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July 30, 2008
LAURA HILL: Phil, thanks so much for joining us, a little bit of a bad weather situation out there, but maybe talk about being back here at the Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's fun to be back. This is one of my favorite tournaments. It has been historically throughout my career. I love the way the course is set up. I just played nine holes, and the course is just set up immaculately. I have not played as well as I would have liked to in this event the last few years, and I'm determined to try to change that this week.
Q. That was my question. The statistics on your performance here, there was a period of time where you were always in the top four or five, won once, three consecutive twos, and then the last five years it hasn't been near that. Do you have an explanation for that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't, but I do want to change that this week, and I have been working hard on the area of my game that's been a little bit deficient, which is short game, believe it or not, and I've spent a lot of time chipping and putting this last week. I spent a little time with Pelz, and I believe my short game is getting back to where I want it to be, and I expect to have a good week.
Q. What happened to your short game? How did it get away from where you want it to be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't know. Maybe more time on ball-striking, what have you. But I feel like -- I feel pretty good about it now, so I expect to do well around the greens.
And the way the course is set up, there's a lot of skill involved around the greens now because you can hit shots out of the rough and from off the edges. It's a great setup.
Q. Different from last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, a lot different.
Q. What's the distinction of the PGA Championship to you versus the other three majors?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's one of the four majors.
Q. I guess its identity.
PHIL MICKELSON: So when it's one of the four majors it's thought of as being really important.
I know what you're saying. I think where you're kind of going with that is the Masters has the identity of a long ball hitter and short game around the greens and the U.S. Open has the identity of you've got to hit fairways and be straight, and a British Open you've got to deal with the wind.
Q. Right, links courses, ocean, tradition, history, all that.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think the identity of the PGA is that it doesn't have an ego as to what score should be. It sets up a course as a fair test, and whether 3-under wins or 13-under wins --
Q. Go get it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, and I think the players view the PGA Championship, because it's run by the PGA of America and everybody involved in the organization are professionals, I think that it is looked upon as being the most favorite setup and the most enjoyable challenge because it's always set up fairly.
Q. You had to be overjoyed when you saw the rough was two and a half inches or whatever they cut it to?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, well, I just think that this is a great setup for the best players to separate themselves. There's a huge reward to hitting fairways here because the rough is tough to control into these greens and the greens are difficult.
Around the greens -- now, if you miss fairways you can still advance it up by the greens, and around the greens you can control some wedges out of the rough. It's not easy but it's doable. I think it gives guys a chance to showcase their skills as opposed to having the penalty be the same for everybody.
Q. Back in '05 when you won the PGA, you had gone about four months or so not doing much, and then it seemed like you poured everything into Baltusrol and came away with the win. Do you see any similarities to this year not having won since Colonial?
PHIL MICKELSON: We'll see, but I'm excited about the next eight weeks. I mean, we have a great finish for the season. I'm excited about it. I've got a new-found energy for the end of the season. I've been practicing hard, and I'm excited. I love all of these tournaments. I love the golf course here in Akron. I love the PGA Championship. Oakland Hills is such a great track.
I love the old Ridgewood course that we're playing the Barclays at. I obviously have a bias to Deutsche Bank being at such a great golf course that I won at least year. And we've got a great finish there. We've got the Ryder Cup and two more great FedExCup events. So all these events are just huge finishing the year, and I'm excited.
Q. At one time this golf course was known for its length, being such a long course. Has that changed now with the development of all the other golf courses in modern golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: Although it's probably not as long as it used to be, it's always a second-shot course because there is only one par-5 that -- there's only two par-5s on the course. One of them is reachable. So to make a birdie you have to hit a good iron shot, and that's kind of been the identity of Firestone is you've got to be a great iron player to make birdies. There are no gimme holes. There's no drivable par-4s, there are no real -- there's not an abundance of par-5s that are birdie holes. In fact, 16 for a number of years used to play over par, or played one of the hardest holes at times.
Q. You had a couple pretty well-chronicled issues this year where you went with five wedges in one and you went with no driver and it didn't turn out so well. I wonder, when you're going through your setup for a week, how do these ideas germinate and who all is in on the discussion as to whether it's a green light or whether it actually happens? How do the ebb and flow of clubs in and out of the bag sort of transpire?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's kind of a variety of different ways. Sometimes when we just play a course we realize we haven't used a certain club. Other times it'll be a computer program that we'll use to identify what element of the game is more important. If you improve one area by 10 percent, it lowers your score the most. I mean, this is an interesting statistic, I think, that I'll share with you, that I've found is that if you increase any statistical category 10 percent across the board, it lowers scores. Okay, 10 percent fewer putts, obviously lower scores, 10 percent more greens, 10 percent closer to the hole, 10 percent more fairways, every one lowers scores except longer driving distance. Longer drives does not equate to lower scores on any course in America except one. There's one golf course in America where 10 percent longer driving equates to lower scores, and what would you think it would be? Augusta National.
So we'll do stuff like that. That will be fun and interesting and a different perspective.
Q. That's Pelz' program, software?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
PHIL MICKELSON: So little things. Or it'll just be, gosh, I don't think that I'll need -- I haven't used a sand wedge all week. I don't think I'll need that. So we might take that one out.
Q. So a little gut instinct, a little raw data?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, but I have 16, 17 clubs that I usually travel with, so I've got to pull two or three out every week, and it just varies week to week.
Q. Obviously in two weeks you're going to be named on the Ryder Cup team. What do you see your role on that team because of the history of you've been there enough now, you're going to be one of the older players and more experienced, No. 2 in the world? How do you see your role?
