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November 10, 2020
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. It's always our great pleasure to welcome to the interview room threeâ€‘time Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson.
Phil, your record speaks for itself. It's always an exciting time when you're on the grounds here. This is your 28th appearance in the Masters, and believe it or not, the 10th anniversary of your 2010 victory.
Could you tell us what you remember about the spectacular win in 2010?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly the shot off the trees of pine needles on 13 is going to come out in my mind. That was one moment.
The second moment was on Saturday when I was five back and hit a 7â€‘iron into that back left pin on 13 and made eagle, holed it on 14 for eagle, and almost made a third eagle in a row after driving left on 15, laying up, a wedge almost when I played those three holes 5â€‘under and went from five back to one ahead in three holes, and I just remember that stretch on Saturday.
And then the most important thing that I remember was after almost a year of having a difficult time with Amy going through breast cancer, to have that high moment of winning was something that was very special.
THE MODERATOR: Last year, you finished among the Topâ€‘20 competitors and had two subâ€‘par rounds, proving that age is rarely a factor here.
How have you been preparing yourself for this year's tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I have been playing a couple Champions events to build my confidence, and I've had fun playing some of those tournaments. I haven't played the best on the regular tour this year, other than maybe a good run in Memphis.
But I love coming here and I'm very appreciative of the extra work that this club has gone through to make this event happen. It's not easy to have the course ready in November, and they have done a remarkable job, and it's not easy to put a tournament on in this era with so many challenges.
But we are, as players, and as fans, very appreciative of the hard work and extra effort that's gone into this event.
THE MODERATOR: As always we wish you the best of luck this week and look forward to this week. With that, we'll field some questions, please.
Q. You referenced the Champions Tour events. Winning is a feeling that you get obviously and it builds confidence. What did you take out of those and what can that do for you this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. I think that the Champions Tour, you don't have to be quite as perfect as you do on the regular tour, and the ability to recover and salvage shots is a little bit more available to you on that event, and I think it's much like Augusta. I think this golf course does not require you to be perfect. You can recover from certain mistakes as long as they are the correct mistakes.
I like that feeling about this golf course that you don't have to be perfect. There's something very spiritual about this place as a golfer, and to have won this tournament means a lot to me. I can't believe it's been ten years since I won it last. I would love nothing more than to have an opportunity to be in contention, and that's my goal. I'm not going into this event thinking about winning. I'm going into this event thinking about trying to get into contention for the weekend and then hopefully take it from there.
Q. Hope you don't mind a question that I always seem to do this to you, about Tiger, the older you guys get, you're more and more associated as ambassadors for Augusta. I want to ask you about that lovely note that you left last year written on the napkin. The Masters, they put a picture out of that. Wondered why you did that and, in hindsight, what you think about what Tiger did last year and winning again?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought that it was one of the greatest feats in the history of sports. I thought it was an incredible comeback knowing many of the challenges he has gone through over the last few years prior to the win, and the physical and mental fortitude that it takes to come out on top in a Major Championship, the way he played, it was one of the greatest feats I think of all time.
I was really happy for him and happy to see him do that, and also I think it provides a little bit of inspiration or a lot of us.
Now, I finished early and there was a storm coming in, and so I think Amy and I would have stayed and watched, because I think it was one of those great feats in sports. But we ended up heading out, and so I just wanted him to know that we were thinking of him.
Q. Going way back, I wanted to ask you about something that very few people will ever see or maybe even know about, and that's the Crow's Nest and staying in the Crow's Nest. What is that like, what is the experience like, any memories that you have of that?
PHIL MICKELSON: So it's been 30 years, and yet, I feel I still remember it well, because of the memories that stay with you the first time that you come here, because you don't know if it's going to be the last time you come here. So you really take it in.
And I just rememberâ€‘â€‘ well, there's a lot of things I remember, but the ability to stay on the grounds and to walk right down below and have the Champions locker room right there, I snuck in there, sure. You know, Gene Sarazen was still around, and I saw his locker, and some of the greats from the era that I didn't even see guys play from, Byron Nelson and Sam Snead, they were alive when I was playing there, and they were there at the Champions Dinner, and you could hear them down below when they were congregating.
This club is so much more than a tournament because it gives kids, like myself when I was a kid, and kids of all ages, something to aspire to and dream of. The ability to spend time with, hang around and be a part of the champions from the past meant a lot to me then, and I think it's one of the great traditions now. This club, this tournament treats past champions better than any tournament in the world.
Q. You don't do that many preâ€‘tournament press conferences anymore. Is it fun to come in here knowing that you have a big stage on which you can perform?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just don't think my views are that much desired, during this era, and it's been easy to kind of just slide in and out. But I always love to come and see you, Alan.
