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August 12, 2009

Phil Mickelson


KELLY ELBIN: 2005 PGA Champion Phil Mickelson joining us at the 91st PGA Championship here at Hazeltine National. This will be Phil's 17th PGA Championship coming off a tie for 7th last year at Oakland Hills.
Phil, want to talk a little bit about the opportunity to play the golf course today. I know you came in a little bit later than others, and your first impressions.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I came in last night. I went home for a couple of days. And I got out on the course today around 10:00 for a practice round. I got here a little earlier for some practice. Golf course is in great shape.
The rough has grown up since I was here a week and a half ago. The greens have picked up some pace. And the course is in great shape. I think it's going to be a wonderful test of golf this week. And a challenging but fair test.

Q. My interest is in the par 5s, if you could talk about the length. I guess in '05 I think there was a 600-yard par 5. Just give us your opinion about how significant it is, how they'll be played, can you make birdies on them, things of that nature.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think you're still going to be thinking birdie off the tee on the par 5s, but really only one hole is a hole that you're going to get to and that's No. 7.
7, when I played here in '02 and '91, was my favorite hole on the course. I thought that it required some great strategy. It required a very accurate tee shot and although you were always able to reach the green if you hit's decent drive, it was a difficult second shot.
They made some changes there. They've opened it up a little bit. They've made it longer. I think that it's probably not going to have as many people go for it for that hole, which means that for a lot of people all four par 5s won't be reachable. But 7 is still, I think, one of the best holes on the course.
No. 3 is probably my least favorite hole on the course, because there's just no reward for hitting, for trying to get it down by the green. There's no reward for hitting driver off the tee. There's no reward for trying to get a shorter iron in.
So I'll play that hole with a 3-wood or hybrid off the tee, a 4- or 5-iron and try to hit it to the flat area on the fairway. The last 20, or 30 yards the fairway is so sloped, you're not able to hit it. So it seems as though everybody will be playing back to about the same spot.
The other two par 5s are just long. You can't reach them, really. Unless you get a lot of helping wind. And they're just long. But there's an advantage to getting up by the green. There's an advantage to hitting a good tee shot and being able to hit 3-wood up by the green. Increases your chances of birdie. I think they're still pretty good holes.

Q. Is there any sense of relief at all that we've come to fourth and final major of the year or would you prefer to rewind them and play in all four of them again?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'd love to have another shot at the Masters and U.S. Open. I'll get those chances next year. Everybody's in the field here. This is their opportunity to finish the year with a high note and to be able to be the last major champion until Augusta comes around in April.
So this is a big week for everybody.

Q. With all this length and with the PGA announcing last week that because of drought conditions the rough isn't quite as long or as thick as it's been in the past, do you think that a longer player has an advantage here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do. (Laughter).
Was there any more to that?

Q. Can you expound on why you think that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do think there's an advantage, even though there's no advantage on the par 5s for a longer player. That gets nullified with the fact you can't reach it. But there's an advantage on the par 4s being able to get the ball down in certain areas and carry certain bunkers off the tee.
No. 10 being an example. The fairway opens up a little bit more if you can fly a 300 and that can be a factor.

Q. We see how supportive crowds can be a big factor in football and basketball, home crowds, home field advantages. It's almost as if you play with home field advantages. Does it work the same way in golf, with lots of fans out there cheering, are you a better player with nobody out there just tell us how it works in golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not really sure how it works in golf. I think from what I saw today, the fans have been supportive of all the players as they've come through and I think this is a great sight to hold this championship on because of the way the people are.
You still have to execute. You still have to hit the shots. You still have to make the putts and shoot low score if you expect to win and nobody else can pull the trigger except for you.

Q. How would you describe this year and how would you assess your play through it?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been an interesting year, and we've had some highs and lows. And I think that we'll have some more highs and lows for the next year or two. I think in the end, everything's going to be fine. But right now I think things are day-to-day for us. That's both golf and not golf.

Q. Earlier in your career you had a stretch where you played better early in the season and had some struggles sometimes from the PGA and on. I think you talked about getting in better shape and trying to address that. How different does this year feel at this point given you had a long break. And I imagine golf-wise you're probably fresher.
PHIL MICKELSON: I played well on the West Coast a number of years. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that I'm excited to play golf. I'm fresh, ready to go. I haven't been playing. I'm working hard on my game because I'm excited to get back into it. I feel much the same heading into the PGA and heading into the FedExCup. I feel that same excitement to be able to get back to playing. I feel a sense of relief knowing that long term, both my mom and Amy are going to be fine, and I'm excited about working on my golf game and trying to compete here these next few weeks.

