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April 7, 2009
ROB JOHNSTON: Good afternoon, everyone. We are delighted to have Phil Mickelson with us today, and I would like to extend a warm welcome to Mr. Mickelson and all of you.
Phil holds 36 PGA TOUR titles, including recent victories at Riviera and Doral this year. He holds three major titles, including two green jackets and a PGA Championship. Phil is a seven-time participant in the U.S. Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup Teams, and this marks his 17th appearance in the Masters.
Phil, thank you so much for being here, and we open it up for questions, please.
Q. What possessed you to play in 200-degree windchill this morning, or something like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Why did I play? You know, I didn't think it was that bad this morning. I thought that I was expecting it to be colder and windier, and it wasn't bad at all. I usually like to play before 8:00, get the round in. It's my only practice round of the week. I don't like to play on Wednesday. I like to just work on my game, practice it and try not to get too tired heading into Thursday.
I felt this was my only opportunity to get a good practice round in.
Q. Was it a good practice round?
PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't bad. I it hundred. I played with Drew Kittleson, has a heck of a game, hits it a long way and has a good short game. I think he's going to have a good week.
Q. Given the work you've been doing with Butch and after Doral, do you think you can do what you did, going back to 2004 or 2006?
PHIL MICKELSON: You don't really know where your game is until you get on that difficult test, but I've had some great practice here. I feel like I have a pretty good understanding of what I want to do with the round with each shot, with each hole. I feel like I know the greens really well and I look forward to this event. I've also been playing well with a couple of wins earlier in the year.
Q. You mentioned that you played with Drew Kittleson. Playing with a young kid like that in his first Masters, do you help him out and show him where not to hit it? Do you enjoy playing with those young players playing in their first Masters?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do. I do enjoy playing with guys who are in their first couple of Masters. I would take him to a couple of spots that were putts that we would always have to certain pins, 40, 50-foot putts that are tricky and might break one way or the other. And he had a good beat on every single one of them. I wouldn't tell him what the break was and he would knock it up there a couple of feet. He's been out here practicing and knows the greens well and knows the course. That's why I said I think he's going to have a good week. There were not any surprises for him on this course. He knew what the breaks of the greens were going to do and how to play.
Q. You've played here 17 years now. Do you ever find yourself going, "Back in my day when this hole used to be like this." Do you find yourself in that situation trying to help the youngster along?
PHIL MICKELSON: If you're asking me if I feel old -- (laughter) -- at times I do. I do look back and remember how different a lot of holes have played, how different putts would break years ago, some changes in the greens.
And now where the golf course is today, from where it was in '95 when I played here, it's remarkable, the changes. All of the trees that have been added, how much longer the course is. But either way, year-in and year-out, it's always a great test for this great championship.
Q. Obviously winning twice at the courses that you have is a heck of a year so far. The weeks that you haven't played so well, has there been something in common those weeks that has kind of bugged you more than anything?
PHIL MICKELSON: There wasn't any one particular thing that has plagued me. I think that -- I feel as good about my game as I have. I know that last week wasn't great, and I just a.m. not going to worry about that. I've been playing well heading in and made some dumb mistakes and hopefully I won't make those same mistakes this week.
Q. Are you in the camp that believes that the changes made in the golf course eliminated a Sunday charge or made it more difficult given extreme weather conditions?
PHIL MICKELSON: The weather the last two years has made the golf course play much more difficult than previous years. And it's very hard to mount a charge when it's cold and windy.
But I don't think that was due to the changes in the course. I think it was more due to the conditions that we were facing. Now, though, there are more options in case we get the same kind of weather, but the forecast is to be warm and sunny. In that case, the course will play, I don't want to say short, but it will play much shorter than we saw the last couple of years, and we will see some reasonably low scoring, I believe.
When I played here a couple of weeks ago when it was warm, 75 degrees, I was able to hit the same clubs into the par 4s and par 5s that I did back in the early 90s. So I feel like the changes have been for the most part very positive.
Q. Do you think the weather here affects this golf course more than maybe some other places that you play when the weather gets extreme?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes.
