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July 13, 2010

Phil Mickelson


LYNN WALLACE: Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome four-time major winner Phil Mickelson. Thanks for joining us, Phil. Your win at Augusta was remarkable. How special would it be to also win here at St. Andrews this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're all looking forward to playing here at the home of golf. This place is an incredible place. It's a spiritual place as well as a wonderful course, and Nicklaus has said it, that a career just doesn't feel complete unless you've won here at St. Andrews. I think all the players feel the same way.
LYNN WALLACE: You've been out practising the last couple of days. What are your thoughts on the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: The course is in as good a shape as I've ever seen it. It's just pristine and it's challenging because the greens are huge and you don't know where the pins will be, so it's hard to prepare thoroughly, other than just get a good feel for the course, a touch around the greens, get a good feel on those 150-foot lag putts. You laugh, but there's going to be a lot of them. And it's going to be a fun challenge.

Q. I'm sure you've been asked this many times, but you just mentioned how special this place is, the home of golf and everything. How special would it be to you, correct me if I'm wrong, if you win here you're guaranteed to be world No. 1? How special would it be to win it and also to do it here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It would be very special to win at St. Andrews. That to me is the biggest thing. I think that if it were up to me, I would play this championship here every year. As much as I love all of the other golf courses, there's something so special about St. Andrews.
The other thing is that the driver is never taken out of your hands. You can hit driver on just about every hole, and there's plenty of room on a number of holes. I feel like it gives you a much bigger option off the tee, and it's a great second-shot golf course to where you always have a shot into the green, but sometimes it's such a difficult shot that you're still fighting for par or bogey from the fairway.
I just think this is a golf course that every player would love to win on, and I just love playing it.

Q. Can I just ask you about hole 11, the par-3, how's it playing? How do you like it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I like it. I believe there was a difference in that over the green on 11 is now fairway into a big hollow as opposed to thick rough. I thought that was very interesting because it was a very challenging shot down there with the severity of the slopes into the green. I think it's a hole that can play so many different ways based on the wind that it's not inconceivable that you'll see a lot of run-up shots onto that green. I don't think with an 8- or 9-iron you can fly it on a number of times that you can get it stopped. You have to land it short and try to work around that bunker.

Q. You used the word "spiritual," why is that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Because as somebody who loves the game of golf, with this being the home of golf, you can't help but feel emotion and feel this sense of spirituality come over you as you play this course, knowing that this is where the game began.

Q. Other than that 18th hole last week, do you come away feeling you're in good form? Obviously I didn't see but a little bit of it on TV. Was your driver off a little bit, and have you sorted that out?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this course is a different course off the tee. You know, you can go ahead and be aggressive and hit drivers and feel like there's plenty of room out there to do it as long as you can move around from the bunkers, miss the bunkers. A lot of times you need driver to carry those bunkers.
So it is feeling a little bit better. I certainly spent time with the driver. No excuse for last week; I just had a little rough time there, and I'm looking forward to moving on here to St. Andrews.

Q. Just as a follow-up, do you feel that other than 18 you felt decent about last week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I played well on the second day. Other than that one hole, I played pretty well on the second day. The air in Scotland is much thicker at sea level, and the wind is much thicker wind than what we see usually in the States, and so it affects the golf ball a lot more. And I've found that as I was experimenting last week with what kind of shots I wanted to hit, whether it was little fades or draws, I found for me a draw works much better through this wind. It keeps the spin rate down a little bit and has a more penetrating flight. Last week when I was trying to hit fades it wasn't flying through the air the way I wanted. I expected to, after learning from that, play primarily draws throughout this week.

Q. Your record in Opens isn't -- well, it's not as good as the other three majors certainly. Is there something about links golf that you have kind of failed to conquer? And of all the venues do you think this one best suits your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's no question this one best suits my game because there's so much more room off the tee than other Open venues. You look at Royal Birkdale where you're constantly hitting irons trying to miss the rough. There's plenty of room out there. I don't feel restrained on the tee at all. I feel like there's plenty of room to hit it, and it's more of a second-shot golf course. It also allows short game to be a factor. It wasn't until 2004 that I
started to playing the wind effectively. Even when I would hit low shots, I would have way too much spin on it. It wasn't until 2004 that I had kind of an epiphany of how to do that by taking more club and swinging easier and so forth.
Also I've struggled on the greens here. I've struggled on the thicker grain of grass. I haven't putted as well, so I've made some adjustments over the years to try to improve that, getting a little bit more loft on my putter, trying to get it above the grass so the ball starts on line a little bit better than it has.

