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HUMANA CHALLENGE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE CLINTON FOUNDATION


January 16, 2013


Phil Mickelson


LA QUINTA, CALIFORNIA

Q. Highest rating for CBS ever for a non‑Major and how special for you and Amy. Mark O'Meara is the only guy with five and you're jumping on board. So with that, what do you have to say? Welcome, hope you have a fantastic week this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thank you, I'm excited to get the year started here this week and I'm excited to get back up to Pebble Beach. It's one of my favorite places to play golf and it's just such a well run event and a great opportunity to bring players and sponsors and potential sponsors together. And in really a fun environment. I'm a big fan of the addition of the Monterey Peninsula Golf Course. It's actually one of my favorite golf courses anywhere in the world now and what a great addition it's been to go along with Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill, I think we play three of the most amazing golf courses on TOUR and all combined in one week. And it's just a special week.

Q. It's great. Talk about your 64. That was incredible, wasn't it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like to think so. It was certainly the best round and the best tournament I had all last year and in some cold and difficult conditions I was able to have control of my golf ball and putted extremely well, making some critical putts. And doing it with somebody that I enjoy playing with and enjoy and play my best with more than just about anybody in Tiger. It was really a fun week.

Q. You put a punctuation mark on that victory. So with that, I'm going to throw it out for questions and go from there. But thanks very much.
PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. Thank you.

Q. Mark O'Meara with five and you obviously now have four. How well at all do you know Mark and has there been any kind of friendly by‑play about potentially matching his number of AT&T titles?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I haven't talked to Mark in some time. I see him every year at the Champion's Dinner at the Masters and the week of the Masters, but now that he plays the Champions Tour I have not seen him much. We used to see each other quite a bit and were very close the years that we were on the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup teams together. But we have kind of been apart for some time now.
He is certainly, he's had a great career and is a wonderful person and player and I'm going to be trying to match his five here coming up here in a few weeks.

Q. When you look at those four wins and obviously Pebble's very great for the setting, but what about the strategy of the golf course has matched up with your game do you think over the years?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I have a great answer for that question because for a long time I did not play Pebble Beach very well. I played in the state amateur and lost in my first match at Pebble Beach. I did not play that well early in my career there. And I don't know what happened over time, but I found out a way to take advantage of the course.
I think it might be that as I got older I got a little bit more patient or maybe that I got a little bit more aggressive with some of my short irons, I'm not sure what the difference for me turning it around was, but I've really started to play some of my best golf on the Monterey Peninsula.

Q. Two questions for you. I know you play in a more well rounded sense, but if there's one aspect of your game that would have to be super sharp here for you to do what you want to do, what would it be?
PHIL MICKELSON: The two areas that I'm focused on or have been focused on in the off season and the two areas that I am most excited about starting this year, are my putting and my driving.
My iron play throughout my career has been by far the strongest thing in my game. And has really been the one area that has led me to the number of victories that I've had. But this off season I've had a couple of really big breakthroughs with putting and with the driving of the golf ball. And I'm really excited to start the year because I think that this could be my best putting year and it could be my best driving year. And if I'm able to accomplish that, I think that the results are going to be really good.

Q. With a what kind of breakthrough?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think in the putting department, the more I spent time with the claw technique, the more I've had a combination with some of the specifics of the putter, the specs as far as length and loft and lie, the more I've worked on my technique. I also have a new kind of look to my, in the putter, it's kind of a white and black look that has kind of helped me not be so technical at address and worried about the line, it's been able to help me get out into the putt more and tie up the speed.
I've hit more solid putts than I think I ever have in these last few months and I'm excited to bring that out to the golf course, because I've been really putting well in this off season.

Q. Is it a mallet style putter?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's the same one I've been using, it's just that we have new line call Verse and it's got a bunch of different models and it's got kind of a white and black kind of solid look. And what it's done is it's allowed me to not be so worried about the line, lining up all the lines on the putter and the ball. There aren't any lines per se. So I've just been lining up more naturally and it's allowed me to putt without thinking as much and I've just kind of gotten out of my own way and am putting great.