Q. Is that because of the difficulty --
PHIL MICKELSON: Because of the speed of the greens. The wind will blow putts right off the green here; they are so fast. And trying to putt in cross-winds or into the wind, it's much more extreme than anywhere else.
Q. It seems to me that, you talk about the magic of Augusta, what is the difference between this tournament and other tournaments?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the difference between the Masters and the other majors are that the event is played here every year, and history is made here. When you play this golf course, you remember shots dating back to Gene Sarazen's double-eagle, to Fred Couples's ball staying up on the bank in 92, Playoffs that have occurred. I think every year because history is made here, you can't help but feel that when you come to play this golf course.
As great as the other championships are, with their rotating and Pebble Beach has history made every 15 years and as historic as that golf course feels, history is only made every 15 years. We look back at Tom Watson's putt in or Tiger's great putt here; whereas here, we have something to look back on every single year.
Q. Would you talk about Padraig, is your perception about him as a golfer changed as a result of what he's done the last couple of years winning three majors; do you see anything in his game now that maybe you did see before you went on this little run?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't really studied other players games, per se, but I think the difference that I have seen in Padraig is that it's not really a difference. I just think that the way I've always perceived him, he is now achieving that level of play. I have always seen him as a tough competitor, somebody who is steady and who is a great wind player, who is a great putter in the wind and is a great clutch putter. That's what he's been doing the last couple of years to win his three Majors. I think that the players have always seen that in him the last couple of years; the public has, too.
Q. As a follow-up, do you feel like the conditions, the tougher the conditions this week more might play in his strength?
PHIL MICKELSON: Very possibly. Yeah, he seems to really shine in difficult conditions. He's so steady, doesn't make mistakes and he's such a clutch putter that I think he always seems to excel in difficult conditions.
Q. Would you talk about the difference in your technique and your game now versus the last time you won here? Is it a lot different, and if so, how?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's really not too much different than 2006. I'm trying to hit the ball high and far to combat the length of the golf course. And I'll continue to attack pins with my iron game and rely on my short game for when I miss-fire.
Q. Are there any parts of your game at a different level than they were then; better, worse?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think my short game has been a little bit better. It's started to really come around this year. I say come around; it's starting to -- it's getting better and better, the more I simplify it.
Q. What did you think about Freddie putting himself in contention Sunday, and any jokes among the prospective Presidents Cup Team members about he making himself a pick?
PHIL MICKELSON: We would all love to see Fred make the team. He would really be a positive addition on the playing side. He plays some incredible golf and drives the ball so well and hits so many great irons. When he gets in a good rhythm with that putter, he is so tough to beat.
Q. What changes have you seen to the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just subtle ones. There was a subtle pin addition on No. 1 to the middle of the green and a pin addition on No. 5, subtle change on 6 green, and that was pretty much it.
Q. What does 5 mean to you where they could put a new pin?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just the top left. It used to be just a mound it's been flattened on top to add a pin.
Q. Hard pin?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not an easy one but I don't know many easy pins out here.
Q. Where do you -- if it's going to be that pin, what's the best place to hit it?
PHIL MICKELSON: The best place would be anywhere on the green to try to 2-putt it. That would be ideal. (Laughter).
You can't fly it at that hole because if you fly long you're going to hit on the downslope and go in the trees. You can't miss left because the shot will be going away from the hole as you approach. So you have to be either short or right of the pin.
Q. Obviously your three Major championships stand on their own, but given the fact that you have won without competing against the greatest player of all time, how much do you think that will ultimately enhance those Majors, the fact that you won with Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't feel as though any of last year's Majors when he didn't compete were detracted. I think they are still every bit as important. That may go down 20 or 30 years from now, we may look at it differently, I don't know, as far as enhancing the tournament wins when he's in the field. I haven't sat down and looked at how many tournaments I've won with him in the field as opposed to against. But it certainly is a fun challenge for all of us to try to compete in an era when arguably the best player of all time is playing, and it gives, I think, more credibility to any successes that a player may have.
Q. Any changes in the bag this week, anything different from normal? Is there one more wedge?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, no changes. I've pretty much settled on a set of 14, sometimes 15 clubs, and I've got to pull one out. But that 15th is usually just a hybrid now or a 3-iron, and I've always gone with a 3-iron here for holes like No. 4 or the par 5s like 13 and 15, I would rather hit an iron approach than a hybrid. My bag is pretty much set. -settled on the four wedges, the same setup that I won Doral in.
Q. Just a follow-up to that. Have you re-upped with Callaway?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. Actually we just did it this week, actually. We extended our relationship five more years, and I just felt like in the last five years I have won my Major championships, I have come closest to No. 1 in the rankings that I've ever been, and I felt like Callaway's support staff and the engineers and technicians have been a big part of that.
And so you know, this is an important part of my career now, these next five years, and I felt like I needed to continue to be with what I perceive as the best equipment on the market, yeah.
Q. You mentioned clutch putting a couple of times. What's your sense on who the best clutch putter in the history of the game is?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's tough. I know where you're going with that; you're going to initially pick either Tiger or Jack, and that would be a pretty accurate assessment I would assume, given over time how many clutch putts both of those players have made.
But I think there are other guys that make a lot of key putts in key situations that don't maybe get there as often. Padraig is a guy that when he does get there, he seems to get it done. Nick Faldo was a guy that when he got there, he seemed to get it done. There are some players out there like that. I perceive Jim Furyk like that, too. Jim is the kind of guy that in The Ryder Cup you want putting for you, because when he has to make one, he seems to get it in.
Q. Considering you need 100% of your game working here at Augusta, is there any particular part that you've worked on this week after the disappointment of last week at Houston?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not any particular part, no. I had a couple of good sessions with Butch just to make sure that the golf swing was where I wanted it; that I was able to take one side of the golf course out of play or the other. That will be critical as we get down to some key holes; like 11 where I have to take the left side out of play, or we come to a hole like maybe 6, where I've got to take the right side out of play. I don't like missing it right down there.
So that will be a big part of it. But other than that, just trying to keep the short game sharp, too, wedging and putting.
Q. You mentioned the next five years are an important part of your career; why do you say that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Because I feel like right now I'm playing some of the best golf that I've ever played. I'm driving the ball better than I ever have. The last few years of changes with Butch have settled in to where I'm confident striking the ball. I feel very comfortable and confident in my game and in my equipment, and I feel like I'll be able to in the next five years achieve levels of play that I haven't achieved earlier in my career.
I don't want there to be any uncertainties. I want to continue down this path and see how far I can go.
Q. When you come to this place, you've always done so very well here. Is there something about this course and the way it sets up that suits your eye? And as an addendum to that, when you are working with Butch and you are working with Dave Pelz, do they mesh in terms of the information you receive?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see how that's an addendum to your first question. (Laughter).
Q. I wanted to be a lawyer.
PHIL MICKELSON: The first part is I feel like the golf course is a course where you can recover. You don't have to play against national perfect . I don't feel like you have to strike it immaculate to get it around. You can hit it in certain spots and recover. That's why I've played well here in the past is I can get away with some miss-hits and be able to get my next shot up or near the green and use my short game to salvage a par, and even a birdie on the par 5s.
I feel like that's why I've played well here in the past.
And then on your totally separate question, regarding Butch and Dave, I think that we have all learned a lot from each other, and I think it's been a great partnership.
Q. No addendum. Paddy was in here earlier and he was asked about the nature of rivalry in golf. He dispelled that notion saying that he is solely fixated on himself. Where do you see rivalry as a dynamic in this sport?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know from a player's point of view or think about it. I think that's more of a topic of conversation amongst members of the media.
It's just not something that I think about. You know, we are all trying to do our best and have our own careers and succeed. And in golf, it is not like tennis where you have constant head-to-head matches. You are always playing against the course and playing stroke play, except for the one week of the year at the Match Play.
And it's funny how at that match-play event, you feel a little bit more of that, what is the word, not hostility, but --
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. Confrontational. In golf, we know that we are going to see each other very week, so the relationships are very strong and we try not to let that one week get in the way.
But certainly in The Ryder Cup, when we have matches, it has been a point of contention over the years because our emotions are so high that week. I think if it were in tennis, that rivalry would be a bigger factor than it is in golf where we are not really playing against an individual as much as we are playing to just shoot the lowest score and try to beat all the players.
