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February 3, 2009
SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA
MARK WILLIAMS: Phil, thanks for coming in. We appreciate your time. I know you were out practicing this morning, and this is your 19th consecutive year here at this event. Just talk a little bit about what the Buick Invitational means to you.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love this tournament, and it's because every time I go out and play, just like I did this morning, it brings back memories of when I was with my dad looking from the outside of the ropes looking in and dreaming of playing the TOUR. I know I've been out here a while, I'm kind of the older guy, but it still makes me feel young when I think what it was like dreaming of playing the TOUR and walking at the tournament with my dad.
Q. New driver this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. I had been practicing this off-season with this FT-9, and it's similar to what Butch and I have kind of been working on. Callaway has kind of helped with a driver that will allow me to cut it but get rid of the big slice. I've been able to hit little cuts and keep it in play, and I'm excited to put this back in play.
Q. How much of that is product and how much of that is you?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of both. I mean, each club has its own character, its own kind of personality, if you will. But this one will allow me to get the ball to move softly and cut but not go hard left for me, not go to a hard cut. So it just barely moves. That is what Butch and I have been working on, and now the combination of the swing changes plus a little bit of help from the equipment, and I'm able to keep it in control.
Q. Does it change the distance good or bad?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it goes a little longer actually. That's never a bad thing. It comes of the face a little faster with optimum spin rate, but it's designed to optimize with a slight cut.
Q. So you used it during the off-season or worked on it with him but didn't use it last week?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it wasn't approved yet. We had to make -- once we figured out that's what we wanted to do, it took us a couple weeks to make another one, send it to the USGA and get it approved, and they didn't get it until like the day before the Phoenix Open. They actually expedited it to get it on the approved list this week.
Q. What had to be approved?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, each different model needs to be approved. Just the fact that there were some subtle changes from the original FT-9, and you have to submit a left-handed version as well as a right-handed version, all those little details. Not a big deal.
I'm excited to get it back in play. That certainly wasn't why I didn't play well last week. I used the driver I used all last year that I felt I was driving well with, but I'm excited to get it in play.
Q. Any other changes this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really, no, pretty much similar setup. I have a new 3-wood that I love, but given my lack of efficiency with the 3-wood here at Torrey Pines of all places, I ended up going to a slightly different version. We have that new line of Diablo, and it allows me to have more loft, so I have like three degrees more loft, but it keeps the spin rate down.
Q. Is there a sense of disappointment at all that you haven't made more ground up on Tiger in the time since he's been out and you actually kind of fell back a little bit? Is there any disappointment in that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It really doesn't have to do with Tiger being out as much as it does have to do with the fact that I would have liked to have contended in the majors last year and didn't. Even though I won twice last year, it wasn't what I hoped the year would be, so I would like to make '09 a great year and improve on it.
Q. Do you get a sense that there's something missing this week? There's always been that talk of you two in this tournament in particular. Do you get a sense of something missing with him being out?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. I think that this tournament certainly misses his presence. You know, he's been such a mainstay of this event. He's played so well here. Plus he had just won the U.S. Open here as well as last year's tournament here. He played so well on the course that I know the tournament misses him immensely. I miss the opportunity to compete against him, we all do, and we hope that he gets back out soon, and it looks like he will be out soon.
Q. Your feelings about No. 13, the new box?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, if I wasn't clear enough at the Open about my thoughts on 13, I'll be happy to reiterate it. But I thought the USGA did a great job last year with the setup of The Open. It was perfect. I think the setup this year at the Buick Invitational is the best I've ever seen it. Everything seems to be right on, the green speed, the texture, the firmness, fairway width, length of the rough; everything seems to be as good as it can possibly be.
But we still have the 13th tee moved 80 yards back, and I think it kind of ruined the hole. That's a personal opinion. Everyone has got to play it, and we'll most likely end up playing it back there.
Q. Did you walk away from the Open last year thinking, I hope they don't use this?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, no. I think that the tee was there just for the Open. Longer and harder doesn't make the hole better every time. It makes it longer and it makes it harder, but it doesn't necessarily make it better. And in this instance I don't think it makes the hole better, I think it makes it longer and certainly harder.
For everyday play for the Buick Invitational, I hope that we don't use it, but I have a feeling we will.
Q. You mentioned being one of the older guys at this tournament. Is it strange to see your name as the only past champion in the last decade without Tiger here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't realize that. I wasn't really reading through the fine print of the program (laughter). But it is weird for me to be the older guy, yeah. I mean, it's a little awkward, although I don't think 38 is all that old, but I feel like I've been out here quite a while.
Q. What signs of the recession have you seen on TOUR, and what is your outlook for the financial health of the TOUR going forward?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a good question that I don't feel really qualified to answer. I'm not an economist. But this year knowing that our contracts are already in place, we haven't necessarily felt the effects. We haven't seen or felt the hardships on TOUR per se. Where I think guys will start to feel it is off the course in corporate relationships and things like that. That's certainly a possibility.
