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June 11, 2018
Southampton, New York
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 2018 U.S. Open Championship at Shinnecock Hills Golf Club. Very pleased to have with us this afternoon Phil Mickelson, who is here playing in his 27th U.S. Open, more than anyone in the field.
Phil, I know I recite that number every year, and you kind of smile and shake your head. Can you reflect on the fact that this is your 27th U.S. Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's gone by quick. I remember playing my first one at Medinah, 1990, and how fast the years have gone by. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago, but I look forward to and excited to play these events. And, gosh, I just can't believe the time has flown by so fast.
THE MODERATOR: And this is your third U.S. Open at Shinnecock Hills. Tied for fourth in 1995 and finished second in 2004. Can you talk about coming back to the course and your impressions? I know you've been here in the weeks leading up to the Championship. Just your impressions of the course for 2018.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that this is certainly my favorite -- one of my favorite courses. It's the best setup, in my opinion, that we've seen, and the reason I say that is all areas of your game are being tested. There are some birdie holes. There's some really hard pars. There's some fairways that are easy to hit, fairways that are tough to hit.
The chipping and short game around the greens are going to be a huge factor this week. The challenge of the greens being extended and all the contours will continue to take balls further from the hole. You end up in fairway and have a shot, albeit a difficult one.
And I feel like your short game's going to be challenged. Putting will be challenged, as well as ball striking, irons, driver. I feel as though the luck of a course has been taken out as much as possible to where skill is the primary factor. I think we're going to have a great leaderboard and a great tournament.
THE MODERATOR: Thanks very much. We'll open it to questions.
Q. Hi, Phil. You had said that you think it's one of the best setups ever for a U.S. Open. Can you talk about how this setup favors your particular game?
PHIL MICKELSON: The reason why I'm excited about the setup is short game is going to be a huge factor. If you do miss a green, it will stay in fairway. It will stay where touch will be a factor.
But I love how that has been brought into it, rather than the hack out of the rough, hope it comes out okay factor.
Q. Phil, do you feel you have some unfinished business from the last time you were here, finishing second? So close.
PHIL MICKELSON: So I can say that a few times in this tournament. I love the challenge. I mean, I really love the challenge, and I love that I have another opportunity to try and complete the career grand slam.
My goal, though, is not to try to win on Thursday. My goal is to stay in it Thursday, stay in it Friday, and have an opportunity for the weekend.
So I'm not really thinking about winning right now. I'm thinking about getting in it for the weekend. But certainly, the final leg for me of completing the grand slam is this event.
Q. You played with Tony Finau the first two rounds last week. His length off the tee gets a lot of attention, but I was wondering if there are any other strengths in his game that maybe go unnoticed or overlooked.
PHIL MICKELSON: He's become a complete player. He obviously has power, but what he's really developed is his ability to hit shots into targets, to work his short irons, to maneuver the ball, bring it in high, low, take spin off, add spin. So he's able to play all different types of golf courses and play them effectively because he's become such a complete player now.
Q. Phil, when the wind isn't threatening to bring down the Media Center, what impact does it have on the course, and what impact does it have when it doesn't blow here?
PHIL MICKELSON: The biggest impact that the wind has on the golf course are the pin positions because, when holes that are severe, like No. 7, blows -- when the green is blowing downwind, downhill, the ball won't stay; but when the wind is blowing uphill, the ball will stay.
So the wind actually plays a huge factor in allowing the course to be playable and allowing for certain pin placements, and the direction will be a big part of the setup this week. The wind will ultimately, I think, affect where some of the pin placements are.
Q. How much, Phil, does it help your pursuit of this last leg being at Shinnecock, where you have such a good history, being at Pebble next year and Winged Foot, this stretch of three?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, these three provide me a great opportunity to finish out this final leg. Certainly, with the way I've been playing this year and at the consistency level, as well as at a much higher level than I've played the last few years, gives me a great opportunity.
But the last thing I'm thinking about right now is trying to win. I'm trying to get myself in position for the weekend because, when you try to go out and win a U.S. Open, you will lose it quick.
