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September 12, 2007

Phil Mickelson


JAMES CRAMER: We're joined this morning by Phil Mickelson, the 2000 champion here at East Lake and the TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola, and also third place in the FedExCup standings entering the week. Phil, perhaps a comment about coming back to East Lake, a place where you've had some success, and how you're looking forward to the week.
PHIL MICKELSON: I've always liked this golf course. I think it's a fun, straightforward test, although I've missed the last couple years here because of scheduling. It's fun for me to have a chance to come back here. I have some good, positive memories after having won in 2000, and I'm looking forward to trying to make a final tournament push to win the FedExCup.

Q. It's quite possible that if you or Steve or Rory or Vijay wins, they'll win the Cup, and yet Tiger will likely be named Player of the Year. Does that in any way validate the playoff system if there's two different winners there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it will take a while for the playoff to have the same type of stature, and winning the FedExCup to have the same type of stature as winning a major or having a year where you win five or six tournaments like Tiger has this year. So I don't think that that diminishes it in any way so far. I think that the first -- it'll take a few years for that to have more weight on the Player of the Year outcome.

Q. What would you change? What would you recommend, any specific changes that you can think of right now?

Q. The playoff system.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. I can think of some, but I'd rather -- I don't want to go into it publicly. I think the reason I didn't state some of the issues is that it just doesn't do any good to talk about it publicly, and so I had a good conversation last week as well as last night with the Commissioner, and a lot of other players are going to be giving input, and hopefully we'll be able to refine. We knew the FedExCup was going to need refining. We knew starting out that the first year wasn't going to be perfect. So changes to make it better and better are going to hopefully keep occurring.

Q. To the average sports fan they see a lot of athletes in different sports grinding pretty much week after week. Could you explain to that fan what is the difficulty of playing a lot of golf in a concentrated period of time? What are the things that you face in that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Challenges? Well, first of all, it's not four in a row that's a problem. It's not the four FedExCup tournaments in a row that's an issue. For me it's 10 out of 13 weeks in a row that start back at the AT & T National in D.C., played AT & T, played the Scottish Open, played the British Open, I'm in Europe for a couple weeks, I come home, got to do a couple of outing days in D.C. before I have a couple days off before I start the push for the PGA Championship, go to Akron and play there, go to Tulsa and play the PGA. I have another couple outings so I have four days off before I have a four-week stretch with the FedExCup, and then we have the Presidents Cup a week later.
So it's not just the four weeks that's the problem. I'm playing 10 events in 13 weeks, which is half of my schedule last year, in a three-month span. So it puts stress on your family. It makes it difficult -- it's very difficult to travel with three kids, as you know, but to go to 10 different cities in three months is challenging. You have school now that's starting, you have all their summer stuff that they want to do, camps and sports and so forth, and so it just puts a real stress on your family environment.

Q. As far as physically and mentally for the player, what are the challenges there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, look, I mean, we play golf for a living. I'm not going to try to tell you that it's tough. I mean, I get to play golf for a living. It's a wonderful deal.
The greatest thing about it is that we get to make our own schedule. We're not tied to a team.
But what requires a balance is that to play your best golf, you have to be fresh mentally and physically, and when you play four competitive rounds along with a Pro-Am, that's five rounds, and you are doing obligations in association with the event, and you're trying to practice and you're trying to work out and trying to have family time, it takes energy that doesn't allow you to necessarily play your best every single week for months on end.
And that's why most of the guys try to pace themselves where we go at it for two or three weeks we play, and then we try to take a week or two off and get refreshed and then go at it again for two or three weeks and then take a week off.

Q. A lot has been made of the $10 million, either as cash or this annuity or deferred payment. How do you fall on that question? Would you rather get the $10 million check if you won the FedExCup?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think this is certainly an issue that needs to be reviewed, and it doesn't do me or anybody else any good to talk about it publicly. I mean, I'll voice my opinion to the Commissioner as I have in the past. I'll continue to do so in the off-season, and he'll talk to other players, other top players and a lot of guys that have a feeling about it, and try to come up with a solution that is a little more comparable than probably what it is right now.

Q. What do you think of the 6th tee that will be used across -- 211 yards across water at least one round we understand this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't been out there yesterday. I haven't played. I'm going to go play here when we finish up, so I'll see it. I think that has always been a scary shot from 160 yards, which I think is about what it played before. So to tack on another 40 will make it one of the most difficult pars that we'll have. It'll have the greatest penalty obviously for a mis-hit shot, much like 17 at TPC. I think we'll see a lot of pars, not many birdies, and a lot of doubles and triples. So that will be a hole you try to get by unscathed, maybe even aim at the bunker, try to have a little bit bigger margin of error if you miss it a little bit. But at 200-plus yards that's going to be one of the toughest shots we face.