Q. Before Bethpage with all that was going on, really that week you said you really didn't have a feeling for how you might play that week, how things might go, and yet you ended up close to winning. Do you have a better feeling this week for how things might go?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do have a better feeling. I had a -- I felt I had a really good week last week even though didn't play well or score the way I wanted to, I was able to identify what I needed to work on and address those these last couple of days, and I feel much better about my game heading into this week than, say, even the U.S. Open.
So I'm excited to get this tournament going.

Q. First of all, did Amy ask you to bring back a trophy this time? And how nice has it been to be able to have an escape this summer that you could go off, put things at home out of your mind for a couple of hours and just worry about golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean this summer? Say it again.

Q. With everything you've been dealing with, with Amy and your mom, that you had something that you could go and focus on, as opposed to having it be a distraction, I guess, that it could take your mind off of things at home.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really know where to go with that. Like I said, I'm excited that or relieved that long term we believe everything's going to be fine. But still as we go through it it's day-to-day. You have good days and you have bad days.
But the big picture we've been fortunate, and because of that it makes it easier to be practicing when I'm actually at the course.

Q. I know you've said it's hard to plan your schedule out too far, but have you thought much about the rest of the season and specifically the Presidents Cup and whether you intend to play that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'd like to play these FedExCup event and the Presidents Cup event and so forth. I think there's a good chance we'll be able to do that. But there's still some procedures we have to do over the course of the next year that will be kind of off and on, and if it fits time line then I'll be able to play. But if not I'm certainly not going to adjust medical procedures based on golf. So we'll see how that plays out.

Q. Before Bethpage you had sort of a unique hybrid club made up for you by the folks at Callaway that you worked on. Is that club going to be in the bag this week and can you say if you have you made adjustments to the set makeup; you won the Masters with two drivers and you've used four wedges at certain tournaments and been victorious; have you changed the makeup of your standard set for this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, this is the same setup I've had at the U.S. Open and that I've played with most of the year. It's that same hybrid. I think that it's performed very well out of this rough, and I expect to be able to recover because of that club. If I were to miss some fairways, which although I'm never planning on doing, I usually seem to miss a few.
So I'll rely on that club quite a bit to advance it down the fairway to hopefully get up-and-down save par.

Q. Phil, how important has the fan support been to you during this time that you've been struggling with what you've been going through with Amy and your mom?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been flattering but what's been interesting is to see how this affects so many people. Everybody has a personal story, because it's affected everybody's life. Whether it's their mother, sister or whether it's breast cancer or another form of cancer; it's shocking to me to see how this disease has affected so many people.
And I'm appreciative of all the people in the past decades that have gone through so many clinical studies that have given us so much information because treating breast cancer or any kind of cancer today relative to five years ago is so much better relative to ten years ago.
It's amazing the progress. And we're fortunate that so many people have been willing to go through these clinical trials and give knowledge to the scientists and doctors that have been able to make these advancements.

Q. Can you just comment on the design and your strategy for the par 3s, similar to the par 5 question?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think 8 is one of the coolest par 3s out here. And I love that hole because you can make a 2 but you can make a 5. I think it's got great risk/reward and a wonderful shot value.
I think the 4th hole is just a solid par 3. I think it's what is enjoyed about this golf course, straightforward test of golf, nice mid-iron. Surprisingly my favorite hole is 13. I love the new tee box. It's a 250-yard par 3 with water up the left.
The reason I like it is it falls into my strategy or belief that the TOUR, the tournaments, should make the hard holes harder and the easy holes easier, because people want to see birdies and they want to see bogeys. And when you take a hard hole like 13 and you move the tee back to where it's 250 or 260 yards, you're going to see a lot of bogeys and doubles. That gives the better players a chance to make up ground to separate themselves through making par. That's one of the best holes out here.
That's exactly why I don't like moving the tee back on a hole like 7, because I believe the better players have a chance to separate themselves when they can go for that green and try and make an eagle or birdie. When you move the tee back and you force everybody to lay up, it just makes an easy hole harder. And I don't believe in that theory.
And so I think that 13 is one of my favorite par 3s. 17, again, is just a good solid par 3 that we saw Scott Simpson in '91 end up losing the tournament on when he hooked an iron there. It can be a very dramatic hole. It's a difficult 2 because of where the pins will be on the high section and that base in the middle. I think the green there is the most challenging green of the par 3s.

Q. Which parts of your game are the strongest now relatively and which parts feel the weakest?
PHIL MICKELSON: I feel like my short game after last week was not good during last week. I feel like it's much better. I've been able to focus on it and spend time getting my touch back. And I feel like it's come back. And I feel much better about it heading into this week.
Butch was able to go around all 18 holes today. And that was very beneficial to make sure that the swing is on track. The setup is correct and the path and everything is where we want it.
So I feel like that's coming around, and like I said, I'm excited to get started tomorrow.
KELLY ELBIN: Phil Mickelson off at 1:45 tomorrow. Thank you, Phil.

End of FastScripts

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