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May 10, 2011

Phil Mickelson


LAURA HILL: I know you just finished your practice round. Maybe talk about course conditions and just setting things up for this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: The course looks terrific, and it looks very difficult. I played nine holes last night, and it was extremely firm greens, and the rough is longer than it has been and difficult to advance it and certainly difficult to get it on the green.
So I think there's going to be a real premium for hitting the ball in the fairway and very difficult to get up-and-down. I think that the shots around the greens are very challenging because of the firmness and speed of the greens.

Q. Now that the No. 1 spot in the world has kind of reshuffled a couple times this year as opposed to having one guy hold onto it for 14 years at a time, is it overrated or underrated, or what's your general feeling about being No. 1 in the world? Does it matter? Does it matter to the guy who is No. 1?
PHIL MICKELSON: Look, it's certainly what everybody strives for, but it's not really something that's on the forefront of anybody's minds. I think the most important thing is to win tournaments and to compete in a tournament like this week, play against the best players, there's a lot more satisfaction over beating the best players in the world on a challenging test like this than there is to say you're ranked X on the World Rankings.

Q. Other than Seve's dog, are you aware of anybody naming any other things after you, cars, boats, kids?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've received some letters and so forth that have informed me of such. I didn't check it to see if it was accurate. I take their word for it. But there's been some interesting stuff, yeah.

Q. What's your response to that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's flattering. It's very flattering.

Q. We noticed, especially at maybe some of the big events, Ryder Cups and majors that you've kind of taken a role as a mentor and taken the younger guys under your wing. Can you talk about that role that you play with the younger guys, and is that something that you're really trying to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love to promote the game of golf, and I love when these good young players come up and compete and play well. And when they play well on a stage as large as the Ryder Cup, it just helps to promote the game of golf, and it helps to promote our good, young talent that's coming up through the ranks.
But it's not like I do anything in particular. The only thing that I say is that, as an individual, you have to find out what works best for you. Because when I came out on TOUR, I would talk to some of the older players and they would say this is what they do to prepare for a major or this is what they do to prepare for tournaments. And sometimes that stuff worked very well for me and sometimes it didn't.
And I think it's important as an individual in an individual sport that you find out what works best for you to bring out your best game. And so I don't really do anything in particular, just try to get those guys to do whatever helps them play their best.

Q. If you could just remember back to what it was like before you won a major and everybody was harping on the fact that you hadn't won one. Did that affect you at all? Did it make any difference to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I tried not to think about trying to get that label off my back when I was going through it, but I tried to focus on just the fact that I had been playing well and improving my performances in the majors and trust that eventually it would come.
And I think that that's the only way to kind of go through that is the more you think about winning, the more impatient you get on the golf course, and the less you think about the process of what has to happen for you to win, and consequently you don't play your best.
So I really tried not to focus on it, but it was -- it took some concerted effort to be able to do that.

Q. With Rory and Lee not here this week, there's been some talk that the tournament is losing some of its prestige. Do you still think it holds up as the fifth major against events like the WGC events?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, certainly in my mind it does. I mean, I feel like since I've been out on TOUR that this is one of the tournaments that I would like to win the most right along with the majors. Everybody has got their own personal deal, but I just -- I disagree with their thought process.

Q. How does their absence impact the field this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it does.

Q. Do you feel that being a past champion here gives you a leg up on the other competitors because you already know how to win here?
PHIL MICKELSON: That could be the case, but I feel as though having won here, there's a certain amount of pressure that I feel is taken off because I have won here, and I'm able to -- I don't want to say free wheel, but play a little freer. When you want to win something so bad, sometimes it can really inhibit your performance, and that can be the case in a tournament as prestigious and as sought after as this one. So having won it, I think helps in that regard.

