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July 10, 2013
SCOTT CROCKETT: Phil, many thanks for joining us, thank you for coming back to the Scottish Open. Give us your thoughts on being here once again.
PHIL MICKELSON: We got in Monday and the weather yesterday was spectacular. Felt like it was San Diego; it was so warm and beautiful.
The forecast this week looks to be spectacular and Castle Stuart, it's one of the best golf courses are I've played. I just love it and love the tournament. I think it's a great place to hold The Scottish Open.
I think it's a great place to play prior to, the week before the British Open. I just think it's a wonderful golf course, and gives me a chance to work on my shots along the ground, short game, putting; the grasses are very similar. It's just a wonderful course.
SCOTT CROCKETT: I know you haven't played here yet this year; you're playing in the afternoon. Give us your thoughts going into the week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Bones walked the course yesterday and said it's just like it has been in years past, the last two years, which is stupendous.
I played last week at Greenbrier, didn't play very well, but‑‑ actually I played pretty well. I didn't score well, and looking forward to playing here.
I love coming over here. I love these two weeks and it should be a fun couple weeks. I've got Amy and the kids here, which makes it nice. Makes the two weeks a lot more enjoyable.
Q. (Regarding McDowell's comments on Castle Stuart and a links course before The Open Championship.)
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I don't know. We all have our different opinions. And I think he's a wonderful player and a guy who I certainly respect his opinions on things. But this course I think is wonderful, so I've really enjoyed my time here, and in my opinion, it's one of the best we've played.
Q. Do you think it's disappointing that there's only two of the Top‑25 players in the world that are coming to play in the event, given the importance of the timing and the golf calendar, as well?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I haven't looked at the field, so I didn't realise that was the case.
I think everybody has to find out what works for them to get ready for the big events, like next week's British Open. That's in all of our minds. Not to take anything way from the Scottish Open; it's a wonderful event. Most guys are trying to figure out how to peak next week and play their best golf next week.
When we moved the tournament from Loch Lomond to a links‑style course here at Castle Stuart, I thought that enhanced this event and it enhanced the opportunity for players to play the week before and to get their games sharp for the British Open. That's what I feel works best for me but each player has to decide what works best for them.
Q. In terms of your own game, how are you feeling? You love playing here in the Scottish Open and then obviously the trip to Muirfield next week. How are you feeling going into that and what your own chances are?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think that the last eight or nine years, I've started to play better golf in links‑style, better golf in bad weather, better golf along the ground and I've gotten a lot better. But it is still a challenge for me and it's still not something that I grew up doing and it's still something that I'm trying to learn as I continue through my career. So I'm always cautiously optimistic.
The British Open, The Open Championship, it's one of my favourite events because it's one of the most challenging events for me. I'll have to get my game sharp and one of the things I've learned over the years, especially at Muirfield; that you need an element of luck relative to tee times and you need a bit of a break there, as well.
You need to play well but you also need to have a good end of the tee times. I remember 2002, it looked like after Tiger had won the first two majors, the Masters and the U.S. Open and was only a shot or two back heading into the weekend, it looked like he was unstoppable and he got hit with some of the worst weather you could ever imagine.
I still can't believe what a brutally difficult day that was, and it ended up costing him a shot at the Grand Slam. So you just need a little bit of luck to do well and to play well here.
Q. How important is it to sort of bounce back from Merion?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't want to diminish it, because it takes a while, and it hurt. But part of professional golf is dealing with losing and dealing with disappointment and being resilient and bouncing back and using it as a steppingstone.
One of the things that came about for me the week before at Memphis and the week of the U.S. Open is that I started to play really well. I started to strike the ball really well. My putting feels better than it has in years.
And so rather than look at it as a failure, I want to use it as an opportunity to take advantage of where my game has got in these last few months and try to have a great second half of the year, starting here in the Scottish and the British, as well as the PGA Championship and our FedExCup back in the U.S.
So after four, five, six days or what‑have‑you, it's time to move on and get back to playing some golf.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, they all kind of hurt for a while, but then you kind of move on. It's think it's one of those things where maybe at the end of my career and I stop playing, I'll look back on it a little bit more.