Q. Obviously the last couple of years some of the older golfers have done quite well here. Any theories for why that is? Not at this course obviously but the British, and anybody you think might be a surprise in that respect this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, if you're talking about specifically Tom Watson, I think throughout the course of his career as well as since I've been out on Tour, I don't know if anybody has struck the ball as solidly as he has. I remember having dinner with he and Bruce Edwards when I first came out on Tour and Bruce is talking about how he never even saw him hit it out off the middle of the face. He might push it or pull it a little bit but he was finding the centre of the club face every shot. He has such a solid golf swing and strikes the ball so solidly that the wind has much less effect on his ball flight than it does over others.
It was no surprise that he played well last year. It would have been the story of the ages had he been able to come out on top, but it was a great win for Stewart Cink, too, the way he birdied the last couple holes and showed some clutch golf. He's been a great champion, and it's been great for the game, too.
It would not surprise me to see somebody with a lot of experience, a little bit older, play well here. However, I do think that some of the younger players that hit the ball a long ways off the tee have a distinct advantage, and so I would anticipate that those players would come out on top.

Q. Just pursuing you on the call you made for this to become a permanent Open venue --
PHIL MICKELSON: I wasn't making a call, that was just my opinion. If it were me running the R & A -- let's not put words in my mouth. I know it's hard, but...
Let me just leave it where -- enough was said on my end. I didn't realise I opened that door. (Laughter.)

Q. I'm intrigued by some things you said the last couple weeks about going at this with a driver. How often do you see yourself hitting it here? I know you're probably little experimenting, predicated on the winds and whatnot, but I don't know that anybody has really tried to bomb this baby into submission before.
PHIL MICKELSON: No, and I have no anticipation of doing that. It's just that a number of holes there's a plenty of room where with the driver it doesn't pinch in like a lot of holes do. There will be a hole like No. 2 where you can hit driver, but I may hit 3-wood to stay sort of that bunker on the left. But like holes like 3, 4, 5 and I'll hit driver. On 6 I'll hit driver, maybe a 3-wood, but my point is you'll have an option. There's never a point where it just bottlenecks. Very rarely where there's a hole like 7 where there's a bunker in the middle of the fairway. Other than that you can hit driver. If you want on 16, on 16 there's plenty of room to hit driver even though you've got those bunkers out there, so it's a strategic decision which is what I love about St. Andrews. You have so many different shots you can get off the tee but also into the green. You can take a 2-iron and just chase it along the ground from 180 yards and the ball will feed and filter down there onto the green if you avoid the right bunkers. Or you can try to fly a set of bunkers and fly it up 60 yards or you can fly it on.
I just love the course management and all the strategy that's involved in playing this course.

Q. That would seem to be what defines you as a player in most people's minds is your versatility and your ability to ad lib and adapt and yet it doesn't seem like it's happened over here so much for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if all the courses that we play are as versatile as this. A lot of them are one dimensional, take the driver out of your hands and don't give you as many options. I think that's why I've come to love St. Andrews so much and look forward to when the Open is played here.

Q. We asked you about the World Ranking at Loch Lomond. You were fairly reluctant to talk about it. Is there any particular reason for that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's just it's more a result, it's not really -- it's not something you can focus on. I've got to play well and play well enough to achieve that, but I mean, I don't have a problem putting it on me this week. I expect to play well here, I really do. I expect to be in contention. If I were able to win, it would be great to be able to get that ranking.
But what I care more about right now is trying to win the Open Championship.

Q. Do you have any particular thoughts on the changes to the 17th?
PHIL MICKELSON: My thoughts on 17? Well, I have an overall philosophy and belief that we on Tour should make the hard holes harder and the easy holes easier, and I like it when we make the challenging holes more challenging, which is why I'm obviously with that philosophy in favour of the changes. It makes 17 a harder par, and I like that.
I like keeping the easy holes birdie holes, and that way you have a good mixture. The top players have a chance to separate themselves on the easy holes with birdie, and they can separate themselves from the field on the hard holes with pars. I think the fans enjoy seeing more turnover on the leaderboard with birdies and with bogeys. For a while we would set up golf courses where the hard holes we would make easy and they would be okay pars, and we would kind of doctor up the easy holes and make them tougher birdies and all you had was a bunch of pars, and that wasn't very much fun to watch.

Q. It was suggested to me this morning that the rough on the left should be cut back a bit because anybody going in there would have to punch it out and take a 5. Do you reckon if that rough is cut back, then it would create greater opportunities for challenging shots into the 17th, which is the whole point of the exercise?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the great thing about St. Andrews, as I was saying, is that it's a second-shot golf course in that you're able to drive it and always have a shot into the green. But that is the one exception this week. That's the one hole where that doesn't give you a second shot necessarily without a great tee shot.
But you have to look at that as a par-5 hole where the pin is going to be behind that bunker. It's simply a par-5. It'll play to a 4.8, 4.9 and possibly over 5. It might even play to 5.1. So you have to look at it as a par-5 even though the card might say par-4.

