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July 6, 2011

Phil Mickelson


SCOTT CROCKETT: Many thanks for joining us and welcome to The Barclays Scottish Open, a new venue this year but a tournament you've given your patronage to for a long time. Give us your thoughts of being back here at this event.
PHIL MICKELSON: I've played this event, almost ten, 11 years now, I believe, and I've loved having the opportunity to come over here and play the week before the British Open, get acclimated to the time, get in a competitive frame of mind.
And I've enjoyed my time at Loch Lomond but I'm very excited about being here at Castle Stuart. I think playing links style golf will be a great way to not only get forward next week but showcase this event. It has one of the strongest fields it's ever had and is on a golf course venue now that conducive to next week's golf, as well as something really special. This golf course is terrific and Gil Hanse, the designer, is one of my favourites in modern day architecture.
I spent the last two days at Royal St. George's and I was really impressed. I thought it was a wonderful golf course. I did not remember -- I do not have great memories from eight years ago. When I went back and played these last two days, the nuances and the subtleties of the course really came from through. The fairways were a little wider and the rough was not quite as thick off the fairway, it was not wedge-out rough and you were able to try to go for it and what I noticed was the bunkering and strategy of the golf course started to come through.
The first hole, you have to hit the fairway if you want to hold the green because there are bunkers short and then it's on a downslope. And if you hit the fairway you're rewarded with a chance to stop the ball on the green but out of the rough it was almost impossible to do that. Eight years ago I remember just having to wedge back into the fairway. I found that the bunkering creates certain angles that you want to approach into the greens because of the firmness, you need to come from certain sides of the fairways to be able to get the ball to hold some of these greens. Hole 13 comes to mind. Hole 7 the par 5 comes to mind. Some of those holes, the way the bunkers are staggered and angled. I found that the nuances and strategy and the beauty of the golf course really started to come through, I was really impressed. I don't remember it being it that way.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And you've been busy since you've been over, you were spotted on a bike in London and Wimbledon.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been a fun trip so far. Amy and the kids are here and they spent the last couple of days in London all throughout and just prior we were able to start our trip off with the men's single final at Wimbledon and that was really my first exposure to that. I couldn't believe the talent I was seeing, the skill, the power they played was really something to watch and inspiring.

Q. Is the family with you this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: They are going to be out there today, yes. I think that's a really cool thing about being here and something the kids are excited about seeing.

Q. We've spoken before about how much you enjoy the international travel, how special is it to be here at a new course?
PHIL MICKELSON: This is really exciting to be here. I think this golf course and this venue, this city I think really adds a lot to this tournament. I think that Castle Stuart and Gil Hanse and what he's created here is an exceptional golf course to showcase the best players in the world. I think that this tournament, it's the strongest field it's ever had. It will continue to get stronger.
I feel like this is a great opportunity here to showcase some fine golf and what Gil Hanse did, and again, if we have weather the scores won't be too low but if it's perfect, the scores will be low. It gives you strategy and opportunities and memorability; meaning, I remember the holes that we play out here. I remember the shots. Some of the most fun holes we play are short par 3s. A lot of golf course designers today don't do, that they don't build a 140-yard par 3 and they don't build drivable par 4s. They just think longer and harder is the way to go. And it's just not fun or enjoyable.
This golf course is fun, enjoyable, challenging, thought-provoking, just really exciting to play.

Q. Why do you think you have never won in the UK?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is something that I'm really starting to enjoy the challenge of succeeding over and here and playing well over here. This tournament, even though I have not played well in the Scottish Open, as well as the British Open means a lot to me and it means a lot to me because it's a real challenge for me to overcome the obstacles. I always play high through the air; to be able to play along the ground, keep the ball under control, drive it well through cross-winds, those challenges, I've kind of embraced these last couple of years and feel if I can overcome this obstacle and perform well and compete and win at this level on this style of golf, I'll become a complete player, and that's why I really enjoy this challenge. And so I'm looking forward to these next few years here to play here at Castle Stuart, to play in the British Open, and to try to overcome that challenge.