I hope that we get things turned around here in the next 12, 18 months when we're about to start renegotiating our new contracts. If that happens we might not feel a big pinch. But if it doesn't turn around in 12 to 18 months, I'm sure our next television deals, our next corporate sponsorship deals will be greatly affected.
Q. It's been written that the TOUR has got some reserves for times like this. Would it be appropriate if some tournaments needed propped up to prop up some tournaments that are held say the same week as a major or the same week as a World Golf Championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know the financials of the TOUR very well, but I will say that I give a lot of credit to the commissioner on the way he's handled it because we've had ups and downs in the market throughout my 17, 16 years on TOUR, and yet he has been able to sustain steady growth, and he hasn't jumped on the band wagon per se when we have had the opportunity to double some purses and take advantage of the internet boom that we had there in the late '90s. He maintained a steady growth, and that's why we've been very healthy and been able to sustain this. But it'll be interesting to see what happens in the next couple years if things don't turn around in our economy.
Q. He made a video message which you may or may not have gotten asking guys to do more, including adding tournaments to the schedule that they don't usually play. Any thoughts on that, and is your schedule going to be much different than it was last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, last year got to be a little difficult for me as my kids get older and they're in school and they have after-school activities and so forth. It was a tough year. I was pushing it as much as I played last year, so it'll be tough for me to add more. I'll probably end up with the same 20, 21 events, maybe 22, but right around the same number.
It was easy for guys to play every event every four years when we only had 27, 28 events, and that's what a lot of the older players did and committed to doing. But we have 40-some-odd events now, and it's just not as realistic.
Q. Bill Lunde is another local golfer getting ready to start his rookie year. Any suggestions you'd give a guy taking off on his first year, not necessarily to beat you but maybe play well and enjoy the experience?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I wish I had some great insight. I really don't. It seems to me the great thing about the TOUR is the lower your score, the greater the reward. It's not subjective to judging and it's flat-out whatever you shoot is your number. That's the thing I love about golf, and that's the thing that all the young players can rely on; they shoot low numbers and things will take care of themselves.
Q. Are you concerned at all as a player, when you've got about five or six tournaments sponsored by car companies that are struggling and another 10 or 11 companies in the financial business, which obviously hard times have hit. Yeah, you've got contracts with these tournaments through 2010, but if a company goes under, I don't know how much a contract is worth. Are you guys concerned at all that, yeah, you have contracts, but if a company is out of business -- do you think that some of these might be in danger of not fulfilling a contract?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. That's a real possibility. You have a son that's ready to come on the TOUR. Are you worried about him?
Q. He needs to get here soon.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that that's a real possibility. Obviously we're hoping it doesn't come to that. We're hoping things turn around. I believe that they will. We have some great leadership in this country, and we'll be able to heed it off.
I also think there's a lot of places in the world that are a lot worse off than the United States. Hopefully we'll be able to get things turned around before our negotiations come about. But if not, everybody has been making sacrifices throughout the nation, so it's not like we can't do our part, too.
Q. I guess my point was the TOUR officials have been saying, don't worry, we've got contracts, and I just wonder if as a player you wonder how safe are those contracts.
PHIL MICKELSON: Obviously it's individually, each company, each tournament.
Q. Have you gotten a decent look at the North Course, and what are your thoughts about what it looks like now compared to six months ago as a village and a parking lot?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I didn't play it. I'll play it tomorrow in the pro-am, so I played the South today.
I think the North Course when I first came out, I guess maybe not that long ago, ten years ago, it was always an easy course to shoot a low number on. But the tees got moved back on a lot of par-5s and made them very difficult. No. 9 is marginally reachable, where it used to be a long iron in. So a lot of the holes that were birdie holes have been made very difficult. It's just not the same pushover. It is easier than the South, but that's because the South became so difficult with the redesign. I just don't think the scores will ever get back to where we were at 18- to 20-under par. But if the conditions are right the guys can score low here. But the North is a fun, difficult test of golf, not the pushover it used to be.
Q. Do you think guys were concerned at all about coming here so soon after the Open and what the conditions would be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. I never even thought about it. What I can't get over is how great a shape the South is in and what a great job the superintendent has been doing here. The course looks terrific.
Q. Getting back to something Doug said earlier, a spinoff of that, in terms of sort of propping up the sponsors and getting through this rough spot, would there be a downside to, say, maybe temporarily raising the minimum from 15 to say 17, 18? Obviously you've been well north of that pretty much every year just in terms of showing a little more love to a few more tournaments since it looks like we're never going to have the play-one-every-four-year type stipulation?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think there are things we can do to show appreciation to our sponsors and really our partners. I don't know how that would really affect anything. Pretty much everyone on Tour plays 18 to 20. Even Tiger averages over 18 events a year, I think. So I don't know how that would necessarily impact or show appreciation. But I think there are certainly things we can do, yeah.
