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April 30, 2008

Phil Mickelson


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome members of the Wachovia Championship media staff here to the floor, as well as national media joining us via AT & T teleconference to this pre-tournament interview with Phil Mickelson.
We haven't seen you out here in a couple weeks since the Masters. Why don't we start by talking about what you've been doing in your game coming into this week at the Wachovia.
PHIL MICKELSON: I can't wait for this week to get started. I've been looking forward to getting back out and playing. I spent the last two weeks working on short game trying to get my putting down. I've had some good help with Pelz and went and saw Butch to make sure the full swing was still intact on Sunday.
I feel good about how I've been playing. I'm excited to play this week here at Wachovia. I played the Pro-Am today and was extremely impressed with the way the golf course was set up. I thought the greens were immaculate, fairways were immaculate. I love how progressive this tournament is in having the two-layered cuts of rough. I thought that was a terrific idea, the way you could still hit some shots if you just miss the fairway, but if you go in the deep stuff, you're wedging out.
I just really like the way this golf course is set up and the way this tournament is run. It's one of my favorites obviously on TOUR.

Q. You talked about working on your putting. Was it anything technical or just a general erosion?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was. Putting, as you know, face angle means a lot more than stroke, and my face angle wasn't lined up. It was lined up at address but it wasn't staying square throughout the putt, and it was noticeable when I started working with Pelz and we had a couple of devices to check that, because the device we used called a laser aimer to check my alignment was good, but it wasn't starting where I wanted to, so it was coming off a little bit during the stroke.
I spent two weeks of working on it and trying to get it dialed in, and I putted great today. I thought I hit a loft good putts, and I'm excited. You never know until you get in the heat of competition and you have to put it to the test where you have to make the sliding five-footers.

Q. Did you lengthen your putter a little bit?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did. I added an extra inch. In the last three or four years through some of the stretching and stuff, I've probably grown a half inch to an inch, so I hadn't really made an adjustment to that over the last few years.

Q. What did you do before Pelzie was around? Did you work on your own on that, and what has he brought to you more than anything?
PHIL MICKELSON: Pelz and I don't work on technique; we work on the other things as far as how to practice, what to practice, alignment and so forth. We didn't really work too much on stroke other than where the face was aimed throughout the stroke, if that makes sense. So that's been a big help.

Q. Looking ahead a little bit to Torrey Pines, what do you suppose that scene is going to be like there with you and Tiger, two guys that have won eight combined tournaments there at the Buick? You played together that one year a few years ago. I envision rock-star-type receptions for you two guys there, assuming he's playing, of course.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think this year's U.S. Open is going to be great. For me, being from San Diego, it's a very special U.S. Open. I think for the game of golf, having it on at prime time, finishing at 10:00 o'clock back east I think is another wonderful thing we don't get in this sport. It should be an exciting event, not just for the people who are able to attend but also watch it.
But before we jump ahead, we've got a tournament that a lot of us consider a major - certainly since I've won it now, I consider it a major - next week at THE PLAYERS, so I don't want to jump too far ahead.

Q. Your record here has been very good, a lot of Top 10 finishes. Is this a golf course you feel like you can win on?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love this golf course, I love the tournament, the way it's run, and what this tournament has done for the PGA TOUR is it's elevated all the other events to try to keep pace with what Wachovia has done by leading by example.
I haven't played great in this tournament but I've played very well every year, and I'm looking to improve on that. I think some course knowledge will help. There's a lot of difficulty in reading these greens because there's a lot of putts that double break or break more or less than what it looks like visually, so it's hard to adjust.
Now having played this a number of years, I feel like I remember now, this putt breaks more, this putt breaks less, and I have a little bit better idea of how to putt the greens, which is the biggest challenge out here.

