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MASTERS TOURNAMENT MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 14, 2007
GLENN GREENSPAN: I'd like to welcome everyone today to the Masters defending champion's teleconference with Phil Mickelson. Phil won the Masters in 2004 and 2006 and joins us after winning the AT&T Pebble Beach National ProAm last week.
Phil, could we have an opening statement and then we will take some questions.
PHIL MICKELSON: Everyone's really excited about the Masters this year, as always. I think from a player's point of view, we start thinking about it after the PGA is finished. We have the biggest anticipation for the Masters.
Having won it twice has been exciting, to say the least. I'm not sure what I'm going to have at the champions dinner yet, but I'm working on it. Again, I'm excited to compete in the '07 Masters.
GLENN GREENSPAN: Thank you, Phil. We'll open it up for questions.
Q. Two drivers or one this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm planning on using two. I'm planning on using two. I have an FT-5 I've been using and played with last week, started out with at the Hope. Very excited with how I've been driving it. I have the FT-i, which is the square-headed driver that I hit 15 or 20 yards longer, which I'm thinking of having as the second driver.
My sand wedge always comes out at Augusta because I've never needed a sand wedge shot there. I use my L-wedge out of bunkers and never have the yardage. I am considering putting in a 64-degree wedge. Now, if I put in a 64-degree wedge, it would be because I am only using one driver, which would most likely be the FT-5 - well, it would be the FT-5.
Q. When I first went to Augusta many years ago, I was told by an old hand the secret to winning rounds here is your score on the par 5s. I know that's true of many courses. Do you feel that is as true now in 2007 as it was when I first went, which was 1981?
PHIL MICKELSON: The secret to winning is having the lowest 72-hole score. Certainly playing the par 5s well helps, but you've got to play the par 3s well because those can be the holes that you may not make the birdies on, but knock a lot of people out. So the par 3s are every bit as important as the par 5s, and the par 4s are every bit as important because you can make a lot of birdies and you see a lot of guys get knocked out.
I can't single out any four holes saying that that is the key. Certainly that's where you're going to make most of your birdies, but the other ones are really the ones that can eat your lunch.
Q. Obviously winning early in the season isn't something that's new for you, but in light of last year's ups and downs, how is the state of your confidence this year compared to the last three years as you head up towards Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it was critical to have won. I haven't really thought much about last year's ending. I took four months off. What was important, though, is I started to get my game to come around, get sharp.
Now, the reason I feel more confident probably today or at this time than in the past few years is because I feel as though after focusing on my driving in the off-season, I'm able to drive the golf ball better than I ever have, which will hopefully help me in my Masters performance because the driving, when I won in '04 and '06, was a critical element. I drove the ball exceptionally well - as well as I ever have. Because I'm driving the ball so much better now, or feel that I am, I have a lot more confidence than in years past.
Q. You and Amy are involved and active in a number of different charitable outlets. What is it exactly that motivates your giving? How does your fulfillment from those things compare to winning a tournament or major?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a wonderful feeling and a wonderful opportunity to be in the position Amy and I are in to do some neat things for people. Some of them I feel comfortable being public with, such as the Birdies For the Brave for the U.S. military, which Homes for our Troops culminates in homes for those who come back injured and disabled, as well as The Warrior Fund which gives college educations to the children who lost parents at war. I feel comfortable going public about those because I want to bring a good feeling towards the military. I want other people to help with these individuals.
But there are some things that Amy and I do that I don't really feel comfortable talking about. It's cool or it's fun to be in a position to be able to help others like that.
Q. At Pebble you were speaking about how vital the short game is for success at Augusta. At the same time there are challenges driving the ball. That seemed to be of huge significance, as well. Can you identify the most difficult driving holes and how you intend to attack them?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a great question or a great point because driving at Augusta is critical because with the first cut now, the ball will not roll as much down No. 9, let's say. If you miss the fairway, you now have a much tougher downhill lie. Also you don't know exactly how the ball is going to come out, so distance control is a lot more difficult.
Short game is always going to be important at Augusta because of all the room around the greens to chip. If you miss a shot, you still can get it up near the green and try to get an up-and-down. Short game will always be important, but driving is probably underrated at Augusta.
The most difficult driving holes, last year certainly No. 11 was the most difficult because as the hole was doglegging to the right, the fairway was angled pretty sharply to the left, making it the most difficult fairway to hit. With the trees being to the right, almost impossible to go at the green. You have to wedge out. If you go left, you're in where Ernie was in back in '04, in the trees and the junk. I thought 11 was the most difficult.
2 has always been a difficult driving hole as well because it's so tight between the bunker and the left side of the hill that will take the ball down to the creek. It's a par 5, so you want to attack it. That's always been a difficult driving hole, too.
Q. You mentioned your two drivers. Could you say what the characteristics are, what you want them to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: The FT-5, the reason I've been driving it well is it's very versatile. I'm able to hit the ball low like I hit a lot of shots at Pebble into the wind. I'm able to hit cuts, I'm able to hit draws with it very easily. It is very responsive.
The FT-i is a square driver, designed to go straight. That's what it does. It just goes straight. It's very hard for me to work balls, hitting cuts, hitting draws, but it goes so straight that I'm able to make a longer shaft, I'm able to swing a little harder, pick up 15 yards or so off the tee. There are some holes I'd like to use that, holes like 17, holes like No. 2 that I might be able to carry that bunker on the right if I hit it hard enough. There are some holes that driver fits as well.
Q. The F T-i has what length shaft?
PHIL MICKELSON: 46.
Q. And the FT-5 is how long?
PHIL MICKELSON: 45.
Q. Augusta National may require more local knowledge than a lot of the other courses you guys play. How long did it take for you to feel comfortable there? What kind of process did you go through getting familiar with the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know if you ever feel totally comfortable there. It did take me a lot longer than I thought it would. I remember showing up the first year thinking, Oh, I can play this golf course no problem. I think I opened with a 69 and was excited. First competitive round ever there.
But the fact is, when you go to all different pins, when you start using four, five different pins, the breaks, the subtleties in those greens, places to miss it that you just can't go, some places where you need to go, it really took me almost a decade to learn or to understand exactly how I want to attack each hole for each pin placement and feel comfortable doing so.
Q. Is that the reason you don't see many first- or second-time winners, people who are going to challenge?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. I remember last year, this is one of my favorite stories, I'm not going to say who, but I was playing a practice round. We came to the 11th hole. I put a little hole down in the front left pin position, went 40 feet back right, where a very common shot would go. If the pin is front left, you're going to play a little bit longer to the right. A very common putt.
I said, Here, hit this putt. The player had never played there. He aimed about four feet to the right of the cup, was expecting it to break a little bit left because he thought the green was pitched back-to-front.
I said, No, no, no. He hit the putt, missed it way right. I said, It's over here.
I aimed 18 feet left of the cup.
I said, Here, hit it here. The ball tracked down and hit the cup.
My point is, you have a first-time player that misread a common 40-footer by 22 feet. That happens at Augusta. That's not the only hole that that happened on in this practice round.
He said, Oh, it goes the other way.
I said, What do you mean the other way? It breaks 18 feet to the right, and you're seeing it go to the left?
I mean, that just happens at Augusta. The first time I played it, I saw what he was seeing. So it happened to me. Until you see these breaks, it's very difficult. You just can't pick 'em up in the first couple of rounds. It takes years of repeatedly having this happen over and over before you finally grasp it.
Q. You've changed your body a little bit. Are you already noticing benefits? What would they be?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly feel better. When I entered this off-season, I spent a lot of time working out, changing diet, trying to get in better shape. But it's not as though I expect my performance to be better, and that's why I won. I don't feel like that's the case.
What I am hoping is that I have better stamina, better endurance to last throughout the year so that mentally and physically I'm able to withstand the eight months of intense competition where we're condensing more tournaments in a smaller time frame and being able to compete effectively in the final majors as well as the Ryder Cup, the Presidents Cup, the FedExCup, the season-ending tournaments. I'm hoping it has an effect there. I really won't know if it accomplishes what I've set out to do until the end of the year.
Q. Exactly when did your driving come together for Pebble? When did you know you'd found something good?
PHIL MICKELSON: It started at the start of the year. From the start of the year, at the Bob Hope, I drove it great. I hit 70 plus percent of the fairways. The last couple tournaments, at Phoenix, even though I missed the cut, I drove the ball exceptionally well. The areas that I was lacking were areas that had been strong points in the last couple of years, which was my short-iron play and my putting. The first two weeks at the Hope and in San Diego, my distance control with my irons was very poor. My putting wasn't great either, but my distance control was horrendous. At Phoenix my distance control started coming around. I started driving it well. I could feel my game coming around, I just didn't putt well.
I started putting great at Pebble because I spent the last four or five days finishing that off. I felt like the driving was coming around from day one.
Q. When did you start developing this version of the FT-5? How long was this in the process? You work with those guys so much at Callaway.
PHIL MICKELSON: Last year back in October, the off-season.
Q. Did you work from October to January on getting the specs perfect or was it right in October and you just kept practicing?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of both. Alan said, Look, we're coming out with the FT-5, it's got a higher moment of inertia, I think you're going to be able to hit these shots. We're going to put a little more heel weight so we eliminate the left shot. Tell me what you think.
The real test is going from iron to driver, meaning you want to be able to hit a 7-iron swing and go to your driver swing and have it perform the way you want so you're not having different golf swings throughout. It started to fall into place pretty quickly.
Q. Has there been much difference in the play of Augusta National with the so-called rough? How much differently does it play now than it did when it all looked perfect?
PHIL MICKELSON: It puts a premium on accuracy because the first cut makes it much more difficult to get the distance control into the greens. We know how important it is to hit the ball the right yardage on those greens, so it does have an effect.
But I think the biggest difference in Augusta is the length. The length in the last few years has made the course extremely long. Like I said, I don't even carry a sand wedge because there are no sand wedge shots for me. There's no par 4s I can hit a sand wedge into. The par 5s, I'm usually close enough to hit L-wedge if I have to lay up if I'm not going for it.
The distance has really been the biggest factor because I swing as hard as I ever swang for any tournament the week of the Masters because distance is so important there.
Q. You mentioned part of the reason for changing things with your body was so you can have more stamina at the end of the year. How disappointed were you in the way that last year finished up?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think my performance in the Ryder Cup was every bit as disappointing to me as my finish at the U.S. Open. I really thought we were going to come home with the trophy there. It was very disappointing. I think that was just as big an instigator as anything.
Q. How much of that is motivation this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's why I worked so hard in the off-season, because I wanted -- it's a big motivating factor.
Q. We know weather unfortunately always seems to be a factor at the Masters. Last year it was no exception. Can you tell me what it does, how that affects you during a major, and how you handled Sunday last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: The Masters tournament gets affected by weather a lot, whether it's wind, whether it's hot and dry, or whether it's wet and cold. Your shot selection changes from each year depending on the weather.
Last year I had planned on putting from off the green heading into the Masters. When it started to rain, I couldn't putt as well. Ball wouldn't roll through the wet grass. I had to start chipping, skidding it through some of the water shots. I had kind of a crash course there the final days or during the tournament with chipping, trying to get those shots around the greens to get close.
With the delays, everybody has to face it. It's not a hindrance or a problem. Everybody's got to face it. I actually had a great Sunday where I played 31 holes. It certainly doesn't seem like it. I only really remember the last round, and barely at that. It all is kind of a blur.
Just before the final round, I took a nap there in the champions' locker room. I didn't want to go back to our house because I wouldn't have had enough time there. I just kind of took a nap in the champions' locker room, had lunch, had a great time talking to Billy Casper about when he played. It was just like I was normally out at the club.
Q. We hear on the last day you have to wait so long to tee off, 3:00 or 3:30. Did it help that you were able to go out early and be active, not think about the buildup to the final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it mattered either way. I remember in '04 we had a late tee time also. I was able to come out early and get a good practice session in before the final round, which I enjoy doing, too. Either way I would have been out early, whether I was playing the finishing holes of Saturday's round or if I was out practicing, getting ready for the final round. I would have been out there early anyways.
Q. One of the things that seems to come with all the ability you have, the expectations others have of you and you have of yourself, with all that, I think you probably have -- one thing you probably have not gotten enough credit for over the years has been your ability to bounce back from disappointment, keep putting yourself back in position again and again. Can you explain how your mind works, what the process is for you in terms of channeling those experiences into positives, being able to put yourself in that position again and again?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoy competition. I enjoy competing. It's fun to be challenged like that. In golf, you deal with failure a huge majority of the time. Even the best player in the world deals with failure more than he deals with success. That's part of the game. That's part of competing, is dealing with failure. Part of the challenge and part of what makes golf fun or what makes competing fun is trying to bounce back from disappointing performances.