Q. Are you surprised more Americans didn't come over from this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it will change. It's similar -- this reminds me of when one of our most popular tournaments in the states in Charlotte started a couple years ago, about eight, nine years ago. A lot of guys didn't go the first year. They waited to get the feedback. The feedback was so positive that everybody started to come, and I think that's what's going to happen here. I would not be surprised; I expect that the winner of next week's British Open will be in the field this week. I think it's such an advantage to play, get over here, first of all and get acclimated to the time, second, play links golf the week before and on such a great golf course like this, I think it will help anybody in this field to compete and play well next week.

Q. So Rory is not going to win the Open then?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, you have a remarkable way of putting words in our mouth. (Laughter).
I did not say that, and of course, I must have thought that he was in the field here!

Q. What do you think will appeal to the families about this course and area?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't had a chance to see and participate in all of the amenities that this place has to offer, and from what I understand, there's a lot of great opportunities to sightsee, to fish, fun daily activities, hikes and walks. It seems like it's incredible. I have not been able to do it yet, so I am probably not the best one to comment on it, but. I plan on throughout the week experiencing a lot of what Castle Stuart has to offer.
But I do know the golf is first class, it's one of the best golf courses anywhere in the world, I think it's that type of status and from a modern-day architect, which I'm usually not a fan of. I mean, there are some greats, like Crenshaw, Coore, and I think Gil Hanse, again, is one of the great ones who recognises that golf is not about longer and it's not about harder.
It's about fun, creativity, memorable shots, holes, challenges and it doesn't have to beat you up all the time. I think Gil Hanse has it right and I hope that other architects learn from him. It should almost be a prerequisite to play Castle Stuart before you're allowed to design golf courses nowadays.

Q. Is the fact you haven't won the Open a frustration or embarrassing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say either. I look at it more now as a challenge, I've played well and just one time -- there's really one year that I played well in 2004 where I was a shot out of the playoff. I did not play to the level I expect and now it's gotten me more determined to try to overcome this because I feel like this is exciting golf over here. I enjoy my time here. I enjoy the challenge of links golf. It's fun, and I have not performed to the level that I have played in, say, week-in and week-out in the States, and I want to change that. I'm planning on doing that.

Q. Do you feel to become a complete player, you need to win the Claret Jug?
PHIL MICKELSON: I feel like the players, and there's only I think six of them now, that have won the career Grand Slam. I look at those players in a different light. I think that would be a great goal for me. I have not won either the U.S. or British Open and I think that would be a great goal for me to set as I go on with my career.
And I've had many opportunities in the U.S. Open and I've come close and I believe that I'll ultimately win there but the biggest challenge for me has been in the British Open and there are two reasons. It's really not -- the wind is only about ten or 20 per cent of the reason I didn't have not played well here. And I'm going to combat that by hitting more draws which are going to be a proper spinning and penetrating flight and seem to have a better effect.
The biggest reason is the greens. I have not putted the greens well. The grass is a little bit more coarse, a little thicker, has a little bit more effect, and you need to putt with less break and more aggressive is what I've come to find.
And I've spent the week prior to coming here on a paspalum, which is a more coarse grass that's cut similar and I'm trying to putt with less break and more aggressively. I'm going to try to do that this week and next week, as well, and see if that doesn't combat some of the issues that I've had putting here, because if I have a good putting week, I think I'll be in contention on Sunday.

Q. Has your arthritic condition played a part in you not being as successful as you'd hoped to be of late?
PHIL MICKELSON: It hasn't. Last year, maybe in the summer months, I might have to look back and say it might have had an issue, even though I didn't want to admit to it at the time. But I've responded very well to medication and I've been able to control any type of symptoms that I may have had and to where I'm able to do everything I need to do. I'm able to have my normal workout routine. I'm able to have my normal practise routine. I don't have any discomfort that has affected me in any way. I feel like I should be able to compete every bit as effectively as I did before, and that it hasn't been an issue with my competition.