Q. I ask this somewhat delicately. When you get to a certain age, and obviously golf, you can play, you know, pretty much your whole life, but there obviously comes a point where you're not quite as competitive. Does coming here bring back more of the feeling of being younger and able to contend, and are you walking that line right now of wanting to contend but also, you know, not fall into being a ceremonial golfer?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don'tâ€‘â€‘ I don't know. I think that if there's ever a course that I was going to compete on, it would be this one. Again, you don't have to be perfect. There's a little bit more forgiveness off the tee, and a little bit more demand around the greens. I think that a lot of times the past knowledge and knowing where to hit it and knowing the shot that you're going to be faced with can come into play.
I think this week, though, is going to be, with the rain, a little bit more of an aggressive style, and I think you'll be able to get away with missing it in some wrong spots, but with softer conditions being able to get upâ€‘andâ€‘down or salvaging a stroke that you might have lost before.
This course I think gives me as good a chance as any golf course, and I just need to play it aggressively and execute.
Q. The Masters is special in part because of its many traditions. What will you miss most about the look of an April Masters compared to this one in November?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing in the sense that this is the Masters and doesn't matter. It doesn't matter if it rains. It doesn't matter if it shines. We get to compete for a green jacket. As a player, that's all we care about. I'm just thankful that we have that chance this year because it's been very challenging and a lot of extra work to put this tournament on, and I'm appreciative of the club doing this for us.
Q. Obviously been a difficult seven, eight, nine months for a lot of people around the world, and heartbreaking, a tough, extraordinary time. I'm just curious, how difficult has it been for you and your family personally? How have your lives changed, or anything you might want to share with us about how you and your family have gone through the pandemic?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it's difficult for a lot of young kids right now, especially as they are going into college. You don't know if you're going to be able to be on campus and if you should skip a year and how that works for athletics and eligibility and all these things.
There's just a lot of uncertainties, and we're facing it like everybody else is, and I think every organization is doing the best they can to accommodate this time, and I think everyone's appreciative of that. I think everybody is doing the best that they can and trying to be understanding of the situation.
And so I'm appreciative and thankful that the game of golf has been able to go on. I'm appreciative of being able to still play and do it socially responsible with social distancing and not fear of transmission.
I think that this is a unique time for the game of golf to be able to grow. Our ratings are up. Our participation is up. It's an opportunity for the game of golf to be shared with others that don't otherwise have that chance, and so I'm thankful for that.
But we're having the same challenges that everybody else has.
Q. Following up on that, to what extent has golf been a refuge for you as we've been going through all of this stuff the last eight or nine months, both in practice and competing and playing and to kind of get away from all the chaos that's been around? How has golf been for you in that regard?
PHIL MICKELSON: So golf is a huge part of my life, and the ability to just even practice, hit some putts in my yard or go to the course and be able to play a few holes, that means a lot to me. And a lot of things that people love have been taken away, and that's got to be brutal. I can'tâ€‘â€‘ it's even hard for me to fully empathize with that because I've been able to continue doing what I love, which is play golf, even if it was not in tournaments, just being able to play.
A lot of people have had their love and their passion taken away from them during this time and it's hard for me to fully empathize with how difficult that must be.
Q. We seem to obsess over Bryson's driver choices, but how do you think your experiment is going with the 47â€‘1/2â€‘inch driver, and what are some of the challenges with it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think ultimately a good friend of mine who I have a lot of respect for has an opinion, and I agree with it; that ultimately, it might be five years, ten years, fifteen years, but every driver will be standard at 48 inches, and then you'll have kind of a weak driver, kind of a 2â€‘wood, if you will, which is kind of what I've gone to now.
For me, it's actually really good in that I've always used length of swing and leverage to create speed rather than a violent, physical, rotational force. I've actually quieted my body down a little bit as I try to create more speed with a bigger, longer arc.
So transitioning to a longer driver is not that much more difficult because it's just a timing issue. I'm able to quiet or having to quiet my body down to let the club catch up and swing on a much bigger, wider arc, takes more time.
It's more consistent with my swing than, say, some of the others, the young guys that are so physically strong and able to create speed just through a quick turn and rotation; that I think for some of those guys, it might be a little bit more difficult to get the timing down, but eventually they are going to do it and they are going to hit the ball even farther.
Q. Someone who has had at times had a heartâ€‘wrenching pursuit of winning U.S. Open and what would complete the career Grand Slam for you, what advice would you give to Rory McIlroy trying to join the green jacket club?
PHIL MICKELSON: First of all, there's not much advice I can give him. The guy is as complete a player as there comesâ€‘â€‘ as there is, as well as smart, knowledgeable and works hard. So he'll win and complete the Grand Slam. He's too great a player not to. There's nothing that I can really say to help him. He's had a lot of great opportunities, and he's going to continue to do so.
Played with him today. He's playing beautifully. I would be shocked if he wasn't in contention with a great chance on Sunday. So whether it's this year, whether it's a few months from now, whether it's a few years; I remember when I was trying to win a major, any major, and I struggled for many years, but I always knew and believed it would happen, and eventually at age 33 it eventually did. He has so many majors already and such a strong game that winning a Masters will happen. And when it does, I think he's going to win a few.