Q. One other question, what did you think when you heard about Stricker kind of going into semi‑retirement and is that something that's ever crossed your mind?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I think that we're all going to have our own kind of way of handling things, handling time in our career, our family, handling what's gone on the last couple of months politically, I think we're all going to have to find things that work for us. And it's not surprising at all, it makes perfect sense for a number of reasons, not just the ones that he gave about spending more time at home. I totally get it.

Q. After the AT&T you were on such a high and then I think your next tournament you finished second and then your year kind of derailed a little bit. And I read an interview with you where you said you felt like you played some of your worst golf through the middle of the year. What happened between the AT&T and the middle of the year, because you seemed like you were really jacked up to have a great year.
PHIL MICKELSON: There were a few technical things that came into play that I would rather not dwell on. But going through that three or four month stretch of very poor play forced me to analyze and go back to the start and identify what it is I know I'm doing well and what areas I'm not. And the area that I've focused on with my iron play was it had always been a strong point there and I made that a strong point and then let everything else kind of feed from that.
So I've, by that, I mean that, if I know I'm hitting my irons well, I'm going to make adjustments in my equipment with my driver and fairway woods so that I can make the same swing with those as I do my irons, because I know that that swing works. And I was having to do two different swings with driver and irons. And I wasn't able to play my best golf doing that.
So it's been a good stretch for me to go through because once I went back to the start and I focused on the irons, which I know is my strength and let everything else go from there, my game has gotten better each week that I played, starting with the PGA and then all through the FedExCup each week I got better and better all the way through the Ryder Cup and even oversees into China.
So that's why I'm so excited is that each area has been getting better and better each week that I've played. And I don't think I would feel that way had I not gone through such a tough point last year that required me to kind of analyze each area of my game.

Q. Speaking of feelings, when you went into that final round last year standing on the tee, do you have any inkling that, hey, this is going to be a great day for me or do you just mentally prepare yourself that way anyway?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're always trying to make a run on Sunday and trying to win a golf tournament, whether we're coming from five or six shots back or we're leading. And on that golf course at Pebble Beach the only way to make that run is to get off to a good start on that front nine and take advantage of those birdie holes that are on the first seven holes.
Back in 2000 or 2001 when Davis shot 64 and I hit a driver on 18 into the ocean, that happened to me where Davis shot 64, got off to a great start and I was behind him feeling the pressure of having to make birdies to keep pace.
And I knew that if I was able to get off to a good start and get ‑‑ and force the leaders to make birdies just to keep pace, I knew that that was a difficult thing to do because I had to do it and I had difficulties as well.
So that was the goal was to get off to a good start and force the guys to, behind us to try to keep pace. And I couldn't believe it, I mean, after six holes I had a lead. It was a quicker turnaround than I thought.

Q. They displayed the first three holes on the North last week for the public, I know you couldn't make it, but all the crew was there, what was the feed back from Mike on what people thought as they kind of streamed through to look at the holes?
PHIL MICKELSON: There were about 25 people or so there and I think that they were all, I think they all got, like they all understood what we were articulating in our prior meeting, I hope you feel the same way, in trying to strategically take out areas of grass that is not necessary to water and maintain, to help lower maintenance costs, increase profitability, and whatnot, but also to make it more of its natural state and to help out the agricultural area there that is so pretty there on that Torrey Pines bluff.
So I hope that people get it, that we'll be able to do this strategically throughout the golf course that won't affect play and that will still be very playable in those areas. But that we can make it a better experience for everyone.

Q. Were you encouraged by what you heard from the feedback that they gave?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah. I was encouraged from our first meeting. I think that everybody understood what we were trying to do and I don't think that there's any downside and when you finally have a visual to see, I think that makes it a little bit easier to understand too.