Q. You said about feeling it and moving on, but does it increase the desire to have a successful fortnight over here now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if that's possible. I mean, I really want to play well and I really want to play well over here and try to get an Open Championship.
I think that it would be for me one of my greatest accomplishments to be able to conquer links golf and to win an Open Championship over here. Although I've come close maybe twice, I have not really played my best golf in this event.
I think I've identified a couple of reasons why, but it's time to play now. It's time to shoot the scores and hit the shots that I've spent 20 years now trying to work on.
Q. What process did you go through in the build up for The Open Championship; two weeks of links golf where mentally you have to adopt a very different approach to pretty much the rest of your schedule.
PHIL MICKELSON: Wait, what do you mean a different‑‑
Q. Some players talk about throwing out the yardage book and re‑learning which clubs they will play, using the wind to their advantage and playing in those different directions of wind and use it to help their game.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't know if that really applies to the way I'm looking at it. For me, what I've found about links golf is that you have two factors: You have the ground affects the ball and you have the wind affects the ball.
When the wind gets strong, you want to get it on the ground as fast as possible so that the ground affects it more than wind. That's not hard to do. It just takes a little getting used to on getting the ball on the ground as fast as possible. But it's not a hard shot. It's not hard to hit it a couple feet off the ground and get it running. It's not difficult. But it just is different.
Q. Did you send a message to the R&A‑‑ the rough next week at Muirfield‑‑ inaudible.
PHIL MICKELSON: I go back to Carnoustie in '99 and that's just their thing. If that's how it plays, then that's how it plays.
One of the things I've learned, like at Merion, where the rough was very difficult, as well and the fairways were tight; you might have to sacrifice quite a bit off the tee, but if your long irons are strong, if you're hitting good 4‑, 5‑, 6‑irons, whether they are off the tee or into the greens, you can play major championships very effectively.
One of the things the USGA and R&A have done is taken the driver out of your hand and made it a long‑iron challenge. If you are effective with your long irons, getting them in play off the tee and getting them on the green or not too much trouble around the greens, you're going to play well in Majors. They have made it a long‑iron championship, both events, and as players, we have to adapt to that and make that a strength of our game.
PHIL MICKELSON: Excellent, I have not. Looking forward to it.
SCOTT CROCKETT: We'll move into the daily section of the conference, please.
Q. You talk about playing different shots, but your level of the game is all about controlling the ball; on the links, you're going to have this luck element in the bounce. How much is just getting your brain switched on for that? How do you cope with the fact that it's as perfect as what you play week‑‑in, week‑out.
PHIL MICKELSON: That's not the challenge to me, or I think adapting to links golf. The challenge has been the importance of angles; something that we don't think about because we are able to fly the ball to the hole, whether it's over a bunker or what‑have‑you.
The mental switch that has to take place is the importance of angles into pins, positioning off certain sides of the fairways to be able to get to pins or to be able to get on the green relative to winds and what‑have‑you, because you have to plan for 40, 50 yards of release often times, and I think that was the biggest adjustment.
I would put myself in spots where I really didn't have a shot, and yet I would still have to try to hit a shot and I would have to look that it wouldn't be my inability to hit a 6‑iron over a bunker and stop on a downslope. It was my inability off the tee to put the ball in the right spot to where I could run up a shot and get it close.
Q. Have you been to Muirfield yet?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't, no.
Q. When are you going to decide on your driver strategy?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll end up doing it Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I was going to go yesterday and I just couldn't make it work. So I'll end up just spending a little bit more time earlier in the week.
Q. After Merion, Justin Rose was very complimentary about you, as he always has been in the past. Talk about how you've seen his game develop over the years, and how after winning your first major, how easier it is to go onto win more?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the first win is the most difficult to get over because you want it so bad and you try so hard. And after you have accomplished that, a little bit of pressure is off and you feel like you can free‑wheel it. You feel like you can be a little bit more patient. You don't have to force things.
I think that watching his career develop from '98 being I believe, where he finished fourth as a 17‑year‑old and went through a low point thereafter, and to see his game surge back his ball‑striking is one of the best we have on Tour. He's an incredible ball‑striker and just a great player.