Q. For all the criticisms of the FedExCup, is there some kind of validation in the fact that three of the Top 5 players in the world are likely going to be in the race for it on Sunday?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's been successful, maybe not to the degree that everybody wants it to be the first year, but I think it will get to that point. I don't think it will have one -- when you look at new events like the U.S. -- what was the football league, the XFL, the first few games had great ratings, and then it fell off steadily. I see this going the other way.
I think it's starting out with a nice start this first year, and I think it's going to get better and better each year.
The reason that I think it's been successful is that we've had incredible attendance by all the players, I mean, like a 98 percent attendance rate. The top guys have supported it three out of four weeks, for the most part, which I don't think is a bad -- I don't think of that as bad at all. I think that's a pretty good attendance rate, and I think that we've had some great matches. We've had some great final-round, exciting events. Tiger shot a course record last week on Sunday to win by two. I loved the head-to-head match that he and I had at Boston, and I thought that Steve Stricker and K.J. Choi duking it out in New York was a great way to start off, as well.
Also having everybody close together coming into this week -- I say everybody, I'd say four or five guys that have really good shot at winning the FedExCup this week, I think makes for an exciting finish.
So I think it's been a successful start, and I think it'll get better as time goes on.

Q. One of the things people have pointed to, whether it be the general public or players like yourself that when we talk to the FedExCup playoffs, there's a hangup on the word playoffs. Some have suggested maybe with going FedExCup Series, FedExCup something else. Is one of the things that's maybe hurting people getting their hands around this is the word playoffs because there's no lose and go home or win and move on attitude?
PHIL MICKELSON: Hmm, maybe (laughter).

Q. Is a simple solution getting rid of the word playoffs and coming up with something else to help people -- the understanding of Americans, as you know, and Europeans even talk about playoffs, you lose, you're supposed to go home, and if you skip a week why do you still get to play on?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think there's a lot of areas that could be improved in the FedExCup, and the naming of it would be one of the last ones that would make a big difference (laughter).

Q. The fact that you can win two things this week, the FedExCup and the TOUR Championship, does that change your approach at all starting on the first tee tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. You probably want me to expand on that a little bit (laughter).

Q. Would you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It doesn't. I think that the fun thing about playing golf is trying to win tournaments. This has been an up-and-down year for me. I've had a number of poor finishes and I've had three wins and two playoff losses. I'm playing some of the best golf that I've ever played right now, and I'm excited about competing this week and trying to bring out my best golf.
I feel like after last week, having a little bit of a refresher, being able to work on my game, spend time with my family and have a balance in my life, I feel like I'm ready to come out and have a great week this week, and the fact that I have a chance to win a tournament and the FedExCup doesn't change my approach to the week at all.

Q. Obviously you're involved in all this, but you stand back and appreciate the Steve Stricker story?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, it's terrific. When people say it couldn't happen to a nicer guy, everybody means that. I mean, we're all pulling for him to do well, and maybe me not so much this week (laughter), but all the other times we're all pulling for him. I remember playing with him in '96 at the Presidents Cup, I played with him in '96 Dunhill Cup, where he went 5 & 0 in his matches and led the U.S. to victory in the Dunhill Cup. He had a little lull there for a while in his career and to see him back on top of his game and playing some incredible golf the three few weeks is fun to see. I'm looking forward to having him on the Presidents Cup team this year and having him help us hopefully retain that Cup.

Q. Yesterday Rory said the FedExCup should be more like football, and if you don't show up for the game you forfeit. Do you have any opinion on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, not really. I think we've all learned to take what he says with a grain of salt (laughter). I mean, this is a guy that said Tiger is beatable, is it not, and he's won four of the last five events.

Q. A lot of today's youth want to cut corners and they don't have the patience and they don't understand the value of preparation. Can you share with the youth around the world the importance of preparation to succeed in life?
PHIL MICKELSON: The only way to succeed is through hard work, and what makes success so rewarding is having put forth a lot of hard work and preparation into an event, into a competition, into an education, into a test, whatever it is. What makes it so rewarding is the time and effort and work that it takes to succeed.
If everything is just handed to you easily and you get the results without any hard work, it's not as rewarding, and that's why it doesn't ever happen.

Q. Looking ahead real quick, do you have any theories on why you guys keep getting hammered by Europe and yet the matches with the International team, which is also probably a comparable team to Europe, is closer?
PHIL MICKELSON: The International team has always been extremely strong. In fact, I think the World Rankings are higher on The International team, is higher than it is on the U.S. team, as well as probably the European team in the Ryder Cup. I don't have a great answer for you.
Q. I'll take a good one.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know why. The teams are the same as far as on the U.S. side. We enjoy playing together. We have a lot of fun. We bring out our best golf at the Presidents Cup, and we seem to not do that in the Ryder Cup. I don't know why that is. I think Captain Azinger has had some great ideas that he's going to try to implement to get our best game out in the Ryder Cup last year, and we've played well now the last two Presidents Cups with Captain Nicklaus, and I expect a similar performance from our team this year in the Presidents Cup.
I personally believe that the FedExCup is going to help our play in those team events because it's going to carry our preparation, our practice, our work ethic, our competitive golf closer to those events. Now, next year it's maybe too close (laughter), but it's closer to the events, and I think that's going to help our team play well.
JAMES CRAMER: With that, Phil, thank you very much, and good luck this week.

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