PHIL MICKELSON: As a player.
Q. That's it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm a player. That's my role. I'm not a captain, I'm not assistant captain. This is going to be a fun team, and we've got great leadership. Zinger is a great leader, but we also have two past Ryder Cup captains as our assistant captains. So we've got great leadership to help out with a lot of the young players that are going to be on the team. So my role is to play some good golf.
It comes at a perfect time, the Ryder Cup does now, that it's in the middle of the FedExCup season because everybody is at their sharpest. Everybody is playing hard to finish the year strong, playing their best, and I think that the FedExCup -- this is the first year it's been in existence during the Ryder Cup, showed during The Presidents Cup it increased our performance, and I think it'll do the same for the Ryder Cup, as well.
Q. What's your relationship with Zinger? When did you first get to know him? Didn't you single him out to speak at your dinner?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we've had a great relationship since I came out on TOUR. We used to have a lot of little Tuesday games. We rib each other a lot. I think he's one of -- he probably roughs me up more than probably just about anybody out here, which is a good thing because he's so funny that we laugh the whole time.
I haven't had a chance to play with him too much lately. I don't play too many practice rounds now other than the majors, and we still -- we went to dinner during the British, so we still hang and talk quite a bit. But ever since I came out on TOUR, nobody has been nicer or more fun to be around.
Q. What's the worst he's ever roughed you up? Give us an example.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's -- I'd rather not go into it and relive it, but he's roughed me up pretty good. If you look back at some of the clippings and stuff, he's got me a couple times through you (laughter).
Q. Do you ever return the favor?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, not until after we play.
Q. Could you explain in layman's terms how Butch has helped you in the last year-plus you've been working with him, and are there still things that you are trying to get better at with him, aside from just always trying to improve?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that -- well, I've learned a lot from listening to him and what's helped other players be successful. That's certainly a big element of our discussion. But for me personally, what I've noticed is, again, the parameters of my driving coming back in a little bit tighter. I look at my golf swing, and I like where we've taken it, being a little bit shorter, more compact, but still not losing distance or speed.
And so I like some of the things we've done.
Now, I've had some tremendous success over the years with Rick Smith, and I can't thank him enough for all that he's done. It was just one of those things where sometimes you just need to hear something a little bit different or maybe from a different source to get it engrained.
But the driving is the area that we've improved the most so far.
Q. You talked about really from the British until the end all these big events. You mentioned the string of courses, and you said that's great because for the Ryder Cup everybody will be so sharp. Is there a chance, though, at the end of the FedExCup that maybe the golf won't be very sharp because guys are so frayed, so burned out, that it won't be that sharp at the very end?
PHIL MICKELSON: No.
Q. What did you do after the British? I'm just curious, you seem to be energized going into not only this week and the PGA and onward. Did you find something? Did anything go on that recharged you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was invited, by the way, I wasn't subpoenaed. I went to New York for our Teacher's Academy on the way back from the British. We stopped in New York on Monday, and it was in New Jersey, Jersey City, the Liberty Science Center, then we went down to D.C. for Tuesday and then came home. So I spent the last -- spent Wednesday through Sunday putting, putting and chipping and getting that down.
Q. Was Pelz with you?
PHIL MICKELSON: He was with me Monday and Tuesday.
Q. And could you talk a little bit about what you saw yesterday?
PHIL MICKELSON: At Oakland Hills?
Q. Yeah. The course was opened for you, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was just a perfect, straightforward immaculate test. I mean, the golf course was in great shape, obviously, but the fairways were a fair width, the rough was a fair height, the greens were a fair speed. And the golf course is so tough to begin with, and long, with the new tee boxes it's quite a bit longer, which really doesn't affect the shots coming in, strangely enough. The shots into the greens are not being affected, but off the tee you're being challenged more having to hit more club to get to the same area in the fairway.
Q. It plays long?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say it played long, no. I thought it played a good distance. It has a good mixture of holes. There's some short par-4s you can hit short clubs in and there's some long ones. The par 3s are a little monotonous. They're all long. There's no cool short one. 13 used to be a cool short one and they moved the tee back so it's 190. But they're just tough 3s. You just want to make a 3 on those holes.
Q. What did you hit on 9?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I hit a 3-iron but I won't have a 3-iron, I'll have a hybrid, so I hit a hybrid a couple times.
Q. Do you get options around the greens, or is it pretty much thick?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was tough. I mean, it was pretty -- it was thicker rough than we have here, quite a bit. So it was hard, but I thought it was still doable. You could still hit some controlled shots out of there.
Q. Different shots?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's tough, though, because the greens are so undulated. It's really tough chipping around those greens.
Q. Earlier when you were answering Steve's question about setup of the different majors, you talked about ego in regard to some of the other majors, and you also talked about the PGA professionals are professionals. I just want to clarify just to understand this. I think the USGA, at least in that example, have tried to get ego out of the equation, take out Shinnecock, and like at Oakmont and Torrey Pines, actually tried to put a golf course together that wasn't ego-driven. I just wonder if you feel like they have ego involved when they're putting their setups together, and if you could clarify the professional part.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this year's U.S. Open setups was one of the best I had ever seen. I think I even said that after I had one of the toughest days. It was just a fair setup where the first cut of rough, I guess the second cut of rough was a playable height, around the greens was a playable height. I thought it tested an overall game of the players. I think the shift at the USGA has been a positive shift towards that where the players have a chance to shine. I think this year was a great job by them. I didn't mean to single anybody out in those comments.
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