He's just a really solid overall player without any weaknesses, and it was‑‑ although I was disappointed not to have won, I'm certainly happy for his success. That was a great win for him.
Q. Still, a lot was made about the number of wedges you had in the bag at Merion. Can you tell us how many you have here and Muirfield in comparison?
PHIL MICKELSON: I took out the driver at Merion and added a 64‑degree wedge. I don't see me doing that but it's possible. I haven't played Muirfield to see if that's the case.
Here at Castle Stuart, I'll only have my normal wedge setup, which is 60‑degree sand wedge, a 55, a gap wedge and a pitching wedge. So it will be just the normal four that I have.
Q. If memory serves me right, you left Lytham last year and you were in a state of shock about how your game was; do you recall that and how mentally you have come back this year a lot fresher?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, last year, first of all, my iron play was not what it had been in my career. I had a little bit of a lull there and my iron play has been more in line with the way it's been throughout my career which has really been a strength of my game.
The weaknesses in my game the last four or five years has been especially driving the golf ball and putting, and those two areas have become strengths right now. One of them was an equipment issue, when the technology in our 3‑wood changed, knocked some of the spin off it, it changed my driving all together.
That was a huge breakthrough for me, because the problem with my driving has been over‑spinning the ball so much. And with that X Hot 3‑wood that knocks the spin off, that changed my driving. You saw it at Merion probably. And we took that same technology to the driver, and my driving has been altered.
And my putting has changed because I have a putting green now in my yard, actually I have five of them that I spend a lot of time in in the evening and I just putt for hours and my putting feels great. I've just kind of figured it out through practise. Those two areas that have been weaknesses are now strengths and that's why I feel so good about my game right now.
Q. You mentioned not playing your best at The Open, and you said in the first part of the press conference that you identified one or two reasons why you thought that was; can you just expand on that, please?
PHIL MICKELSON: Very similar to what we were just discussing is the spin on my driver would have the wind affect it much greater than it should. And now that I'm able to get the spin off of it, the wind is not having as big an effect, especially crosswinds.
And so I'm very optimistic about my ability to drive the ball and get it in play and hit it reasonably long in the crosswinds and have control over it, so I'm excited to get testing there. We had some wind at Merion and I was able to drive it effectively.
And the real reason why I've not played well on links golf is I have not putted the greens well with the fescue‑type grass on the greens that we see, and I haven't adjusted well. But because I've been putting so well, I'm really looking forward to the challenge. I mean, I think that I'm optimistic it could be a little bit different.
Q. You were saying the USGA and R&A have made it a long‑iron challenge for the U.S. Open and the Open here‑‑
PHIL MICKELSON: Would you disagree with that?
Q. I was going to ask you, do you agree with that, taking the driver out of your hand?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not my position to interfere with the decisions of the R&A and the USGA. If it was, we wouldn't be seeing some of the changes they have made over the last four or five years. It's not my position to get involved in course setup. As a player, it's my job to adapt.
When they took away square grooves and my ability to control the wedges around the green, I had to adapt my short game. I had to use trajectory a little bit different. I had to have a little bit more run‑out in my shots. I couldn't short‑side myself as much and be as aggressive into certain pins because I couldn't get it close. So I have to adjust as a player based on some of their decisions.
And so it's not my job to agree or disagree; it's to shoot the lowest score and become the best long iron player now in my attempt to try to win these Majors.
Q. If I heard you right, you said five putting greens? Is that like having five kitchens?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, golf is different than basketball. You know, we don't play on a hard court the same every single week. So I have different greens. I have a bent green, I have poa annua green, I have MiniVerde green; I have bermuda, and so I have different surfaces to practise on and get ready for the upcoming tournaments.
Q. Just wondered, you spoke about bringing the family over and how it's an enjoyable two weeks in Scotland. Just wondered if you get the opportunity, if you've got any plans to do anything away from the golf? I think the family has been involved in doing some sight‑seeing and things in the past. Do you have any plans for the next couple of weeks?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are some plans to check out the battlefields of the war back in 1746 maybe, roughly, that time, between the Hanoverians and the Jacobites‑‑ I'm not sure, I've got to read up on it (laughter).