Q. You played the South Course today. How different is it playing than it played at the Open? Or is it very similar?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's not quite as similar, but the rough isn't quite as thick, the fairways are a little bit wider, and although the greens are firm and fast, they're not quite to the same degree. I think, though, this is a perfect setup for a golf tournament for the reason that a player that plays well can really separate himself from the field. You have an opportunity to make birdies on the par-5s now that were converted to par-4s. We have an opportunity to recover if we hit a bad tee shot out of the rough, even though the rough is difficult. And I think that the shot-making gets rewarded into those greens because they're challenging but fair.
All this really leads to a tournament that's going to bring the players playing the best to the top and not have a bit of luck be involved. I think it's the best players will come to the top here.
Q. With the new groove coming into effect next year, have you done any kind of testing at all? And what kind of impact do you think that'll have on strategy and the game itself?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have done a decent amount of testing with the new grooves and which groove is best and so forth. I don't think that this particular rule change will have an effect on the game. But I'm sure if they continue to go in this direction of rolling things back, eventually something will. But this particular will not change.
The only people that use -- we all have grooves with our wedges, but we certainly don't have that with our other irons. In fact, square grooves out of the first cut of rough and stuff, it comes out too dead. The ball goes eight, ten yards shorter than it would out of the fairway. You don't want square grooves, you want more of the new Vs that we're going to be using because you'll get the same distance out of the rough that you would out of the fairway. Around the greens we're not using spin to stop it anyway, we're using trajectory, so I don't think it'll matter.
Q. There was a thought that guys will bomb it as far as they could, and even with grooves, even if you're short-sided you can still get away with it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Not for anybody who plays the game decent; that's not the case at all. There's always a value of hitting a fairway. And when you're in the rough, grooves aren't even making contact with the ball. There's all grass in between the face and the ball.
Q. Have you ever played in such a way to just hit it as far as you want no matter where it goes because you know hitting on the length of the hole and the layout that with grooves and with your ability to spin it you won't be punished?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's not why I try to hit it as hard as I can, that's just because I'm stupid at times and enjoy trying to get it out there and have an ego and want to be one of the longer guys. But it's not because I think that I'm going to score better necessarily.
I've seen the stats. Pelz has shown me repeatedly the fact that you can hit the ball 10 percent farther, which would be 20 or 30 yards farther, and it doesn't equate to lower scores. I understand that that's not the case, and the reason is because the rough is difficult, you can't get to the tough pins and whatnot. I don't think it'll affect things.
But I think other things will. If you start taking away loft, now creativity comes back in, you have to -- I don't know how you regulate that because clubs are constantly being bent naturally through play --
Q. Do away with a 64 in other words?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the shots around the greens would be a heck of a lot harder with a 56 than a 64 or without a 60, that's for sure. That would make a big impact on the game.
Q. Would you like to see that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I would probably try to fight that actually.
Q. Wouldn't you rise a little bit, given your skill around the green more than others? Isn't the 60 or 64 a crutch for some who aren't as good?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think my 64 is a crutch, but -- I think I'm okay with a wedge, but that's my personal opinion. Here's the thing: I've used a 60-degree wedge for 25 years. I think for somebody to come in and change the rule that affects 25 years of practice and preparation, I think that that's just not ethical.
Q. How long have you used the 64, just a couple years?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. That wouldn't upset me.
Q. I just want to ask about last week. Is that more a product of the layoff, or were you kind of surprised at what happened?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a good question. I don't know. I'm just going to try to brush it off and not really address it. I felt really good going into last week, I really did. I didn't feel like my game was that far off, but the score indicated that it was way off. I'm going to kind of brush it aside because I had great practice sessions with Butch, great sessions with Pelz, and so I had a good extra, unfortunately, couple days of practice to work on my game here. I believe I'm ready and looking forward to this tournament.
Q. So you can chalk that up to maybe just being a fluke, last week being an aberration?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't want to go there, either, but I'm just going to brush it off and see how it goes this week, start '09 new this week.
Q. You may have been asked this last week. Did you work out more in the off-season? Your arms look bigger. Are you stronger at all or about the same?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did a little bit. I mean, I did a little bit. I didn't have any intent on building upper body strength, it was more lower. We did a lot of leg stuff to create a better base and foundation and so forth to accommodate some changes that Butch and I made, but that was more the focus.
Q. More than usual or the same off-season?
PHIL MICKELSON: More focus was on lower body.
Q. Did you note the new rotation at the Hope and the low scores, 20 scores probably 61 to 63, and did it rekindle your interest at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it certainly does. I mean, I love that golf course for that reason. It's a place that doesn't beat you up. It's a place that is fun to get the year started. You have five wonderful rounds to get your game sharp in usually perfect weather, now that we've gotten away from some of the windy courses.
But will I go back? Probably not, because the reason that I -- the reason is that I added LA when I stopped playing the Hope, and I love playing LA. I love staying at home. I've played great there the last two years, winning it last year and losing in a playoff the year before. Six in a row is too much for me. Five is a good fit if two of those weeks I'm saying at home, and now I'm happy with the way the schedule has worked out.
MARK WILLIAMS: Thank you for coming in. I appreciate your time.
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