Q. Ian Poulter has basically said it's over at the moment for Americans winning majors, and he also had a question whether you have the driver to continue into your 40s to continue to win majors. I just wonder how you respond to those.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, April went well. (Laughter.)

Q. What about the Americans generally? That Ian Poulter made, not me.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see comments. I like Ian, I think he's a good guy. I love his clothes, I think that they're stylish and fun. I think they look great on him. I compliment him all the time.
We get along well, and we've had a lot of fun in the Ryder Cups playing against each other, and we have some good fun out on Tour. I just think Ian is a good guy, so I don't know what else to say.

Q. You had your fair share of problems in your personal life, and yet you've always remained an ambassador for the game, particularly with the supporters. How important as a player is it to have the fans behind you when you're out there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've been fortunate because throughout my career people have treated me very well and they've treated my wife and family very well and they've been very thoughtful and respectful. I've been very fortunate to have support from fans. It's meant a lot to me over the course of my career. It's made it fun to go to the golf course and it's made it fun to interact with people and fun to spend time after rounds signing autographs and interacting, and I think that interpersonal relationship that golf provides that many other sports don't that are in a stadium setting is really one of our greatest assets in this sport, the ability to play pro-ams and interact with regular amateur golfers, the ability to have personal contact with fans after the round or beforehand. I think all that really makes the game of golf great, and it's because people have treated myself and all the players so well.

Q. Tom Lehman was saying that you've done a big study into who plays well on this course. Has it been very detailed, or is it just a look at who has won in the past?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't know that, that -- I mean, I don't know. I think that if you look just -- I haven't done a big study, but I do take note of what's gone on, and the last three winners here have been Tiger, Tiger and Daly, and they've been the longest players in the game at that time. And then in '90, it was Nick Faldo, who's one of the most strategic golfers that you can imagine. And I had a chance to play with Nick today, and I asked him a bunch of questions because he's got a lot of great thoughts on St. Andrews and avoiding bunkers and shots into the greens and what allowed him to win and be so dominant in 1990. He played some of the best golf you've ever seen there.
The great thing about St. Andrews, again, it comes back to it doesn't limit you as a player on ways you can win. All players can win. But I do think there are distinct advantages to length out here.

Q. I have two questions, please. In the history of the rankings, no one has spent even close to the amount of weeks that you have at No. 2. Does that bug you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Does it bug me?

Q. Yeah, no one has been No. 2 longer, not even close.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. Give me something else. What else you got for me? I'll go with option B. What's your next question?

Q. We're trying to get to this No. 1 thing, but you don't seem to care about it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, no, I care. I think it would be something that if I were to accomplish in my career, and I have some chances here, it would be something -- whether it was for one week or a month or a year, however long, just to be able to say you did it, especially in Tiger's era, it would be incredible. So I know that my window of opportunity is small because Tiger is going to start playing some of his better golf here soon, so I've got to get my butt in gear. So I'm going to try hard to do that this week.

Q. Second, give a percentage, 0 to 100, probability, of Tiger passing Jack.
PHIL MICKELSON: I know it's more in his favour of doing it, absolutely.

Q. A number?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, just because you ask a question doesn't mean I have to answer it as you phrase it. (Laughter.)

Q. So you're saying it's more than 50/50?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's in his favour. I don't know what numbers that is, but it's certainly in his favour. He only has a few to go --

Q. He's got five to go.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, he's playing pretty good. Maybe not last month, but maybe today, you just never know when his game turns.

Q. So you think he'll do it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I mean, I think the odds are in his favour is what I was saying, four times now. (Laughter.)

Q. How bummed out were you leaving Pebble, and did that change your attitude as it relates to this tournament, and I do have a follow-up.
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I'll tell you, I certainly wanted to win Pebble. Obviously to win the U.S. Open Championship there would have been incredible, and I was trying hard and fell short, and it was disappointing, but I learned a lot this week as far as playing in wind, playing in heavy air that is similar to British Opens. I played a lot of draws at Pebble Beach, and I'm going to play a lot of draws here. It has a more penetrating flight for me, the wind doesn't affect it as much as I'm able to keep my misses more in check, and I had a lot of success ball-striking because at Pebble Beach because I played so many draws, and I anticipate doing that again here.

Q. And the follow-up is, through your bag, what changes have you made to accommodate this golf course as it relates to irons and degree of your driver and even down through the wedges?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I really haven't made any changes. I have pretty much the same setup now as the Masters. Because the rough here doesn't require hybrid hacking-out shots like the U.S. and PGA often do, I took the hybrid out just like I did at the Masters, and I'll play a 3-iron instead, and everything else is the same.