Q. Will the medication continue?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not sure what my long-term plans are but right now, yes, the medication has managed my symptoms and I don't plan on stopping. But I'll consult with my rheumatologist every so many months and develop -- reassess our game plan.

Q. You haven't played a links course before the Open - do you think this will help you?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's because I was busy playing The Barclays Scottish at Loch Lomond, right. Absolutely, I really do, I think that the move to Castle Stuart is going to be a huge place. After playing Royal St. George the last two days, there is a great amount of -- there's two things that really stood out to me as being different, and one is how far short do I have to land the golf ball with a wedge or 9-iron. I'm used to backing the ball you up, and now they are taking a huge bounce forward. So I'm trying to judge the bounces I'm going to receive and develop a strategy for when I want to fly the ball on the green and when I want to land it short.
The second thing is chipping. Chips that hit such a firm area are having a lot more release to it than a ball that's skidding and holding its backspin. So when the ball is hitting the ground, it's developing more overspin on the turf here and in links golf; whereas in the States, it creates more of a skid effect and checks up. So reassessing or kind of seeing it differently in my mind and how the ball is going to react on the ground is helping me.
In the last two days, my short game has gotten much, much better, I started hitting all my chip shots closer as the days progressed. Having a week now to be able to see the way the ball reacts, get my mind adjusted to the short game shots, as well as the full shots, how the ball reacts, I think is going to play a big effect and a big, positive effect in my performance next week, as well.

Q. Do you share the concerns a lot of people have about Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really believe when you've played golf at a level that he's played it, you just don't forget how to play. He's going to get back to a level that is close to where he was at, if not where he was at. But, it won't happen until he's healthy. I just don't see how it's possible to happen until he's fully healthy. And so by him waiting however long it takes to be healthy before he resumes his competitive play, I think is going to be a plus for him in the long run and ultimately he'll be back to where he was at.

Q. With Rory, having won one, is it easier to win the second one or does it make it harder?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it makes it much easier after you've won your first one, and I would be a good one to comment on that, since it took me so long to win my first one.
When I found happened to me is that I wanted it so bad, to win that first major, that I was almost pressing the issue, and I wasn't patient. And a lot of times, would force things on Thursday or Friday early in the round, early in the tournament, and not give myself a great chance for the weekend.
After I won, after I won the 2004 Masters, I was much more patient throughout the round. I knew I didn't have to do anything exceptional the first couple of days. I was just trying to get into contention on Sunday, and even though I didn't win another major for another year and a half or so, I was in contention all throughout 2004, gave myself opportunities to win, and ultimately did win again in the 2005 PGA.
I think after Rory has already won the U.S. Open, he has that confidence and belief that he's already won, and I think the next major will be much easier. I thought what he overcame after his performance at Masters on Sunday was one of the greatest challenges he'll face in his career, and he responded by having one of his best performances he's ever had in the U.S. Open a couple of months later. I think that shows what kind of player and individual he is and the way he takes on challenges.

Q. Favourite holes?
PHIL MICKELSON: The short par 4s, like 9 and 16, to me, those are the memorable holes, because it doesn't beat you up with length. It's not I have to hit driver or I have to hit 4-iron into the green and try to make par. It's how do I want to play this, how aggressive do I want to be, how do I want to attack off the tee to set up my next shot. This type of strategy and thought-provoking strategy and design I think is great golf course architecture.
Most of the greatest holes, actually, that have ever been designed, have been designed 60 to a 100-plus years ago. I don't see that type of greatness in a lot of modern day architecture. But, with Gil Hanse and with this golf course and with other projects that he has done, like the renovation of L.A. Country Club, that type of thought-provoking, fun golf course design is being brought back.
Our modern day architects have this feeling that equipment has changed the game; and therefore, I must make every hole long and hard and totally unplayable for the average player. And unfortunately that has driven a lot of people away from the game of golf and I think it's one of the leading reasons why a lot of participation has been down, because they are not fun. It's unplayable. A lot of these courses are unplayable for us.
To bring back this type of fun golf that Castle Stuart provides, it's playable for everybody. Everybody is going to enjoy their round here. Everybody can finish their hole. They don't hit it in the bunker, take four or five swipes and have to pick up. They can get it out. They might make a bogey or double-bogey, but they are finishing every hole. They have options around the green, you can go through the air with a lob shot, you can putt it, you can bump-and-run it with a gap wedge or with a 5-iron. You have all of these different options that are being brought back into play and this is what golf is about.

