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April 9, 2019
THE MODERATOR: Ladies and gentlemen, it's our pleasure to welcome three‑time Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson to the press building.
Welcome back, Phil, and thank you for your time. This represents the 15th year from your first Masters victory and also your first major victory. I guess one of the things we'd like to know is where does that rank among your career highlights, and two, what do you remember from that tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's so fun for me to come back to this special place and reminisce and think about those special victories. But the 2004 Masters was one of the greatest moments of my career, and the excitement of winning, as well as the‑‑ having the pressure put off, to finally win a major, felt great.
I look back and relive that jump and relive that moment. It was just a special, special time.
THE MODERATOR: This season has also featured highlights for you, including your 44th victory at the AT&T Pebble Beach. You've had such success here in Augusta; how do you feel going into this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: This is a place that you drive up Magnolia Lane and things just change for everyone. You just have that special feeling, that special remembrance of when you were a kid and dreaming of coming here and playing, and it brings out oftentimes the best in everyone.
I'm certainly hoping that's the case here. I enjoyed that tournament, AT&T, very much. I think there's a very similar style of play during those weeks as there is here, and I'm looking forward to getting on this golf course where I don't feel so handcuffed that I can go ahead and let loose a little bit.
Q. How has your preparation been? I know you came up last week for a few days, and now we've had this weather. How does that change it, and how has it been going?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's an interesting year with our schedule change and I think that the TOUR has done a phenomenal job of altering the schedule to really make it the best product for the public and to make it exciting and so forth.
But there are some individual challenges that I've had to deal with, and one of them is that I usually like to play a week before the major and I'm having to alter that a little bit this year.
And so how am I going to try to get my best performance this week the week before; so I came here four days last week and spent four days on the course, and did a lot of course prep and so forth. Then went home and worked on my game and so, we'll see.
I think that I'm just as curious as anybody. It's a chance to be fresh and ready, but it's also a chance to be maybe not as sharp. I'm just not quite sure how it's going to play out.
Q. I was watching your practice this morning. It seems to me that you were trying to keep your clubface more stable through impact. Is that correct?
PHIL MICKELSON: I usually like to be as unstable as possible (laughter) but today I was changing that up, yes, tried to make it a little more stable.
So I'm agreeing with you, yes (chuckling). I think today, and granted, I was hitting some balls in the rain. All I wanted to do today was just speed it up, get my speed up, make sure that I'm sharp; that I can accelerate, and hit it the distance that I want to. I anticipate it being warm. I anticipate distance being a big factor, and if it rains, distance will be an even bigger factor, so I want to make sure my speed such. That's what today's session was. Just top out and see how fast I could get it, and then try to build up to maximize speed throughout the week.
I think if I drive it well, my short irons, wedge play, putter will take over. That's kind of the hope; I've been working on those, as well. For me, if I drive it well, I should have a good week.
Q. Rory is obviously getting a lot of attention this week, playing well, trying to round out the career Grand Slam. Can you speak to the balance of believing your game is in a good enough position to win a major but being able to cope mentally if it turns out not to be your week?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's always a challenge when you put so much emphasis on playing a particular event, but it's also the chance to bring out your best, and he's had such a phenomenal start to the year, he's been playing such great golf consistently week‑in and week‑out; I think contending will be a given. He'll be in contention.
You just need those little breaks, little putts here or there to go in, little things to happen that push you over the winner's circle and that's probably all that he's waiting for this week. You can't force it. It just has to happen.
Q. How much do you notice patrons or other players not having their phones out this week compared to other weeks?
PHIL MICKELSON: The people, the fans on Tour have done a great job of putting it on silent, so even though you see phones, you don't flinch or worry about it. It hasn't really been an issue too much.
I feel like the knowledge of the spectators and fans have increased so much that it has not been an issue, and so I don't anticipate it being much different, even though nobody has phones out here today.
I think when we first went to that rule years ago, allowing cell phones on the course, I was certainly worried. But it increased the fan experience so much that I've kind of changed my thought on it. I think it's really been a good thing for the TOUR and I think at some point, the knowledge base of the fans here will be such where they will be able to have their phones and not ‑‑ because they will have it on silent. It won't affect play at all.
Q. Just wondering what you thought about the new and improved No. 5, and if given the increasing difficulty there, and I'm just wondering if that little corner, 4,5 and 6 might be deserving of a nickname like a certain corner on the other side of the course.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the stretch of 4, 5 and 6 has always been a difficult stretch that you try to get through in par. You try to use the first hole, 2 and 3, try to get under par, make your way through 4, 5 and 6, and then you always looked at 7 and 8 as a birdie hole. You don't look at 7 as that birdie hole anymore but you try to make one up on 8 or 9 coming in.