Q. You've obviously been dabbling in designing for a little while. Why do you think this particular venue produces such an unpredictable variety of winners from small, medium and large, big hitters, short hitters, Fred Funk, Tim Clark, longer guys, you, Stenson, that makes it so democratic and seemingly doesn't skew any direction in terms of favoritism?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a tough question to answer. I don't really have a great answer for you. Looking at it, it doesn't favor any one style of play. It doesn't favor a long hitter or a short hitter. It really just favors somebody who ends up playing well that week. And whether you're hitting 5-irons into the green or whether you're hitting 8-irons into the green, you still have to be in the fairway and hit certain shots and miss it in the right spot and get lucky to be able to get up-and-down, putt well.
I don't know why or what about the design causes it to be like that, but it certainly does not favor any style of play.

Q. You just mentioned when you want something so badly it can inhibit how you play and how you perform and you're able to be a little more free-wheeling. Do you think that's happened to you at the Open at all, that you want it so bad that it's inhibited you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Maybe, but I seem to play some of my better golf there, so I don't know. It could very well be it, or it could be that I want it so bad that I end up focusing and getting in contention a lot more at that tournament on a setup that usually does not favor my style of play. So I guess it could go either way.

Q. The friendly little match that you guys had going today, how fun was that result on 18?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was nice. Yeah, it was really nice. I really like playing golf with those guys. Dustin and Steve Marino, Jeff Overton was my partner today, they're fun guys to play with, and we got around really quickly and played a really nice round of golf.
When it's hot like this, I just think that that is much more beneficial than to go out and hit 12 chips on every green and 20 putts and kind of wear yourself out. We just cruised around, played a nice round of golf and had a friendly little match, and it had the right outcome. (Laughter.)

Q. You have one very memorable shot at 13. When you stand up on that tee, do you get confidence from it, the hole-in-one you had there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, you know what I remember about that is I was playing with Payne Stewart. I don't really remember the shot as much as I just remember the fact that I was playing with Payne and Greg Norman that day. And it was a fun day because it was the second round after I had shot a high first-round score. Shot 66, I think, that day with a hole-in-one there, and that was a cool moment because, again, it was with Payne and something I'll always remember.

Q. The other hole is No. 17. Can you talk about your perspective of that hole maybe has changed in all the years you've been playing here since the first time you came here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's an interesting hole. You know, there's very few holes in the world that don't have an area where you can miss it. Most great holes have one side that you can -- that is extreme penalty, whether it's water, out of bounds or impossible up-and-down, and then another side where you can still play.
And that is a hole that's unique in golf because it has no bail-out. You have to hit a great shot. You have to hit the green or it's a two-shot penalty. It may as well be out of bounds there because you're back re-hitting it.
. It's certainly a unique hole, and I've paid it a lot more respect as time has gone on and appreciate what it can do to harm you and try not to get too greedy because the penalty is so great.

Q. Bubba was talking earlier about how intimidating this course can be from the look off the tee, how he doesn't like a lot of the looks because there's so much stuff to see. What's your experience been in terms of how challenging this course is?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is. As long as he hits the golf ball, he's hitting mostly into tighter spaces out here. If he were to hit it -- the largest part of the fairway, the widest part of the fairway, is probably 25 yards short of where his drives end up, so it is going to be awkward if he hits drivers on a lot of holes.
He could play this golf course very effectively with a 3-wood and his long iron or hybrid that he uses and then just take advantage of some of the holes like maybe -- I don't know even where he can hit driver. Yeah, I don't even know what hole he can really hit driver on, maybe No. 9? I'm not sure.

Q. Do you share his feeling that this is one of the more intimidating when you stand up on the tee box?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't felt that. I feel like the fairways are very generous here. Certainly if you miss the fairway it's very penalizing. The rough is tough, the severe moundings give you some ridiculous lies, the bunkering is very difficult to advance to the green, you usually have to wedge out, water on a lot of holes. So the penalty for missing is very severe, but I've always felt like the width of the fairways were very generous and fair.

