and length. I think that that gives me the best chance to win this tournament over the other Majors. The second part of your question was?
Q. Has this become the hardest Major to win?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's actually -- because of the course changes, it has allowed a longer hitter an even greater opportunity to win here, because the shorter player is hitting such a longer club into these holes now that it's a huge disadvantage. Not just a little one.
Q. What in your opinion is the best Masters you've ever played personally, in your opinion? And then also have you ever played a Major here or anywhere elsewhere you felt you played the best and just didn't win?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were two Majors, Cliff, that I thought I played really good golf throughout 72 holes. The '99 open at Pinehurst. And the 2001 PGA Championship in Atlanta. I played very well. I felt I had great control over my ball flight, might tee shots, short game, everything. I felt I managed my game well. And those two championships I was beaten by a shot and those were the most difficult to take.
I actually played very well in the '96 Masters, the first two days, at the time when Greg Norman ran away with it and then Faldo caught him on Sunday and beat him. I had shot 65 that first round and was playing very well on some tough conditions and didn't play -- I had a player run past me and I got a little bit out of my comfort zone. I started taking some chances and making some mistakes that I shouldn't have made and that cost me there.
BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you so much. And Phil, thank you. And good luck to you this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you.
End of FastScripts....