I think 4, 5, 6, 7 is a very difficult four‑hole stretch and making a little bit harder I think is a good thing. I always like making hard holes harder and I think guys that are playing well will be able to make par there much easier and pick up a quarter or half a stroke on the field that are not able to make par and I think ultimately, that's a good thing.
Q. Tiger was in here a little while ago and he was talking about how his win at East Lake kind of reinforced that he could still win and do this again. Obviously you just won a couple months ago.
Even for guys as accomplished as you guys are, does it take, you know, that to reinforce that, and, you know, with your confidence, and if so, you know, what does that do for you going ahead, like, for example, for you this week, you know, what does that do for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a big thing heading into this week to have won a tournament; Tiger winning THE TOUR Championship, myself winning the AT&T; having that little successes, those mini successes are an important thing to increase your chances here at Augusta. You never know how it's going to play out, how the weather is going to play out and so forth. You need some good breaks, but I think it's a big thing heading in to have that confidence of having won for a player.
Q. Brooks Koepka was in here earlier and relayed a story of when he attended here as a kid staked out the parking lot and you turned down an autograph.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, well he shouldn't have been there. I think I told him that, too (laughter).
Q. I was going to say, one, why didn't you sign, but you answered that. In fairness, too, you've been out here long enough that guys have been coming out on Tour telling you how they were trying to get your autograph as a kid. What's that journey like for you, and seeing them winning majors? How do you like that? Do you like it, dislike it, does it make you feel old, not old, what?
PHIL MICKELSON: When reporters ask you about stuff like that, it makes me feel old, sure, so thank you for bringing that up.
It's fun for me to play with these young guys and to see their game develop. It's actually fun stories that guys like Brooks Koepka, who's won, what, three majors now recently, has been out here following as a kid. It's a little weird but it's pretty cool, too, and to be able to play with him and see his greatness shine and to be a somewhat part of that or a witness to it as well as compete against it, it's been fun.
I enjoy that. There's a lot of good, young players like that that I have a lot of respect for that were barely born, or if not, weren't born when I started playing the Tour.
Q. Last week, we had a very historic tournament over here, Augusta National Women's Amateur. Before the tournament, I had spoken to a few of the girls about one shot from the Masters that they would like to play during the practice round over here on Friday, and surprisingly a large number of girls said that it would be your shot from the 13th hole. Two‑part question. One is, how cool do you think that kind of a legacy is, and secondly, what did you think about the Augusta National Women's Amateur?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think the two biggest growth areas in the game of golf are with juniors and with women, and this tournament and this place here at Augusta National has made efforts to help grow interest and give young ladies and young kids something to aspire to at a young age, and I think that's a very big thing.
Because when I was a kid, I would dream of playing in the Masters and I watched Seve win and I would dream of that, and it gave me something to work towards, to dream about during my practice sessions. It's a big thing when you're young to have dreams like that, and to the opportunity to play here and compete in the Drive, Chip & Putt Championship or to play in a Women's Amateur event here, or any event here, gives you something to aspire to.
I think that's a big thing in helping promote the interest in the game in the two largest growth areas.
Q. And the legacy of your shot on 13?
PHIL MICKELSON: The shot on 13, I wonder if any of them tried it from that spot. What's interesting about that is it would have been a hooked lie for a right‑handed player and they would have to open the face to fit it through that gap, and I think it would have been a heck of a lot tougher shot opening the face than for me, which I was able to close the face and get a little more coverage on the ball out of the pine needles. I think it was an easier shot for a left‑handed player than it would have been for a right‑handed player.
Q. Now that Tiger has shown he can win again on the TOUR and is throwing the throwback turtleneck to bring back his old game, how would you assess his chances of ever passing Jack for the majors title now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just wouldn't rule him out. I've seen him do things with a golf ball and perform at a level higher than anything I've seen in the game. I just would never rule him out.
And to see him play the way he did with such control at THE TOUR Championship and compete in the majors the way he did at the British and PGA, I just think that greatness is still in him, and I would never rule him out.
Q. From a personal point of view, how do you handle Masters week? Is it a family week for you or is it all business?
PHIL MICKELSON: It depends on how spring break falls with our kids. Spring break was last week, so a lot of the kids won't be able to come out until the weekend, if at all. This week I just kind of do my own thing and have scheduled practice sessions and how I want to get ready and be prepared and recovery stuff and workout stuff and so forth. So each minute of the day is pretty much regimented for me. So it's not like we have a lot of hang time.