But anyway, they are going to check out the battleground. We went into the town yesterday at Inverness, down the river and the park, had a nice day, in the restaurants downtown. We had a nice day yesterday. In fact, the weather was perfect.
Q. I checked your wins out of the USA and you won The Challenge Tour in France in '93. Do you have some memories to share with my French readers?
PHIL MICKELSON: Boy, that was 20 years ago. It was at Euro Disney and I had a good time. I don't really remember much else. I played Steve Elkington in the finals and we went head‑to‑head. I was quite a few back starting the last round and shot a low final round to clip him by one or two.
Q. The battle with you and Justin in the final round, I just wonder how much you take from it, how much you can enjoy‑‑ coming back with two birdies, as you said, the disappointment in the end will take a while, but how much does that bring out the best in you being involved in a head‑to‑head like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I didn't see it as head‑to‑head. I never saw him; he was a couple groups in front of me. I didn't even know what he was doing most of the day until the final six or seven holes when he made some birdies and shot up the leaderboard. So it's different than, say, The Ryder Cup, when it truly is head‑to‑head.
You were referring to the Open, right? Yeah, so the Ryder Cup is more head‑to‑head. That's that type of battle. But the U.S. Open, we weren't in the same group, we didn't really play against each other, per se.
Q. Do you look at the leaderboard?
PHIL MICKELSON: I usually do, but they were tough to see. There weren't many out there. It was hard to see them. You would go four or five holes without seeing a leaderboard.
Q. There are only four American players in the field this week, and you talked about how much you enjoy playing here and coming to Scotland; do you feel some of your compatriots are missing out by not coming here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not my position to say what allows those players to play their best in the British Open the following week. Some guys want to take the week off, go play links golf and have a relaxed day.
I like to compete. I like to compete, get on a links golf course and shoot the lowest score. I feel like that gets my game ready. For me personally, it's the best way to prepare, but it doesn't mean it's the best for everyone else.
Q. What do you think about next year the fact that this tournament is moving to Royal Aberdeen?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, Castle Stuart is one of my favourite courses, but I've heard some great things about Royal Aberdeen. So I wouldn't anticipate it altering my schedule any. I've heard that it's a wonderful links golf course. My brother actually played it yesterday and said it was terrific. I've heard nothing but good things and I think that it could be every bit as good.
Q. Could you talk a little about your own experiences in 2002 Saturday at Muirfield? And also, I don't know if you're a tennis fan; are you aware that Scotland is rather excited at the moment?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was on pretty early where I was out and I was out‑‑ I caught glimpses of it before I went and played a practise round. I was just at home practicing.
He's a great player. I was here two years ago, I believe, and went to the finals when Djokovic beat Nadal, I believe that was two years ago. It's such an exciting tournament, and I guess it's been 77 years and I'm very happy for everyone in Scotland and the U.K. that he came through and won. I think everybody is excited. That's cool. I only caught glimpses of it. It was on pretty early where I was at.
Q. And your memories of Muirfield?
PHIL MICKELSON: I barely made the cut, so I got done before the weather came in. There were a couple players, myself and I want to say Sergio, played early Saturday and played just a good round, and went from, you know, 60th place to a Top‑10 by just shooting even or 1‑under, and that was the kind of day it was.
So I just remember it was some of the worst‑‑ it was probably the worst, most difficult weather, I've ever seen, but I didn't really have to play in most of it.
Q. Can you just talk about your relationship with Bones, he's been with you a long time, and you rely on him rather more than just for mainly clubbing.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we've been together 20 years, and he's a lot more than just a caddie to me, but he's in my opinion the best at what he does. He's great under pressure. He's decisive. He doesn't waffle. He's right more times than I am. You know, when we have a difference of opinion, 80 per cent of the time, he's the one that's right and I'm the one that's off. He just really thinks well on the golf course and is able to, he reads putts great, but he just is very good under pressure.
Q. And is he someone you talk through the round with afterwards, if you're wanting to let off steam about bad things or good things?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't really discuss it too much. I don't really discuss the round too much‑‑ not usually, no.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Phil, thanks, as always.
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