Q. We've got 20 TOUR events on the books now and it's been a weird year for winners. I think we've had twice as many guys outside the top 200 in the World Rankings as inside the top 10, you and Luke have had wins. Anything you can put your finger on there? We've got a lot of new rookies this year and Tiger is not winning half the tournaments right now, either, so sort of a door of opportunity there for more guys? Any theories there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really, just that there's -- I think it's good, though. I think it's a good thing that we have good young talent. I played yesterday with Brendan Steele and Keegan Bradley, and these guys are very talented players who are really nice people to be around and really a plus for the game.
So to have guys like this come out and become TOUR winners and start to be in the major championships and to further enhance and develop their game, I think is great for the game of golf and the TOUR, because we've got to create more and more good young stars.
Look what Rory McIlroy has done for the game of golf. Here's a guy that's 21, just been out a couple years, and he's so well known internationally and has such charisma about the way he plays. He's a fun guy to watch play. We need more guys like that, and we're getting them.

Q. Tomorrow is the funeral of Seve. You've spoken very movingly and warmly about Seve. I just wonder if you could give us some impression of what it was like when you played golf with him, when you were close to him on the golf course and what that was like, what kind of impression that left?
PHIL MICKELSON: The first time we played, we played at Torrey Pines, and the 11th hole is a par-3 there and the pin was back right and he would take a 3-iron that was normally a 5- or 6-iron shot and carve a 3-iron. A big 30- to 50-yard rounded slice that would land in the middle of the green and then side spin over to the hole.
It just opened my eyes how many different ways you can get to some of these pins. The fact that you couldn't go right at the hole and stop it, he found a different way to come in sideways and get the ball close. And I loved watching that because it showed me that it's possible that you can do it.
That it doesn't have to be this robotic way of fairways, middle of the green and so forth. You can get to some of these pins that are challenging and make it fun. And that was the one thing that really stood out when I first played with him.
We had a chance to spend a lot of time together because we both represented a clothing company and did some photo shoots together, so those would be an all-day affair, and in between shots we would talk and hit some shots and have a little contest and be creative out of the bunker, around trees and so forth.
I enjoyed that time with him because I saw his artistry. It was neat to see and to be able to have a relationship with him.

Q. Lots of young players on that leaderboard at the Masters, lots of young players jumping on the leaderboards. I'm not saying you're old, Phil, but you're an older player. Seeing this, do you sense that the window for you isn't as large as it used to be to achieve all the things that you want to achieve?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel that way, and I don't feel that way because I see some things -- I see some things in my game that are starting to get better and better. I've been able to, for the last year, year and a half now, putt with direction. I really know what it is I'm trying to do on the greens now. I'm rolling the ball better than I ever have in years.
My short game has been sharp. My driving has been much better, I feel, and I'm excited about this week. I feel like I'm driving the ball straighter than I ever have, and I'm excited to put that into play.
My mindset changes after Augusta. After Augusta, it's not distance anymore, it's got to get the ball in the fairway. It'll be interesting to see if I'm able to do that this week, if I am able to put the ball in play I should have a very good week because I'll be able to attack a lot of the greens, the pins, and play for some birdies.
So to get back to your question, I see my game getting better than it has been, and I welcome the challenge and think that there's a lot of opportunity for me to still have a lot of success here.

Q. You referenced the hard, fast conditions. They haven't had any rain obviously, but any danger of it getting out of hand if they don't water it down a little bit?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, certainly that seems to be the norm with our governing bodies as they set up courses. Saturday and Sunday come along, it is real borderline.
I don't know if that's good or bad. I don't know if that really defines the better player. I don't see how it does. But that is certainly a concern, and the fact that there's no rain here lends itself to getting out of hand.
However, I saw that yesterday as a possibility, and today there was a lot of water on the greens to make sure that that isn't happen or to keep the greens at least alive through the start of the tournament.
I would expect it. Actually I don't know what to expect. I have to prepare as though it could be extremely hard or it could be fair, and we might be able to get at some pins. I just don't know what it'll be. But whatever it is, as a player you've got to be ready for it and try to just shoot the lowest score.
LAURA HILL: Phil, thanks for coming in. Good luck this week.

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