Q. What will be the differences with no fans here, and are there spots, because there won't be galleries, that you could play to some places that you might not when there are folks out here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Whether people are off in the rough or not, it's really never stopped me from hitting it there. That's not going to be an issue, I don't think. It does feel different but that's given the situation, and, again, we are just thankful we have a tournament to play in.
We are thankful that we are able to participate and compete. We are thankful that people are able to watch it and enjoy it from their homes. Again, this place is a spiritual place if you love the game of golf, so we are appreciative that it's being played.
I don't thinkâ€‘â€‘ you know, it's not like a U.S. Open where we have eightâ€‘inch rough and I need those people to stamp down that rough. We don't have that. So it's first cut all the way through, whether people are there or not. I actually think that the lack of people will keep that first cut a little bit higher and prevent some of the balls running through into the trees that might have gone in in years past.
But I don't think it's going to play much different. Not like a U.S. Open would if there were no peopleâ€‘â€‘ if there weren't people there.
Q. You've had a superâ€‘long career, and over the length of that career, the game has gone from more leaning towards art to more leaning towards science. You've got a very scienceâ€‘oriented mind. Has that been a positive thing? Has that been a good thing for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have to evolve with it and change things with it, things that â€‘â€‘ a lot of things that people wouldn't be aware of. But when I grew up, shafts were weaker and they had more torque and you saw golf swings like Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus and Tom Weiskopf, the great ballâ€‘strikers, they would slide their knees forward because they wanted to hold the face off to stop it from hooking because the persimmon heads and weakâ€‘shafted drivers would cause the ball to snap, and we would use our legs and Byron Nelson would talk about that.
Nowadays with the lighter shafts, they have less torque. You don't need to do that. In fact, people are snapping that front leg and really straightening and creating that speed because there's no fear of that club flipping over and hitting a 60â€‘yard hook the way there was 30, 40 years ago.
So those little things I've had to evolve and I've had to kind of change myâ€‘â€‘ I don't want to say change, but my swing has to had to evolve with the equipment, with the times. I look at pictures and video when I came out on Tour in '93 and my first Tour win in'91, my swing was so long and slow and now I look at it, it's much more violent. Even though I still try to use leverage to create speed, it looks totally different speedâ€‘wise because the equipment has allowed me to swing a lot faster without fear of the hook, fear of the big miss; although I still fear the big miss, I hit it all the time. But that's not the point. That's not the point what we are getting at.
Those things, you look at the course conditions and all of these things have involved over time that as forced you to play differently and strategize differently. When Augusta National started mowing away from the green rather than towards the green, that changed the way you hit shots around the green because you could no longer really hit a bump shot that would slide through the grass because that sticky rye would grab it when it started going into the grain. So you see guys putting it. Like that was a change I made in '04 when I finally won was putting it off the green.
Now this week will be a little different because it's going to be wet so you can skip balls through, and you'll see guys chipping. But those little subtle changes has forced you to evolve and change with it, and it's been a fun challenge for me to try to do that.
Q. I asked Tiger if he's looking forward to being an Honorary Starter alongside you in maybe 30 years or so, and he did say he was hoping to be hitting bombs past you off the first tee. Would you care to respond to that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's only 43, so the guy is going to be competingâ€‘â€‘ he's a little older than that, 44, and he's going to be competing and hopefully playing in these events and being in contention for a number of years. I'm going to try to be with him.
I mean, that's really not on our radar right now. If that was something we got asked to do that would be really cool.
But I love how Lee Elder is going to be on the tee. I think that's really a special thing. I love how the Masters Tournament, how the game of golf has really tried and worked hard to get rid of some of our exclusionary past and create a more inclusive present, and I'm proud to be part of that.
Q. With regard to Bryson, you've historically been a tinkerer, and you have a great relationship with whatever distance you can get and whatnot. What's your take on what he's done to his body and swing speed and the length he's created and whatnot, and just â€‘â€‘ I'm just kind of curious if you have a fascination with what he's done so quickly.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think Bryson DeChambeau is a huge asset to the game of golf because we have a lot of people talking about what he's doing. He's thinking outside the box, and he's willing to put in the work to accomplish it.
It's not just about creating strength, but a lot of guys have bulked up and lost speed because muscles can get short and tight, and he has worked hard to create the strength and also the speed. That's not easy to do.
I've had a chance to see how hard he works in other areas, whether it's brainwaves and his mental and cognitive function or what he eats. He works as hard as anybody does and thinks outside of the box in what is possible within the rules to create an advantage, and I have a lot of respect for that.
I mean, the guy has made some massive changes that has required a lot of work and scrutiny, and he's putting himself out there and doing it.
I hope it pays off for him at some point like it did at the U.S. Open. He's going to end up winning here at some point, whether it's this week or in the future. He's got the game and the brilliance, the work ethic, dedication.
And all of these things combined, and then you look at what he's doing as far as being a lightning rod to be talked about, like that's really great for the game of golf, to have people interested in what he's doing, how he's doing it, why he's doing it. I just think he's awesome for the game, I really do.
THE MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Phil, good luck this week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports