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NORTHERN TRUST OPEN MEDIA CONFERENCE
February 3, 2009
JOHN BUSH: Hi, everyone. I'm PGA TOUR media official John Bush. I'd like to thank you all for advance in participating in today's conference call with 2008 Northern Trust Open Champion, Phil Mickelson. Phil is a.
I 34-time winner on the PGA TOUR with his 33rd win coming at last year's Northern Trust open where he posted a two-stroke win over Jeff Quinney. He'll be back at Riviera to defend that title.
First of all on behalf of Northern Trust, thank you for joining us today, and we'll get things started by having you reflect and comment on your win last year at the Northern Trust Open.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly enjoyed the tournament last year. The last two years have been very fun for me to play at Northern Trust. The golf course is one of the best we have on TOUR, and I really enjoyed the fact that I've added it to my schedule.
Last year going head-to-head with Jeff Quinney, another fellow ASU alum, was very exciting. I thought that he played some very good golf and we had a great match. Fortunately I was able to come out on top.
JOHN BUSH: Last year's win placed you in select company, joining fellow California natives Billy Casper and Johnny Miller as the only players to win all four current TOUR events in California. It's also your 11th win in your home state. Can you comment on your comfort level playing in California, as well as the added motivation you get from your fan base here in California.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly am biased towards the West Coast. I love playing the West Coast. I am always excited when the year starts to get back into the swing of it. And these golf courses in southern California are grasses that I'm used to playing and growing up on.
I have not played well at Riviera in the past until the past couple of years, and so I'm excited I was able to get past that and finally win the Northern Trust to complete my California wins.
JOHN BUSH: You mentioned the runner-up finish in '07 and your win last year, anything that you can pinpoint specifically in your game or in your preparation that has led to that newfound success is at Riviera?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know specifically what it is. I think that it's a very similar grass, growing up and playing kikuyu, growing up playing poa annua greens that I played as a child.
But I don't know why I had not played well in the past, because I have always laughed playing that golf course. It is such a visually stimulating course and very strategic and very challenging shot-making course. I don't know where I had not played well in the past, but for whatever reason, the last two years, I've really played well.
Q. Greetings from MĂ©xico. After two rounds played, could you say right now which are your best skills and your weakness points or your opportunity areas in your game for the rest of the season?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's difficult for me to tell after two rounds after not playing great golf what exactly my strengths and weaknesses are heading into the season. But I felt very comfortable heading into the season that I had addressed my putting issues which have plagued me the last year or two. Although I've had decent statistics in putting, I have not putted to the level that I expected to.
I feel like I addressed that in the off-season and that it is starting to come together. I spent a lot of time with Callaway working on a driver that I can keep in play and hit these little touch shots that I wanted to play. I'm very excited about how I'm driving the golf ball; although, it was not evident in the first two days at FBR, I am excited about it for the rest of the year and think that will be a strength.
And lastly, the short game, chipping is going to be an area that is always going to be a strength but I am re focusing my time and attention on because it is such an integral part of winning golf tournaments.
Q. The FBR two rounds, is that just rust and layoff there mainly, not playing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really have a great answer for that. I was surprised as everyone, because I felt heading in, I was starting to play some good golf. And just for whatever reason, I'm going to have to just brush it off and not worry about it and get ready for San Diego. I've had a good four or five days of practice now and I feel very sharp. I was very surprised, because I felt very good heading into the tournament.
But the driver that I've spent the off-season working with is legal this week. It got approved yesterday. I'll be able to put that back in play. And the driver I've worked with Callaway to accommodate my swing, working with Butch Harmon, as I shorten up my backswing and accelerate through more, I had to have a little bit faster closure rate and so forth, and this new FT-9 addresses this. My misses are better with this club than they ever have been so I'm excited about my driving for the year.
I'm also excited about my putting, because for last year or so, up till The Ryder Cup really, I had not putted well, for over a year. I addressed that with Pelz in the Callaway putting studio, and we were able to see the weaknesses. The stroke was actually where I wanted it to be. The path and everything was right where I wanted it.
However, I was not making putts, and it had to do more with alignment. So this whole off-season, even though I did not play much, I was working and training my eyes with devices to help me with my alignment. And now that my alignment is better, I feel like I'm finally starting to make some putts.
But the first few weeks, I don't have an explanation are for you. I just have to shrug it off and move on into San Diego.
Q. What driver was in the bag in Phoenix?
PHIL MICKELSON: An FT5 that I used last year. And I hit it hard but I was missing it to the right with some draws, and on those fairways, it was all bounded into unplayable lies.
Q. You had four penalty strokes and five birdies which is very un-Mickelsonlike. Has anything like that ever happened to you over 36 holes before?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've pretty much seen all of it over the years. You've seen most of it with me. It happens. But again, I'm going to have to brush that off for whatever reason without any excuses or reasoning.
I'm excited about San Diego, and having those extra couple of days on the weekend, I didn't take them off, per se. I went and worked on my game and tried to refine what I thought was sharp heading into Phoenix but obviously wasn't. I'm starting to feel much better about the every all game, and I expect to have a good week this week.
Q. Turning the tables on you a little bit, we do a lot of college golf coverage and I wanted to ask how your brother is doing this year and why do you think he's been so successful in San Diego?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I have a lot of respect for my brother. And before I answer that, I just want to say the greatest attribute I give to my brother is that he has genuinely been happy for my success, as opposed to jealous, and that's why we've been so close and why I respect him so much.
He is an incredible person, which is why junior players are drawn to him and why parents are excited to have their kids go play for him. That's why he was able to take a program that was ranked 215th when he took over and move it into the Top-50 or 70, and they are moving up even more so with some of the good players they brought in. I expect them to have a good year this year, certainly get to regionals, and very likely with a great chance to get to nationals.
Q. And when you're home in San Diego and you have a week off or so, do you ever participate in any of their programs, or do you just kind of leave that up to your brother?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'll help out with their charity events that they have, the fund-raiser they have, I think it's the first week of March, I'll be involved with that. I played with a couple of their players over the weekend; in fact, I played with Alex Cheyno (ph) who played in the Sony Open and one other player, Kenneth, I'm not sure of his last name, and we had a fun time playing with these guys. They are very skilled and talented players and they are continuing to get better.
My brother understands the importance of the short game, and as he stresses that, his players continue to shoot lower and lower scores. That's an area where all players can continue to improve and lower their scores and by him pushing that towards his players, I think that's a good reason why they come out at school better than when we started.
Q. Wondering if you are still planning the same transportation route to the Northern Trust via the jet, and if so, this seemed to really work out well for you, and I'm wondering who gave you that idea.
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier. Being able to play the L.A. Open while living at home, staying at home, seeing my kids for dinner at night, sleeping in my own bed, I think has been a big factor as to why I've played well the last two years, and I can't believe I didn't think of this earlier. I am going to do the same thing, fly into Santa Monica. It's a couple miles from there to the golf course.
Two times last year, I was in my bed, in my home before my caddie, Bones, was in his hotel room. So it's been a great system, and I certainly intend to continue it, and it's been a big reason why I am planning on making the Northern Trust a permanent stop on my schedule.
Q. I have a question about the AT&T coming up. You have done well there over the years, but last year you had a rough time out there and missed the cut. Is that something that is on your mind when you have a tournament that you normally do well at and you have an off-year? Is that something that you think about heading into the season or heading into the AT&T this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I tried to blow that missed the cut off quickly, because I knew I was playing well at the time. In fact, I came back the very following week to win the Northern Trust. And so, it happens. Missed the cuts happen, just like I missed the cut last week.
I love that tournament at Pebble. I know that it's six-hour rounds, but, I have had great partners over the years who have made the week very enjoyable. And the fact that we get to spend more time on the golf course just makes it an added bonus. And it's a great way for players to develop and nurture their business relationships, which is what I enjoy doing that week, as well as play some of the best golf courses in the country.
Q. Speaking of business relationships, the TOUR is suing Ginn for pulling out of the Champions Tour event. I know you're not a member of the TOUR staff, but do you sense this is more about sending a message and protecting the TOUR brand than it is to recoup money?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have no idea about the business dealings with sponsors. I'm unfamiliar with the contract that was in place, and I don't have enough knowledge to comment in any direction on that, I'm sorry.
Q. With the Arizona Cardinals exciting Super Bowl, as a result, did your voice get hoarse and your wallet fatter?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was as excited as anyone that Arizona played so well. I thought they were going to win, and as great as their defense played, they had only given up 13 points until three minutes left in the game. The one touchdown that they had obviously was a defensive score by Pittsburgh and to have the Arizona Cardinal defense play so great was exciting to see. I think Ken Whisenhunt has done an amazing job with the personnel he has, as well as with his defensive schemes. Look at the way he stopped the run; that was incredible. The power run of Pittsburgh was ineffective.
And I thought, he's a brilliant strategist. He creates incredible matchups and with the three oversets adding Steve Breaston as a third receiver, and Kurt Warner making great decisions, the Cardinals are an exciting team to watch.
Q. Curious if you are planning on any changes to your 20009 schedule in light of Mr. Finchem's request in December to have players, particularly marquis players, add more events to their schedule to improve sponsor relationships.
PHIL MICKELSON: I have not looked at my schedule. Certainly the first few months haven't changed. I'm playing five in a row. I don't know how I could really increase it any more. So I'll be playing, like I played last week, four more in a row.