Q. Do you think Rory has the experience to cope with all this?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think he's ready for it, and it's been great to see not only Rory play well, but good, young players. Charl Schwartzel winning the Masters, this is promoting golf on a worldwide player. We have another player in Japan, Ryo Ishikawa, an incredible talent and I think he's going to be right there. I think when a good young American player, Rickie Fowler, breaks through and wins, I think it's going to make it a lot easier for him to win multiple times. I think Dustin Johnson is on the brink of greatness. He's an impressive player.
There are some American players, European players, international players that are incredible talents, and their success has helped drive the game of golf. It means a lot to me to see the game of golf growing like that on a global basis because it's given me so much. I loved this game since I was a kid and it's given me and my family more than we ever thought imaginable, and I love to see other people enjoy it, as well.

Q. Is it too early to be saying Rory is the next Tiger or Jack?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not -- that's hard to say. I mean, his performance at the U.S. Open was spectacular, but what Jack and Tiger have done throughout the course of their career demands respect, too, and until somebody performs at that level for a decade, it's not fair to Jack or Tiger to compare anybody with them.

Q. Given your respect for golf, just wondered what The Open Championship meant to you growing up in California?
PHIL MICKELSON: I always loved watching it. Some of my memories kind of goes back to Seve. We all miss Seve. And in my first memories of really watching golf was watching Seve win the Masters in 1980 and saying to my mom, I want to win that tournament, I want to play golf like that, with the charisma they played.
So his victory at St. Andrews was one of the most memorable Open Championships I've ever seen. And that's when I really started to appreciate what The Open Championship, the British Open championship means to the game of golf, because it was played at St. Andrews, and I was able to hear about and learn about the history of the game of golf and what went on and that was kind of my first real great exposure to the history of The Open Championship.

Q. And when you came to play for the first time?
PHIL MICKELSON: My first exposure, opportunity to participate was the '91 Open at Birkdale. That was the year that 110 people made the cut, and fortunately I was one of them but I didn't play well the first day. I shot, I believe, 77 and then came back with a 67. And I had a great caddie, Ted Halsall, called him 'The Bear' and he since passed away but he caddied for Johnny Miller when he won in '76, I believe.
So I was able to ask him a lot of questions, and I learned a lot about the differences and the nuances and the challenges that the open brings, and the way that you have to have a certain demeanor to appreciate the unlucky breaks that you might get, or the lucky breaks you might get, and accept that and move on. That actually helped me throughout my career to be a little bit more even-keel and not let bad breaks affect me as much and accept it more.
There's a saying, we always say, well, that's golf. And it was really my exposure to the Open Championship, Ted Halsall in the 1991 Birkdale Open that I kind of started to understand that term novel any I didn't and that expression that that's golf; that you're going to get good breaks and bad breaks and you have to be able to accept that or else it will have negative infects on your upcoming shots. That was my first exposure.

Q. Going back to the course design, isn't it the egos of the owners which forces designers to make courses bigger and longer?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I guess that constitutes, what's better, is a great golf course longer and harder? I would argue no. I think longer and harder is longer and harder. I don't see greatness or fun. I don't see exciting in there. I just see longer and harder and monotonous and ultimately not very thought-provoking.
I think it's the architect's job to explain to the owner that longer and harder is not always better and that rewarding shot-making and creating fun golf holes -- there's a reason why the 10th hole at Riviera is so highly regarded amongst the players. It's one of the greatest golf holes that's ever been designed, and that's a 290-yard par 4. So it doesn't have to be long to be great. And when you say better, I would argue that longer and harder is not better; it's just longer and harder.
This course is fun and great and better than the others.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thanks, as always, for your time. Good luck this week.

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