But one of my fond memories was in 2010 was when my middle daughter and I would go grab coffee before the rounds at this little coffee shop that's not there anymore and we would play chess four or five hours before the round.
Those moments are something that I kind of cherish. You saw the one way where I was in jacket at Krispy Kreme, that's a little bit too close to home, that's kind of like who I am, right, that was a special moment.
Those little moments, like the greatest moments in life are those spontaneous moments with your family and we've had a lot of those special moments here at Augusta, and I love looking back on those.
Q. As players get older, we concentrate on if they are going to be able to hit the ball as far as they used to but I wonder if you think an older player can improve putting; can you get back to be the putter that you once were when you were rolling them in from everywhere?
PHIL MICKELSON: 100 percent. I remember five years ago, I was struggling with the putter. I was terrible in stats. And then I had, the last two or three years, I've been Top‑10 in just about every stat, by working on it and figuring some stuff out and spending the time on it.
I think that players that have had success can figure it out. It just takes a little bit of effort, a little bit of analysis, a little bit of effort, and I think you can turn back the clock.
But there's no reason now with the knowledge we have in fitness, the knowledge we have in biomechanics and the knowledge we have with nutrition and so forth, that we at a much older age than in the past, we should be able to perform at a very high level.
Q. I think so many of us had a good laugh about the Jake Owens story. Curious if you could tell us your side of it and what happened.
PHIL MICKELSON: About the what story?
Q. About Jordan's wedding.
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it happened exactly like he said. Jake nailed it, verbatim. Rickie Fowler and I were talking, he was right there, Jake had a bunch of buddies behind him and thought he would show off a little bit and I kind of shot him down, so, yeah.
I can't tell it any better than he can. You know, it's much better coming from him. I didn't know he was going to talk about it publically, but yeah, I mean, it's all true. It happened exactly like he said.
Q. On Friday you're playing your 100th career round here at Augusta National. Just wondering what that milestone means to you, and if you expect that there might be things out there that might still surprise you about this course.
PHIL MICKELSON: There's always little subtle changes each year, two greens usually get redone a little bit and there's always little subtleties and nuances that you have to relearn. Every time I come out here and practice, I pick up a little something here or there that I did not know on how to play a certain shot from a certain position to a certain pin.
But greens No. 5 and 18 were slightly, were redone, and there were subtle changes, subtle break changes, and it was important that I pick up on that and see that. I like to write down some notes, so looking at my notes, they seem to change and evolve quite a bit over the years.
Q. And the 100th career round milestone, what does that mean to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't even know that until you brought it up. I've been fortunate to play a lot of rounds here, and I cherish and love every one of them, even the practice rounds.
Q. How is the driver behaving over the practice rounds here? Do you feel any different with it than you have with previous drivers here, and you alluded to it earlier but how important is it that you drive it well here? It doesn't seem like that used to be as big an emphasis as it is now.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when the addition of, I don't know, hundreds or thousands of trees over the last 10, 12 years came into play, and you know, now we have tree‑lined on 17 and we have so many more trees on 7 and a number of holes, it is very critical to drive the ball accurately, even though it looks like there's enough room. It's not as though it's wide open, but there's enough room where you don't feel handcuffed, where you feel like you have to steer the ball.
So I kind of let loose, and like I say, if I drive the ball reasonably straight, I'm going to be fine and there's plenty of room to drive it straight here.
Q. Are you driving it fairly straight right now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, but I'm hitting it far and that's all I care about right now (laughter).
Q. Curious, when you were here last, or last week practicing, what you were doing, playing rounds, on the range, putting green, any particular things you were doing while you were out here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just come out and try to learn the golf course. Take notes. Learn the greens. Learn the breaks. We're not allowed to have a greens book so we don't know the exact contours and so forth, so I just have to take notes on what every putt does and I just do my own thing there and take notes over the years. I analyze if there's any changes and make sure I'm validating the notes and making sure that they are accurate, that the putt and chip does exactly what I thought in the past or wrote down.
So I'm just analyzing that stuff and trying to do my course prep a week before so when I get to the tournament site this week, all I'm worried about is executing and getting my game sharp and I don't have to worry about golf course and what's going on and what changes have been made. I've already made those decisions on how I'm going to play.
Q. Brooks said, going back to the autograph situation, Brooks says he has your autograph now, do you have his?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we have team flags from Ryder Cups, Presidents Cups, all that kind of stuff that we've shared, absolutely. I'm proud to have them.
Q. Did you ask him in the parking lot?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did it in the appropriate location. (Laughter)
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports