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August 5, 2009
CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome Phil Mickelson here to the media center at the Bridgestone Invitational. Obviously you've been off for a little while and just some opening comments on coming back.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, things at home are going much better. We've had a great six weeks. We're in a much better place now than we were. I'm excited about that. I'm excited about the chance to play a little golf, too.
Q. Where is your game after six weeks? I mean, were you able to practice much? Did you put the clubs away for a while right after the U.S. Open? Can you just update us on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, for the first three or four weeks, I didn't really play, but the last couple of weeks as things have gotten better, I've been able to practice a little bit, and so I won't know exactly until I play, but I'm optimistic.
Q. I was just curious, with your mom, did she happen to go get checked as a direct result of Amy, because sometimes that happens, women will look at someone they know and reminds them it's been however long. Did one kind of directly lead to maybe your mom getting an early diagnosis as a result?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it did have a little bit of an effect in that the awareness of it made her be more concerned if she were to feel a lump, and I think that led to her having something checked and getting a biopsy and having it come back positive.
Q. Most of us, when something happens in your life, it's hard, you take it to work with you. How do you separate it? How does one not let that affect you when you're out on the golf course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if you really separate it. I feel that -- I feel we've been fortunate because of a couple reasons. Both my mom and Amy have caught it early, and we've been able to have some wonderful care, and not only have the doctors been incredible in their science, but they've also been very compassion ate towards us, and it's just been -- we've had a great medical experience.
Out of the 200,000 people to get diagnosed every year, I just can't get over how many people it affects. We feel lucky to be -- for a bad situation, in as good a situation as it can be.
Q. When you said you guys are in a much better place, can you elaborate a little bit on that or how much you would want to elaborate on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's hard for me to really talk openly because it's not involving me, it's involving Amy, it's involving my mom, and it's a personal issue with them, and so I don't want to -- I want to respect their wishes and not go into too much detail.
But we've been -- I feel like we've been fortunate.
Q. Given the cards they were dealt, would you say this has worked out as good as it could have?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would say that, yeah.
Q. Considering your high profile, I know you do a lot of other charity things, but the first thing I thought of is you might save one of my friend's lives. I don't know if you're getting that kind of reaction, or just your profile to raise money for this cause?
PHIL MICKELSON: Maybe. We've had some very interesting weeks on the PGA TOUR, and I'm not talking about my mom or Amy. We had some incredible tragedies. I think first and foremost the most heart-wrenching tragedy was with Chris Smith losing his wife Beth. It's a terrible feeling, a helpless feeling, not being able to do anything and see them go through that. Meanwhile we were going through our own stuff, but to see something as tragic as that, it just pulls at you, and we want to do what we can to help the Smith family.
And then to see what Ken Green went through with his accident and his amputation. I don't know what's been going on on TOUR. Jonathan Byrd's father just died of brain cancer. It's just been a wacky couple of months for the families on the PGA TOUR, and we feel for them, as well.
Q. I fully understand and respect you saying you don't want to speak for your mother and your wife, but in terms of you, when you're on top of the world, you're a great golfer, you're wealthy and you've got this great family, how hard -- did that hit you like a ton of bricks when you heard that, and how hard was it to assimilate?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's tough for everybody, and I have a lot more empathy now realizing how many people it affects and how many people go through it.
It was difficult. Not knowing I think was the most difficult challenge, if you will, not knowing the details of it and having so many questions. But I think two things have been very helpful. I think -- I'm a big believer in prayer, and I think that was a big help, and I'm a big believer in science, and to have a center that specifically focuses on cancer, to have centers like that throughout this country is a huge asset for so many of us because so many of us get afflicted with this.
So as we did research and saw that there was a lot of treatment and had many of our questions answered, it got easier and easier. Although it'll never be easy, as great a situation as you might have dealing with cancer, it's a lifelong disease, and it's something that's never easy.
Q. You've always had a large following, but what has the following of these fans since your unfortunate circumstances have arisen meant to you? Every place you go people are yelling your name. It's almost like taken it to another level how people have started to relate to you.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's not so much that, I think it's more in response to Amy, and I think it's more in how Amy affects people. I think that she touches people in the heart. She has a direct impact when she comes in contact with other people, and I think the response has been more because of the type of person that Amy is and how much love people have had for her and how she treats everybody so great and how she treats everybody with respect and with love and concern and genuinely cares what's going on in other people's lives. To see her go through something so difficult, I think that's what's affected people.
Q. I think you were asked this in Memphis, as well, what you can expect from your game coming off such a long layoff, and I think it would be apropos to not only ask the same question now, but would you have guessed then how you would have performed at the U.S. Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think mentally right now I'm in a much better place because we're just in a better place than where we were in the Open, waiting to get started. I just feel very fortunate to be where we're at today, and we still have a lot to go through, but we're just in a much better place.
Q. What are you expecting game-wise over the next couple weeks?
PHIL MICKELSON: What do I expect? I expect to play well. I mean, I expect to play like I always have.
I think that mental rehearsal is every bit as important as physical rehearsal. When I had my nurse gown on, I would mentally rehearse shots and stuff to just think about when -- just kind of keep myself sharp, even though I wasn't touching a club. So I think when I came back and was finally able to swing a club, I was able to play fairly decently.
Q. Since Bethpage what has been your daily routine, your daily life been like? What's occupied -- being in the hospital, being at home?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of all that, yeah.
Q. Has there been a routine?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really want to go into the details of it, but it hasn't really included golf for a month. Again, I didn't think I would be able to be here today. If you had asked me two months ago would I be able to play again in August, I didn't think that that would be possible, but we've had some good things happen along the way, and I'm fortunate to be able to play.
Q. Beyond these next three after the Barclays, do you have any broad brush strokes, Presidents Cup or any of that still in play?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just don't want to commit to anything long-term. I would expect that things -- I hope that things will continue to go well, that I'll be able to play, but I don't know that. I just don't know. I don't want to commit to something that far down the road and probably won't commit to anything that far down the road for at least a year.
Q. Just be kind of piecemeal until you get through?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
Q. Is this the longest hiatus you've taken from playing, this six-week span, and secondly, the level of concentration it takes to win out on TOUR, do you feel that because of the state that you're in now, things being good, that you have that level of concentration to go out there and compete and not only compete but win?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't want to jump to any conclusions and say that right now. I have taken more time off in the past in the off-season, but not ever during the summer. I don't know, I still have question marks as to how I'll play and whatnot. But that's not really the most important thing. The most important thing is that Amy and my mom are doing well, I'm excited about that, and it lets me practice a little bit with a better frame of mind.
Q. You had the longest string of consecutive major championships played, and I'm wondering if you watched the British Open at all, how much did you miss playing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did watch it. I thought it was an incredible event. It was on early in the morning. I loved that, being able to wake up to the Open. I thought it was incredible. I thought Stewart Cink played some great golf coming down the stretch with a birdie on 18, and I thought Tom Watson had he won would have been the greatest story in all of sports. I can't think of a better story line than that.
It was interesting, but I didn't really think much about a streak or anything like that. I wasn't even aware of it until it was pointed out that week.
Q. What did you see out of Hazeltine, and how different was it that you recalled from '02?
PHIL MICKELSON: I played Hazeltine last week. I played it very long. I played it from the tips in wet conditions, so the ball wasn't going very far. It was all of the 7,700-plus yards that it could play. I don't anticipate it playing that long. I hope it does, but I don't think it will. It's a tough test. It's a tough test even with soft conditions, because the golf course is so long. But I thought it's going to be a great PGA that looked to be set up very fairly for a difficult major championship.
Q. Another question about the state of things with you. Do you feel rusty? Are you hungry to play? Where are you coming from?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited to play. I'm excited to play. I didn't realize how much I loved playing the game of golf. It's made me re-look at some of my longer-term expectations as far as if I would cut back schedule, win, at what age, all that stuff. It just makes me realize how much I really enjoy what I do, how much I love playing the game of golf, how much I love competing on the PGA TOUR, and how I don't ever want to take that for granted.
Q. Just curious on one thing with Watson coming as close as he did. There's been loads of examples of guys in their 40s playing well, whether it's Kenny or Vijay or what have you, but it hasn't really translated into victories in the majors over the years. Any thoughts on why that would be? Vijay is the only guy in this decade in his 40s that's won a major. As I said, we see a lot of wins week to week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't know. I don't think there's any real reason other than they just haven't shot the lowest score. They're a shot or two away numerous times. I don't know. I don't know why.
Q. When you look back at Bethpage, you've had obviously disappointments in majors before, but would it be fair to say that it didn't impact you as much emotionally, that loss, as other ones because of the situation you're in?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that would be fair to say.
Q. And how different is your mind now than where it was in New York?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's just in a much better place now that we've been through some stuff and we've had great things go our way. Again, this is going to be a long road, and it's not something that you ever really get over with. It never really leaves you. You deal with it the rest of your life. But for today I'm in a much better place than I was six weeks ago.
Q. Just wondering what you thought about Buick leaving San Diego. They're not going to be the title sponsor anymore.
PHIL MICKELSON: Have they now left San Diego, too? Well, San Diego is a special tournament for me having grown up there, and I think Buick has been the longest sponsor that we've had. We have gone in and out of sponsors for a number of years, and I'm sorry to see them go. They've been a terrific sponsor, not just for that particular event but for the entire TOUR, and so I'm sorry to see that GM isn't solvent and that Buick is pulling the plug.
I hope they get things turned around, and maybe in the long-term we'd be able to revisit some things, but they've been a terrific sponsor for us in the past.
I hope companies out there see what the TV ratings have been for that event and how successful that event has been and that other sponsors will step up for that particular event.
Q. I presume Amy won't be traveling with you for a while. How different is that going to be?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that will be a little bit different, but we'll kind of alter traveling schedule and so forth so that we can make it work and not be apart too long.
Q. Next month Arnie turns 80. Can you take me back to the first time you ever met him, and what was that like, and what has Arnie meant to this game?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Arnie was the first person I called when I qualified for The Masters in '91, and I asked Doc Giffin if I could play a practice round, and we got a practice round set up, and we played a great round of golf, and we walked off the 18th tee about 100 yards, and he kind of grabs me arm and pulls me over and stops, and says, "Right here. Right here." "What, Mr. Palmer?" "1961, I had a one-shot lead, I came over and shook somebody's hand, and he said 'congratulations.' I never should have said thank you; I should have said it's not over." That's when he blocked the 7-iron right into the bunker, made double and lost to Gary Player. He was still fuming about it 30 years later. (Laughter.)
He just has a lot of charisma and he's meant so much to this game of golf, and I've been able to play with him when he was competitive and I've been able to spend time with him when he's stopped playing.
Q. During the outpouring that you and Amy have received during this, are there a couple that really touched you that you could share with us, a surprise --
PHIL MICKELSON: We've been very appreciative to a lot of people that have helped us get through this because one of the biggest concerns was our kids, and we had friends that took them for four or five days up to Newport. We had Amy's family take them to Salt Lake for a week, we had them fly out to Houston for a week when Amy was feeling better. They've been able to see her when she's doing well, and they've been able to have a fun summer. Although it hasn't been with us per se, they've been able to have a fun summer and not really feel the effects of what's been going on. So we're fortunate for a lot of friends.
Jen and Bones have been amazing for us and they've been there through this whole ordeal and helped us with whatever we've needed, and a number of our friends have done the same. I think that that's been one of the neatest things is that -- I'll never forget that, and I'll never forget what the PGA TOUR did for me and my wife when they did the pink out at Colonial. I think that was one of the coolest things we've ever seen, and it just makes us feel so emotional towards everybody on the PGA TOUR, the way that they've been supportive, just like I'm seeing the PGA TOUR come together and support the Smith family and support Ken Green and support Jonathan Byrd.
It seems like the players really get behind and emotionally support guys out here on TOUR when they're going through things. It's a pretty cool group of guys.
Q. I'm just curious about the proposed offer to buy the 50 Waffle Houses.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was 105. I don't really want to go into it. I hope that goes through. You know, I was intending to be quiet on that, but I guess with the bankruptcy courts my name got stuck out. I don't really know what to say. It's not been finalized, and we haven't won the rights to that or anything.
CHRIS REIMER: Do you have your hash browns scattered, covered and chunked?
PHIL MICKELSON: It looks like I have. (Laughter.)
CHRIS REIMER: Just lastly, obviously you played really well last year, you won at the World Golf Championship, CA Championship. Just talk about coming back to a World Golf Championship event and playing here this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think this is one of my favorite events. I love playing here in Akron, I love playing Firestone. It's just a terrific golf course.
The greens are identical to what we'll see at Hazeltine. I think that will be great for the guys that were able to get in the field here. This has been -- it's perfectly placed. The week before the PGA is a great week to get ready as well as to compete against such a strong field.
CHRIS REIMER: Thanks a lot, Phil. Good luck this week.
End of FastScripts