Q. Yeah, it definitely did. To follow‑up on the Pebble question, the story about your grandfather's a neat story, but how much did it really resonate with you as a young kid the connection between him and Pebble and did you guys get to play together there or walk around together there? How much?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, we never played Pebble Beach together. We used to play over at Balboa on the nine hole course when I was growing up as a kid.
I don't know how strong his ties are to Pebble. I'm looking at a picture right now from him of him with all of his caddies, fellow caddies that Jim Nantz sent me and it's in my office here.
When he was young, he had to leave school in fourth grade and go to work to help out his family. And he was, he always felt poor and there were many days where he didn't, he wasn't able to eat. But he had a silver dollar from 1900 that he would keep in his pocket and he would rub and he would never spend because whenever he felt poor, and he hated that feeling, he would reach in his pocket and he would feel that dollar and knew that he had money.
And I have that silver dollar today and I've used it during the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro‑am as a marker and will continue to do so. And he used to work I believe for 35 cents a bag around that course. And it's just a cool feeling to, one, feel, to have the money that he cherished and also to see that what we are now playing for in prize money and how far the game of golf has come, it's a great reminder for me.

Q. Do you have any other possessions that are even more valuable than that or do you really feel like you're most connected to that silver dollar?
PHIL MICKELSON: I keep one other coin that he gave, an old Krugerrand and I also keep a couple of 50 cent pieces that my father gave me as well.
So I just have some ‑‑ and I do have some other coins from friends and fans throughout the years, as well as military coins I keep with me too, but these are the, that, his silver dollar is the one I prefer to mark with, especially in the competition at Pebble Beach.

Q. Two prong question, you mentioned that you're feeling great about your game for this year, how is your health? Sounds like you maybe have a little cold right now and how is the arthritis. And the last part, has Bones ever offered to caddie for 35 cents just in honor of your grandfather?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, but he does, he will buy me a soda at the end of the round.
My health, I have been sick. I've had what's been going around with everybody. Now this is my eighth day. It has affected my practice schedule, my energy level. And so I was supposed to be in Palm Springs here today and tomorrow working and practicing with Butch and I ended up cancelling because I'm going to stay here and try to rest up and I'll just practice here in San Diego. And I'll get there Wednesday.
It has affected my practice a little bit, I haven't been able to work as hard as I would like heading into the season and certainly as hard as I have in the past few seasons. Maybe it will be a good thing, I don't know.
As far as the arthritis, I've been very fortunate in that the medication I've had has been allowing me to do everything I normally would do as far as practice and working out and playing and so forth without any type of impairment.
I've also been doing some other things, too, that I think have helped my prognosis, if you will, and that I've been eating a lot better, I've lost some weight, I've been consistently working out stretching and doing mobility just as a precaution to make sure that my joints and muscles and everything are limber and as a way to just do all that I can to allow my career not to be affected by this.
So to date I've been fortunate and don't feel as though I'll be hindered in any way in playing some mindful best golf this year.

Q. On your game, you mentioned a couple of the breakthroughs on putting, are you still working with Stockton on the putting?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I still will consult Stockton and Butch and Pelz. In fact, I just saw Dave Pelz this weekend. But I feel like my game now is a little bit more self sufficient in that there really isn't any changes in my golf swing that I want to make with Butch, it's just making sure I'm doing the things that we have already implemented.
And the same thing with putting is that I might not be working on the same technique that Dave Stockton and I worked on in the past, but there's still a lot of great insights and visual and green reading and things that he's helped me with in the past that I'll continue to use and call him if I ever have any questions.
And same thing with Pelz. We have so many great drills that have helped me play my best game that I'm not trying to do any new ones, but just trying to refine and get better at the ones that we have been doing. So there's really nothing new or profound, I'm just trying to refine all those three areas, which I work with those three people on.

Q. How about next week? What do you like about playing in the desert and getting started in the desert?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a great place to start the season because we have usually very calm conditions, we have great practice facilities, and three wonderful golf courses. But it's a great place for me to start the season because it allows me to work on my game before and after each round. I have a small place out there at one of the clubs that I'll stay in and after each tournament round go practice and put in that time to build a solid foundation for the rest of the west coast, as well as the rest of the season. And that's why I really enjoy starting the season there.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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