Q. I'm doing something on the last three holes out here, which statistically are the hardest on TOUR they have determined by crunching numbers. Do they sort of weigh in the back of your head? Do you know I've still got to play those before I get out of here alive? I know 17 a couple years ago probably cost you the tournament arguably. I'm wondering what your thoughts are during the round that you have those three left to play.
PHIL MICKELSON: Those three are certainly difficult holes. What's nice is before that three-hole stretch, you have 14 and 15 where you can make some birdies and make up ground, and then you try to hang on, if you will, and make pars the last three holes.
I actually think 16 is a birdie hole. If you hit a good drive there, you can be pretty aggressive. But 17 and 18 are two of the toughest holes you'll ever see, and to put them back-to-back is very difficult.
You can make up ground, though, on the lead, but you'll most likely do it through pars and having the leaders make mistakes.

Q. Staying on the same course, could you jump ahead a week and talk about 16, 17 and 18 next week?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a great three-hole stretch, as well, but it's not the difficulty here as we have at Quail Hollow because 16 is a par-5 and you're expected to make birdie. And 17 you're hitting a wedge or 9-iron as opposed to a 5-iron, and that makes a difference on those holes. You need to play 16, 17 and 18 at THE PLAYERS under par to feel good about your finish, where here you feel good about it if you play even.

Q. I think you mentioned this earlier, but they've sort of changed the setup here a little bit, less rough and encourage guys -- firmer and faster greens given the weather. Do you like that setup compared to other years?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, anything that includes less rough I'm a big fan of. What I like is that the fairways when they're firm, balls will bound through these fairways because they're very quick. Granted, today we had some rain on Monday so they're a little bit softer, but the ball will be rolling through into the rough. We've had a tough time hitting shots out of the rough in the past, it's been so thick.
I think we'll see much better shot-making this year. I don't think the scores will be necessarily lower, though, because it's still very difficult to get it close, difficult to chip on or around the greens. But I think you'll see more exciting shot-making and recovery shots from those in the rough.
STEWART MOORE: At this point I'd like to turn it over to the national teleconference for a few questions.

Q. Speaking of next week, Fred Klauk said that they were a little bit conservative in the course setup last year because they knew a renovated course has a tendency to play firmer than an ordinary one. This year they will increase the green speed and grow the rough just a little bit deeper, not much but a little bit deeper. Because of that, do you anticipate a tougher week next week, or do you think they'll have it about the way they had it last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know exactly how the course will be set up, but I would guess it would be similar to what we saw last year. And the whole point of moving the tournament back into May was to have firmer, faster conditions and not have as thick rough around the greens where you couldn't recover with short game shots as in years past.
But I thought last year it played terrific. I loved the changes. The greens were terrific, too, going to a different grass. Not only did they putt great but they were more challenging to get the ball close to the hole, given that they were able to make them firmer.

Q. Can you talk a little bit about your current workout regimen and how that's affected your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: My current workout regimen really isn't too different than what I've done since 2003. I mean, I might look a little different. I've probably eaten a little bit better and maybe increased the weight lifting, but for the most part my trainer and I try to mix it up between martial arts and physio and medicine ball work, as well as just straight cardio and weight lifting, and we alternate it each day. We probably work out about five days a week.

Q. I have an Olympics-related question. There's been a lot of talk about golf in the Olympics, and I know you've been asked about this specifically. I've been talking to people who have been telling me that if golf gets to the Olympics, the medals will be distributed on an individual basis as opposed to a team basis; in other words, unlike say the World Cup where if the U.S. wins, the U.S. players get first place. This will be an individual situation where if you were say the medalist at the Olympics you would get the gold and if the next best American was second he would get the silver medal. I'm curious as to whether you like that idea or whether you like the team medal concept better.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think we're getting ahead of ourselves because you're talking about how it would be done if it were an Olympic sport. I hope that it becomes an Olympic sport. I don't really care what format is chosen. I believe for the game of golf to grow on an international level, which is what we ultimately want the game to do, it's better for everyone involved that it needs to become a part of the Olympics because we'll have funding from all the federations from all the different countries to support the game of golf, and it will help it grow, whether it's from a manufacturer's point of view, whether it's from media's point of view or golf course participation, designers, superintendents. Everybody wins as we grow the game internationally.
I hope that it becomes an Olympic sport. The format really makes no difference.