So I'm trying to just position myself these first couple of days, get through the first challenge of Thursday, Friday, and have a chance on the weekend because a lot happens on the weekend, especially after the cut when you start eliminating players.
Q. Have you ever tried to win a U.S. Open on Thursday?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, and I was home Friday night.
Q. Phil, what do you remember about the final round, if anything, from 2004? What do you think the turning point was with you and Retief coming down the stretch?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly, the turning point was my double on 17 because I had just birdied three of the last four holes to get myself in position to win the tournament. But the double I made on 17 was the biggest factor. I mean, unfortunately, it was a bad time.
Q. Thinking back to 2004 and now coming here, how much of what you did that week, in terms of yardages, notes, memories, how much of that is applicable to the golf course now? Or has the lengthening and the change on the green, green mowing, altered how you approach this golf course?
PHIL MICKELSON: So the notes that I had in 2004 are all accurate. In fact, they were 100 percent the same from 2004 as they are today. But the notes that I took weren't precise, like this putt breaks X amount. The notes were that you must stay here for this pin, you must go here for this pin, the odds of getting up and down from this spot are 50 percent, 10 percent.
So it just guided me on where I need to be for different pin placements and how I want to attack the hole, and that stayed the same from 2004.
Q. Hey, Phil, what makes the 10th hole so tough here? How do you play it? Where does it rank in terms of toughness of all 18 here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not. It's a nice 3 wood down the hill, a sand wedge onto the green, and I'm going to one-putt it three out of four days. It's not hard at all.
THE MODERATOR: Phil, you were not with us last year. You stayed in California for your daughter's high school graduation. Did you watch the U.S. Open throughout the week? Any thoughts about sort of watching it as a spectator?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did watch some of it. I remember watching just the impressive round by Justin Thomas on Saturday and the incredible driving and power of Brooks on Sunday.
It was fun to watch. I don't get a chance to watch Major Championship golf on TV too often. To see the way and how well these guys played last year was impressive.
Q. Phil, you've brought up a couple times how much your emphasis is on Thursday. I mean, almost to making a point of it. Is this something that you've done at most Majors, or is it something that you're just really emphasizing this year and for what reason?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing in particular. There's no real specific reason. It's just that I don't want to get ahead of myself, and I don't want to start thinking about results. I just want to go out and play a solid round on Thursday, given the conditions, and shoot a number that's good relative to what the conditions of the course are and worry about trying to close it out on the weekends.
The way you get in trouble here is you anticipate too much and you get too far ahead. Right now, I just want to enjoy these first couple of days of preparation and go shoot a number on Thursday, not get ahead of myself, and hopefully give myself a chance on the weekends.
Q. Hey, Phil, I know you're concentrating on your own thing, but with regard to Jordan Spieth, he's struggled a little bit with his putting, which not long ago was the hallmark of his game. Can you just talk about how that kind of thing comes and goes a little bit and what you've done in the past to try to get it back? And if you can comment on just Jordan's game as well.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would say that Jordan is a great putter that will have occasional moments of poor putting, and those will go away quickly, and he'll be back to a great putter. Many guys out on Tour are poor putters that have a few moments of great putting. He's just one of those guys that it will click overnight.
These moments of putting not to his level of expectation will go away quickly. He's just too good of a putter not to get it back.
Q. Phil, you mentioned that the golf course is going to really test basically every facet of your game. Are you planning on making any equipment changes to sort of try and handle that? You mentioned short game, runoff areas, lots of wedges. Anything going into the bag specially this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly looked at that in my days preparing for this event, but I haven't made any significant changes or added any changes in equipment. It's the same setup that I've had.
I did look at it. I had three or four potential clubs I was thinking might work out here, but when I got here, the normal setup was going to do just fine, meaning I have a 2 iron that I fly roughly 250 yards. That's going to be used a lot off the tee if the fairways are firm. The 3 wood I'll use a lot off the tee if the fairways are soft.
The driver I'll use three or four times on certain holes and possibly more or less, depending on pin placements.