Q. I know you're a huge sports fan; why do you think we, the media, or the public crave that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would think you could answer that better than I could, Tom. Tell me, why do you crave it?
Q. Do you crave it in other sports that you watch, as a sports fan?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't found that to be the case I'm a big San Diego Charger fan, I grew up in San Diego. I don't care who they are playing, whether it's the Raiders. Who are historically their rival. Or the Broncos, or the New Jersey Giants or Jets; I am pulling for San Diego to win as much one game as another.
When I watch a tennis match, I don't care if Federer or playing Nadal or Nadal is playing Federer. I like watching their skills and seeing what they can do against any competition. I just appreciate their excellence, if you will. It doesn't make a big of a difference to me, but that doesn't mean it makes a lot to you.
Q. There is a sentiment out there for you and Tiger to be on a collision course; where do you stand on that? Do you get charged up at the fact that maybe you this week you guys could be walking down the back nine on Sunday, and just kind of where you stand on that.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would love to be in the same group as him and walk down the final -- walk down together on Sunday, if we are in the final group. I don't want to be third off. (Laughter).
Hopefully we will both play well. For that to happen, we have a lot of golf. We have 54 holes where we have to play great golf. I don't think that's a question for him. I think he's playing some great golf and I think he's going to be there. I think that I've been playing some of the best golf of my career and I believe I'm going to be there, too. Hopefully there will be some other key players like Padraig Harrington who is going for his third major championship in a row, which is an incredible feat. Hopefully we will have a core of top players on the leaderboard.
Q. Just as a follow, you obviously want to be there regardless of who is there, but if it is you and Tiger, how much would that possibly potentially charge you up? Is there a little extra juice there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that when I had success in a head-to-head match with Tiger at Boston a couple of years ago, it didn't matter to me the fact that we were playing together per se. I know it was made out into a huge deal, and it is. But for me to perform well, I've got to attack the golf course the way I can and not worry about what he does and not let his great shots or poor shots affect the way I play my next shot. It's not a match-play situation. It's a stroke-play event and for me to play my best, I can't get caught up in that or nor can he.
Q. Along those lines, is it more enjoyable when Mike Weir put the jacket on you or when Tiger did?
PHIL MICKELSON: Always a wise guy. (Laughter) To get that jacked from Mike and keep it amongst left-handers was cool. (Laughter).
But I do have a picture of him sliding that jacket on me, that felt good.
Q. You mentioned the No. 1 ranking; what would it mean to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, everyone out here is striving to be No. 1 in that World Ranking. It would be an incredible feat given, again, who is currently No. 1, and has been. Tiger's been No. 1 for however many years. I think Duval and Vijay have gotten up there.
It would be a great feat, an incredible feat, regardless of the fact that he did not play for eight months it still would be a great feat. But that's not really what I'm worrying about or thinking about that matters. If you play well and win tournaments, all that stuff can happen. But I remember six weeks ago, nobody was talking about that. I win a couple of events and now it's a possibility.
I've got to continue winning tournaments.
Q. How long did it take for you to get fully back physically from the ailment that you had at Doral?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just about three or four days, probably about four days, which I plan on taking the week off, the whole week off anyways and start practicing the following week.
Q. That was my follow-up, did taking that week off have any effect when you got to Houston?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I had sessions scheduled with Butch and with Pelz and practice sessions out here, and none of that was affected, no.
Q. Given what you've said about the course and how you like to hit recovery shots and things, can you charge here if the weather is not bad?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, yeah. When it's warm here, absolutely.
Q. Is there any difference in the charge, places you can go for it now?
PHIL MICKELSON: It depends on the pins. But it always has depended on the pin, pin placements. Some pins we can get to and some we can't.
But some pins that you can get to with a short iron, when it's been playing long the last few years and we are hitting longer irons in, we can't get to those pins either.
But I think it's going to be warm and the ball is going to be going and travelling farther and I think we are going to be hitting shorter irons in and playing this golf course aggressively this week.
ROB JOHNSTON: Thank you so much, ladies and gentlemen. Phil, we thank you for your time and wish you the best of luck.
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