Q. Can you walk us through your preparations and what your runup is going to be this year? You've had a formula in the past. I've gathered you're looking at changing how you prepare for majors this year.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm disappointed that the Atlanta Classic, I guess it's the AT&T Classic, has been moved from the week before the Masters. It was a perfect preparation to get ready for Augusta. I'm really sorry the TOUR moved that. Houston's a great tournament. I'm not knocking it. It's not anywhere near the preparation that the TPC Sugarloaf was. A very similar shot value. I used the same club setup the week before as I did at Augusta.
With that being gone, instead of going down to Houston, I'll end up going into Augusta the week before, spending extra time there.
Q. Not to be any kind of a buzz kill, but looking back to the way things ended at Wingfoot last year, your bounce-back ability, if you had not won the majors that you have, I guess my question is, having won the majors you have and having done it, did that help you get through the bitter disappointments?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely it did. It made a big difference because I'd already proven to myself that I can win majors. Even though I stumbled, it wasn't nearly as devastating as it would have been had I never won one.
Q. You talked about the challenge of competing, motivating, making changes for next year. At what point did you decide you have to get rid of that drive from the left, what happened at Wingfoot? At what point did you say that that was going to be your focal point during the off-season?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was during the off-season that I spent time to look back and kind of analyze the year, look at the areas I want to improve for this year. In the past you've heard me talk about 150 in. I want to work on short game, I want to work on distance control, I want to work on putting and so forth.
This year it was different because I feel like in the last three years I've gotten those areas pretty sharp. I'm going to continue with the same drills that got me to where I wanted to be in those areas. Now I really wanted to focus on driving the golf ball.
This year my focus will be on driving the golf ball. If I can get the golf ball in play like I did last week, I think I can have some pretty good performances like I did last week. If I can get from 55% of the fairways up to 75% of the fairways, it's going to be a very good year.
Q. Bobby Jones said he always designed Augusta National to in a sense resemble the old course, as different as they are. He called it an inland links. In your experience, can you compare the shot-making requirements at Augusta National with the shot-making requirements of an Open course, a British Open course?
PHIL MICKELSON: You can win the courses hard and fast. When it gets wet like it was last year, it plays more like an inland course. When it's hard and fast like it has been many years in the '90s, I remember, it does have a lot of similar shot value.
Q. Has it changed over the years with the adding of length and rough? Any sort of diminishment when it is hard and fast in terms of the shot-making requirements?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. When the course is hard and fast, I hit the same clubs into the holes that I did when I first played there in '91. I would be hitting the same irons. I remember I hit driver, 7-iron into No. 18 in '91. In the late '90s, early 2000's, it became driver-wedge, driver-sand wedge. Now it's back to driver, 7-iron. In fact, last year when it was wet, I hit 4- and 5-irons.
Q. Two years ago on this conference call you talked about sort of the different feeling it would be having won the Masters and driving down Magnolia Lane with Amy knowing you'd be back every year forever. Now having won two out of three years, how do you view Augusta now? How do you project your long-term legacy, what you can accomplish there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just love being a part of the history of the Masters. It's fun to go back, whether it's during the tournament or whether it's just to play Augusta National, reminisce on the shots I hit throughout those tournaments. It's fun to go back every year, be part of the champions dinner. It's just fun to be part of the tournament because history is made there ever year. To be part of that is one of the greatest feelings of accomplishment that a player can have.
Q. You mentioned earlier the importance of driving at Augusta, how that's evolved over the years. I believe Tim Clark was second to you last year. There were a few not particularly long hitters in the top 10. How tough do you think it is for someone like that to contend at the Masters? Do you see yourself, Tiger, a handful of long hitters being the main winners in the upcoming years?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's hard to say because there's so many good players that I think can win the tournament, can win the Masters, that are not considered long players. Mike Weir was the first left-hander to win the Masters. He's not considered a long player, but he can move it out there when he needs to. Tim Clark certainly is not considered a long hitter, but he's able to get it out there and he's a great ball striker. He's able to hit shots into those greens and get the ball close.
There's just a lot of good players that I think can win the tournament even if they're not the longest hitters or considered long hitters. But I do think distance is a big advantage there, so the odds would kind of say longer hitters would win there. I would not rule out winners of the tournament being considered less than long.