Q. You seem very enthusiastic for this Open, and why not, but I just wonder, have you ever been more enthusiastic ahead of an Open Championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: The reason why you can sense that is because I am having a great time. I just love coming to St. Andrews. I love playing -- this is my third practise round. I don't play that many practise rounds in a major, but I just love being on the golf course at St. Andrews and playing it. I'm excited about the championship. I can't wait for Thursday. One of my favourite things is to watch some of the golf on TV, and when I have a late tee time I'll watch in the morning, when I have an early time I'll watch in the afternoon. It's fun to see people playing this golf course in the Open Championship. It's a special week. '05 was special, it was Nicklaus' last Open. He has his own money, gosh. I've kept some of those, too. It's just a cool place. I love it here.

Q. You were asked the other day if your career would be lacking if you didn't win an Open, and what you answered was it would be more complete if you did. Would you elaborate?
PHIL MICKELSON: What's interesting is I think the same person asked me that question.

Q. It wasn't me.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sorry, I thought it was. I think that's the best way to answer it because I don't want to say it's incomplete, but I think it would just feel more complete to win an Open Championship, especially at St. Andrews. How can you not feel that way as a player?

Q. Taking St. Andrews out of the mix, what is it that makes it more complete, the nature of the golf played?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think every player wants to win all four majors. I think that's their goal. I think if you win all four majors you've shown yourself to be a complete player because at Augusta it requires length, at the U.S. Open Championship it requires patience and control, and the British Open it requires a whole different shot pattern of run-up shots and bump-and-runs and lag putting and shots along the ground, and the PGA is kind of a mixture of the three at times. It can go all over.
And I think if you were to win all four majors like only I think five people have, you've proven yourself to be as complete a golfer as you can be, so I think that's the goal for all players. I haven't won the U.S. Open Championship or the Open Championship, and I'd like to win both of those.

Q. How many times during the course of your career have you changed putters? And two, if you were to win the British Open, is there someone in that locker room that's sort of a purist's choice, a people's choice that you guys would like to see win one of these things?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I would single out anybody, but yeah, there's a lot of guys that it would be special -- players we would be pulling for.
As far as changing putters, I change all the time. I have 25 different putters of the same model. I have two models that I switch back and forth from, and I don't anticipate really adding a third. I just think those two models I like and feel good with. But I'm always changing, it might be loft, might be the grip, might be the length, might be the lie, all these little things. But the model itself, I have two models that I've stayed pretty constant with the last six or eight years.

Q. Tom Watson was out and around in St. Andrews last night in the public having a drink with the locals and all that kind of stuff. You seem to love this stuff. Do you get out and about? Do you have a pint when you go out?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have nothing against having a pint, I just don't care for the taste. I haven't had a beer since college. It's not my thing. But I like to go out and hear the stories. The problem is as people have more and more pints, I can't understand them, so I find that like 7:00 to 8:30 is like my optimum time to grab -- I usually grab a soda or something.

Q. You're working on the accent, surely you can converse with the locals now.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, what's interesting is they actually understand it when I try to use my different accent, but I have not learned to understand it in return. I'm trying, though.

Q. Would you like to say something about tomorrow's event involving the four champions?
PHIL MICKELSON: Would I like to say something about it?

Q. Yeah.
PHIL MICKELSON: I wish Seve was there. I think we all do. But Seve has been a very inspirational golfer for me and I think many people. His style of play is compelling. His charisma draws you to watch him play. And the way he would win tournaments was just so exciting to watch, the shot-making that he had, and his fight and will to win was incredible. And throughout my career, he has been nothing but nice and classy to me, and I just really appreciate that because growing up watching him and looking up.
To him and trying to emulate a lot of his style and the way he plays the game, it means a lot to me that he has been so nice in return. And I just wish he was here. I wish he was doing well, and I hope he's doing well, and I'm pulling for him.

Q. And the concept of the whole thing overall?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's cool. I'd like to be in it, but I'm just not eligible. Working on it. Hopefully.

Q. Since you mentioned Tiger earlier, I wonder if you could offer your thinking on how he might go here, considering when he turned up at the Masters after that amazing sequence of events that surrounded him and he finished fourth, he showed no form before the U.S. Open Championship and finished fourth. How do you think he's going to do here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think he's going to play well here, because he has a lot of heart, he's got an incredible short game, and he hits the ball a long ways. His irons are as good as anybody's in the game, and I think the golf course -- he's obviously won on it twice. He's gutted out two fourth-place finishes in majors being in contention when he probably didn't have his best stuff, and this course sets up very well for him. So he will be in contention on Sunday. I don't know how anybody can question that.
LYNN WALLACE: Phil, thanks for joining us. Good luck this week.

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