I haven't looked or addressed my schedule from here on out past the Masters, so everything that I have done to this point has been with the Masters in mind. And I will probably keep the attention focused on the four majors, as opposed to increasing sponsor relations, but I'm certainly not opposed to adding here or there.
Q. Could you comment on general on how you see the economy impacting the TOUR for the rest of the year.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously I don't know. I'm not an economist. I know that our contracts are in place, so I don't believe much will be different this year. But certainly in the future, it could possibly affect our new contracts, and I'm hopeful that the economy turns and that things get better before we end up renegotiating for our new deals.
Q. Are you still with Crowne Plaza? I know you had the ad campaign last year.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it wasn't a -- my relationship with Crowne Plaza was not actually the representative of the company, as much as it was pushing the tournament.
So my relationship, although it came across as though I represented Crowne Plaza it really wasn't as such. It was more to promote the tournament, for television ratings, as well as sponsorship of the event for a local level, and this year I'm going to be playing the event because I won last year, and so we ended up pulling back on doing more commercials.
Q. As you evolve in your preparation, do you refine your preparations for the majors, or do you feel like the way you've got it now, is that the way that you are going to look at majors for the foreseeable future?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm always willing to tweak things here or there if I feel like it will help my performance. For a while there I was playing some of my best golf the week of the majors, so I felt like I had a great formula.
I will make slight adjustments in that I will not be quite as laborious in my preparation, and I will spend a little more time on my game, as opposed to the course prep, but I still will be very meticulous in my course preparation heading in.
Q. Looking at the snow out my window in Long Island, we are coming back to Bethpage this year, and it would seem like such a special relationship that you developed that week with the public; what are your thoughts about going back to Bethpage this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love Bethpage, and the experience that I had in 2002 is one of my highlights in golf, even though I didn't win the event. I'm excited about getting back there to a golf course that I fell in love with, and to a community that has supported myself, my family and the PGA TOUR, as well as anyone.
Q. Other than Tiger, which golfer or golfers do you consider your biggest competition, and why?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there's a lot of top players in there, and I don't want to single out anybody, because I'll forget some.
But I think it's pretty obvious the guys that are up on the rankings are the biggest threat because they are the ones that are playing the best golf. That's pretty obvious who last year won two majors and who have been consistently finishing well.
But we need that. We need guys like Anthony Kim to step up and win tournaments. We need guys like Padraig Harrington and Sergio GarcĂa to play more here over here in the States and help drive the PGA TOUR and help drive PGA TOUR revenue and interest in the game as a whole.
Q. Is there any one player, someone that unnerves you?
PHIL MICKELSON: If there was, I certainly wouldn't admit it to you.
Q. You're ten years younger than Kenny Perry; have his last eight months make you think any differently about the aging process and what's possible?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I have not thought much about the aging process. My body feels great and I have not had any issues. I had one bone (wrist) over a year ago that I have had no repercussions. The aging process has not been an issue or something that I've thought about.
The issue is continually trying to get better, and that's what we try to do year-in and year-out.
Q. You mentioned about preparation; did you do anything different at all in the off-season getting ready for the new year? And on top of that, are you going to embarrass us all by flying home every day on the Northern Trust and getting home before we do on the freeways?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's certainly my hope and my intent. I certainly enjoyed the commuting and being able to stay at home. It's allowed me to play five tournaments in a row, and yet feel like I've only played three, because two of them I have been able to stay at home.
What was the first part of that question again?
Q. Did you prep any different for this new year than in the past several years?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I haven't. I took some time off. I spent seven or eight days before the year started working with Butch Harmon and Dave Pelz, and again, I really thought that I was ready and playing well and I don't know what happened at FBR. I'm just going to brush it off and see how it goes this week in San Diego. It feels -- my game feels good. I just don't know what happened last week, but I'm excited to get back to it this week.
Q. And a good transition to go straight to San Diego, because it's a place you love.
PHIL MICKELSON: It is. It's a place that every time I come out here and play, it brings back memories of when I was with my father on the outside of the ropes looking in dreaming of playing the TOUR.
Q. You talked about European players playing moreover here. Have you had a decision about how much you are going to play around the world this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't. I know that it's certainly something I'm always going considering but given the age of my kids and the fact that they are starting to travel a little less, it may not be as feasible or as practical as I originally thought.
Q. Of the fourth major this is year, we have discussed Long Island but do you have any thoughts on the other three?
PHIL MICKELSON: We are always looking forward to the next major, so right now the master has been kind of the focus and something that I've been thinking of in the off-season.
So getting ready for that tournament will be exciting and getting back and see some of the tee box changes that have taken place in the off-season will be interesting, as well.
JOHN BUSH: Phil, thanks for joining us today and good luck as you defend your tight until two weeks at the Northern Trust open.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you very much and I look forward to seeing you in a couple of weeks and many of you this week in San Diego.
End of FastScripts