Q. I actually don't have a golf question for you. I wanted to ask you about Glenn Cohen and your relationship with him. He's a lawyer here in Jacksonville and part of the legal community, and I spoke with him earlier today and he obviously had some great things to say about you. You had your choice of any attorney for representation, I'm sure, and why you hooked up with Glenn and stayed with him for these past nine years.
PHIL MICKELSON: I usually don't like to admit publicly that I have a relationship with Glenn Cohen (laughter). Now that you're making everybody aware that it's -- I'm not going to deny it. I feel like I'm on trial here. I do know Glenn. I have had a relationship with him for a number of years.
I think that he is a little bulldog, and if you ever wanted somebody to represent you, he would be the guy to do it. I actually am very lucky to have him and to be in business with him because he has helped me numerous times on issues and advisement, and he's a brilliant man. He's short, fat and bald, but he's a brilliant man (laughter).

Q. Could you give me some sense of what the atmosphere is like with Tiger out for four to six weeks or however long? Does it change a tournament like this for you knowing that he's not there and he won't be at THE PLAYERS next week? Does it change sort of the atmosphere or the feel of the tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I just got in last night. This is the first event I've played since the Masters. I haven't noticed a difference. But I think that the game of golf always suffers when he's not playing. I think we all benefit when he does. This tournament here has led, again, all the other TOUR events into quality and what a TOUR event should be, and I wish this tournament was rewarded with his participation, but it's understandable why he's not.
Fortunately it's a short time out; it's only four to six weeks. When you have surgery like that, a lot of times it can be a lot longer, so we're lucky that it's not longer than it is.

Q. Now that you've won THE PLAYERS, is your preparation going to change for this year's tournament at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: It will be the same as the Masters -- I'm sorry, the same as other majors for me. I'll usually take Monday off of a major, I'll play a practice round early Tuesday, and Wednesday I'll go off sit and get work done on areas of my game that need improvement. It will be the same as I treat other majors.
I have already done my normal major championship preparation work that I do for Augusta. I've done it now for TPC Sawgrass, so I don't feel as though I have to spend an inordinate amount of time getting ready to know the golf course.

Q. One other quick question on the 17th hole at the TPC at Sawgrass. Like it or hate it? And why or why not?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I like it. It's certainly unusual. Most architecture -- most golf course architect designers will leave one side open where you can bail out and still be in play. It's a very unusual hole in that there's no bail-out. You just have to hit a perfect shot.
I've found if I just play the hole for par, don't think about birdie, don't think about trying to get to the right section of the green, just hit the green, it's pretty easy to make four pars and move on. That hole is really not a hole guys win it on. I've seen guys win it on 16 with eagles like Greg Owen did or Fred Couples or Davis. You make eagles and birdies on 16 and try to win the tournament. 17 is not a hole that too many guys win it on, but I've seen a number of guys lose it.
So I just last year changed the way I mentally approached it and just tried to take par. It usually isn't a hole -- it didn't bite me last year. I was able to win it on other holes.

Q. Following up a little bit on the Tiger question, this tournament, since it started, has had a traditionally very, very strong field. Would this tournament be less impacted by his absence maybe than some of the others?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, because so many top players make this a mainstay on their schedule. I think pretty much everybody tries to play here for a number of reasons, great golf course, great purse, great service, and also as a way of thanking Kym Hougham and everybody at Wachovia for what they have done as far as setting the standard. Other tournaments have dramatically increased the quality of the event based on the role model that has been set here.

Q. I want to go back here to talking about changing your putter. When did you notice that you had grown in height, and when did it become noticeable with the putter that you needed to make that change?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've known that I've become a half inch, inch taller for a few years, but I just thought, gosh, I'm not putting well, and now is the time to make an adjustment if I'm going to go to a longer putter. It's easier on my back as much as I practice putting. So given that I wasn't putting well, it just was easier to just start with it. So that's what I ended up doing when I came back and started working on it. I just started with a 35-inch putter rather than a 331/2.
STEWART MOORE: Thanks so much for coming in. Best of luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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