Q. This year one of the changes at Augusta will be Billy Payne as the new chairman. Wondering if you could comment about the legacy, and during the time you played at the Masters with Hootie Johnson as the chairman, now what you might expect as a player with Billy Payne as the chairman of the club?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll big fans of both individuals. I'm big fans of Hootie because we've had a lot of fun together. He's hosted the celebratory dinner Sunday evening both times that I've won. We've had a lot of fun. We've had some great conversations. I feel a special bond with Hootie. We've had a lot of fun over the last few years. I've really appreciated and give credit to the way he's handled so many situations, lengthening of the golf course being the most specific where he's been able to make tough decisions and have them turn out to be the right ones.
I'm a big fan of Billy Payne because of the way he's handled some things here in the past. He has been in control of a number of big decisions that I've seen. Again, he has done the right thing time and time again. I think the most notably to me that I'll always remember and appreciate was last year when I made a swing on 18 in the morning on Sunday. I was finishing up my third round. One of the cameras guys from right behind the green, he's 15, 20 feet from me, is rolling his film throughout my entire swing all the way from the top of the swing on down. Nobody ended up claiming who it was or claiming that it was them, so no photographers were allowed up on that final stand.
I think for somebody to make a tough call like that, who wants coverage of the tournament but realizes he doesn't want the photographers to decide the outcome or to affect the integrity of the competition, I just really appreciate his decision making. I'm a big fan of both individuals.
Q. You spoke earlier about some of the things you do charitably that you don't seek public attention for. The Conrad Dobler situation has gotten some attention. Why is it that you want to remain quiet about things like that? Are there other athletes out there that do things like this that don't necessarily have to have the camera crew in tow as they visit the sick children? Why do you want to remain quiet about things like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think there are a number of things I don't feel comfortable talking about because it would question my intentions. Why is it that I'm doing that? Things, again, like Birdies for the Brave, a program that Amy and I do here in San Diego called Start Smart, we do use publicity to get the word out because we want other corporations and individuals to follow suit because we want to create awareness for the importance of education with the Exxon Mobil Math and Science Teachers Academy. I want there to be some publicity about that because it's important to get that message out.
There's a program, the Math and Science Teachers Academy, that Amy and I have gotten involved with at Exxon Mobil. We want that word to get out because there's a real critical area here in the math and sciences that we need to get our children involved here in the United States.
But some of the other programs, not programs, but things that Amy and I do, it's not important that anyone knows. It's just fun. I don't know how the story with the Doblers got out. They have been wonderful. I think the thing I'm most proud of is that the GPA from the first year was a 3.8. I am so excited the opportunity is being taken advantage of. That makes Amy and I want to do more, and we have. It's been fun.
Q. You talked a bit before about looking back on the year. What did you think of '06? You talked about the disappointment, but you did win the Masters. What kind of year was it last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was an 'interesting' year I guess would probably be the best word to describe it, because it started out with such promise, winning the Masters, winning Atlanta by 13 shots, playing some of my best golf ever, with a great opportunity to win the U.S. Open. With the falter there, with our performance in the Ryder Cup, not contending in the other majors, it certainly didn't end the way I wanted it to.
I don't feel discouraged about '06. It was a year that could have been or almost was, if you will. Still there was some good that came out of it with the Masters, the Atlanta tournament, winning by 13 there.
But I'm really excited about this year. This is really going to be a fun year I feel.
Q. As such a sports fan that you are, what other athletes inspire you?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are a number of them. I don't really feel comfortable talking about it. There are a number of people, whether they're athletes or other individuals, that I find very inspiring. They typically are the ones that treat people well, that perform well in their own sport, but also treat their family and friends well.
Q. Did any doubt creep in at the end of last year and beginning of this year with the slow start? Doubt and belief obviously in your game are very important things.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, as I tried to explain earlier, I'm more focused on the process of getting my game sharp. I could see the areas that were deficient. I could see the areas that were efficient. My driving from day one this year has been much, much better, which I always felt -- which I felt great about from day one.
The areas that I just wasn't sharp on after four months' layoff were the areas I had been sharp the last couple years. I knew those would come around. I wasn't worried. It was just a matter of time. Fortunately they came around fairly quickly.
GLENN GREENSPAN: Thank you very much, Phil. We appreciate it. We'll see you in April.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you. I'll see many of you this week, but in April, too.
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