So I've kind of looked at that, but I did not need a specialty club off the tee or around the greens. Because of the shaved area, because so many shots are going uphill before it goes downhill, chipping around the greens, a basic 60 degree wedge, basic bounds, all the normal stuff will be in play this week. There was no specialty club.
Q. Phil, can you talk a little bit about the distance added, particularly on the par 4 14th, what you think of that, the tee's way back, and then on up to the par 5 16th.
PHIL MICKELSON: So you've heard me reiterate in the past, I like to make the hard holes harder and the easy holes easier. So when they take 14, which is a very hard par 4, and they make it harder and move the tee back, I actually like that a lot because it allows for the players that are playing well to make up strokes on the field by making pars.
The fact that the front to the green are open on that hole, very fair hole. It's a hard par. But if you make a par there, you'll make half a shot up on the field.
16 is one of two par 5s. It's one of very few birdie opportunities. And to move the tee back to 620 yards, which is the total MO of the USGA, they do it every course, I don't agree with.
I think we should have some birdie opportunities. And to eliminate one of the very few that are out here and make it a difficult par is not something I agree with. But I've developed kind of a game plan on how to play that hole most effectively relative to the field, and it won't need to be very much under par.
Q. Phil, there was a lot of expectation on you at the very start of your career when you turned professional. Took a little while perhaps to get that first Major. But do you feel, looking back on it now -- and I know you've got some more years to go -- that you underachieved or overachieved, or where do you feel you are with that legacy of your game? And does the U.S. Open have anything to do with fulfilling any of that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's too early to reflect. I'm still in the process of collecting more wins, and it's too early for me to really say either way.
Q. Phil, what value should be placed on protecting the par (no microphone).
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a very difficult job to find the line of testing the best players to the greatest degree and then making it carnival golf.
I think it's a very fine line, and it's not a job I would want. And I know that the USGA is doing the best they can to find that line, and a lot of times they do, and sometimes they cross over it, but it's not an easy job. It's easy for all of us to criticize.
The difficulty is, when you dream of a championship as a child -- whether it's U.S. Open or the Masters, whatever event -- and you dream of winning these tournaments as a child and you work hours and hours and you fly in days and days and do all this prep work, and then you are left to chance the outcome, as opposed to skill, that's a problem. That's the problem that I have with it.
For instance, Saturday in 2004, the barometer for watering the 7th green was did anybody make double or triple? So if nobody double or triple bogeyed in the group in front of you, the green did not get water. If your group made a double or triple, the green got water for the group behind you.
That type of chance is -- it bothers me, given that we put so much into this tournament and the dreams and the hopes. And to have it left to something like that is disappointing. But I don't mean to discount anything, because I know what a tough job it is to find that fine line.
Q. Just as disconnected, but as a follow, Phil, given your history in this championship, how, if at all, has your desire changed now versus when you first competed in it, to win this championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's the same to win this championship because when I first came out, I just wanted to win any Major. Any Major would have been great. Any tournament, any Major. It wasn't U.S. Open specific or Masters. It was any Major.
Now that I've won the other three Majors, it's U.S. Open specific. I would love to win this one to win all four. That's certainly a goal and nothing I'm shying away from.
But, again, the more I think about winning, the more it detracts away from my focus and the process of playing a round on Thursday. So I don't really want to try to win right now. I just want to get in for the weekend.
Q. Phil, you always have good things to say about this place whenever anyone asks you. It's never, oh, that's where I got the double bogey on 17. How do you focus on the positives and not on your disappointments?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I use the disappointments as a learning experience. For instance, in 1995, I played 16 6 over par. I lost by -- I don't know exactly, but I want to say four shots. If I played that hole even, I could have won.
In my mind back then, a par 5 was a hole you had to make birdie on. And now, as I have kind of evolved, I look back and use that negative as a learning experience to help me play better this week.
A par, or if I play that hole even for the week, if the back tee is used every day, I'm going to make up ground on the field, and I find myself not forcing the issue to make birdie. So I use those negatives as kind of a learning experience, if you will.
THE MODERATOR: Phil Mickelson, thank you so much. Pleasure to have you with us, as always.
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