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February 24, 2010

Phil Mickelson

LAURA HILL: Thank you everyone for waiting. We are pleased to have Phil Mickelson joining us by teleconference from the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Phil had a week off last week with his family and I know he's looking forward to getting back in action and returning to defend his title at the CA Championship in a couple of weeks. Can you give us some opening remarks? I know you're glad to be back playing and kind of looking forward to heading down to Miami to defend your first World Golf Championships title from last year.
PHIL MICKELSON: I am looking forward to the World Golf Championships - CA Championship, and I love the World Golf Championships events. I'm sorry I missed last week. I love them; I think they are some of our more exciting events.
Unfortunately we had a change in plans in our treatment schedule and we had to have some treatment done next week, and it was during our family trip and so we had to move it up and miss last week.
But I'm excited to get back to playing, and I'm really excited to getting back to Doral. It's a golf course I've always enjoyed and loved; not played as well as I would like until last year where I finally broke through for a win, and I was very excited to do so and had a great 36-hole finish there playing with Nick Watney.

Q. This is a little off-topic but not too much. What is your reaction to the influx of great young players who are insinuating themselves into the TOUR in many ways, Dustin having won twice already and Rory in the Top-10 at the age of 20 or 21, and a lot of other young players making a big move. I know it's sometimes cyclical but this seems to be a particularly strong group?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's critical to the success of the game, especially the long-term success. And we have some great young players. Obviously Dustin Johnson is playing terrific golf; but we have Rory McIlroy, one of the best players I've seen at such a young age, along with Ryo Ishikawa who brings an excitement and level of play to Asian golf coming from Japan. He did a tremendous job at The Presidents Cup. The Americans have a very good young player in Rickie Fowler, who I think is just as exciting.
The level of play that these guys are at at such a young age is what is so exciting, as well as mind-boggling, because at that age, I couldn't imagine playing at that high level, striking it the way they do, hitting it as long and straight as they do and having impeccable short games.

Q. Do you begin to feel old as you begin to approach 40 and see 18, 20 and 21-year-olds challenge you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been an awkward transition for me because I had always been the young guy when I was an amateur and came out earlier than most players, and was always kind of the young buck.
Now I'm the old guy and I have a hard time recognizing many of the players out on TOUR. When I came out on TOUR, I knew who Hale Irwin, Ben Crenshaw and Tom Kite were. Now I'm the older guy and I don't know who all of these young guys are coming up. It's an awkward feeling, yes.

Q. I was curious how you see kind of this next stretch of who knows how long, just how the landscape is with Tiger on his indefinite hiatus. Is this a case where one person can step up and really make a name for himself, whether it's you or Steve Stricker or even Ian Poulter, somebody like that, or is this one where maybe several players can improve their portfolio, so to speak?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's hard to say. I think that right now, it's turning out to be several players, as opposed to just one or two.
I also think it's early in the season, and really until we start hitting these World Golf Championships like we did last year, and when we come to Doral, I think that that is when kind of the heart of the season is starting to occur, because everybody is now getting ready; we are all playing against the best players in the world, and pretty soon comes Augusta. It is hard to say what is happening or what will happen until we start hitting the bulk of the season.

Q. With the number of young players that you were just talking about, is it more difficult perhaps for an established veteran player, you or Stricker, or even a Lee Westwood to do that, when week-in, week-out, you might see Poulter, you might see Rickie Fowler, you might see Rory McIlroy?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's certainly an argument to be had. But I also think that there are some advantages to having been out on TOUR for a number of years and being able to look back on some past experiences, successes as well as failures, to help get through some tough points in a final round, and I think that that can be very advantageous.
Having played in a number of Ryder Cups and experienced and learning what I need to do to deal with the pressure the best in those situations, I think that can be very advantageous, as well as for other players like a Steve Stricker or Lee Westwood; guys that are getting into their 40s that have an advantage they may still have over some of the younger guys. Their talent level, the younger players talent self seems to shine as well, so you can argue it either way.

Q. You talked about how you like Doral and you had not played that well there until last year. Just what is it you like about that course so much, and what made the difference last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that one of the things that has really had a positive impact for me is when the courses in the southeast have gone to this MiniVerde-type grass on the greens, and for whatever reason, I've been able to putt these greens much more successfully. I'm able to see the line better, I'm able to roll the ball across the greens better. They react better for iron shots into the greens, and when Doral went to that grass, I started putting the greens there much better.
When THE TOUR Championship went to that MiniVerde grass, I started to putt those greens much better and ended up winning at East Lake. When THE PLAYERS Championship at TPC Sawgrass switched to that MiniVerde, I ended up putting well there and won in '07. There's something about that grass that I really enjoy putting on, and that seemed to make a big difference for me.

Q. Speaking of putting and chipping, I was at Allianz last week and ran into David Stockton and talked to him about his working with you. Can you just talk about that and if you still talk to him and rely on those tips he gave you on chipping and putting?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do, and I enjoy -- you know, I enjoy my time with him. I enjoy having somebody to bounce ideas off of.
I think that Dave Stockton is a guy who has won a couple of majors, and to be able to talk with him about chipping and get some new ideas, have somebody just to discuss things; sometimes vocalizing helps me to just iron out my own short game, even without advice.
But hearing some of the things he had to say brought me back to my short game when I was a kid, and it's been a big positive change for me. And although I haven't started out the first few weeks putting as well as I would like, I have been working on it the last few days and it's starting to feel really good and I believe I'll be able to put it all together this week and hopefully for Doral.

Q. Along the Dave Stockton line, as well, he had mentioned that in talking to you, obviously the flop shot has been such a great weapon in your arsenal, but he kind of mentioned that you had never really considered hitting a low-approach chip to the green before, and I was wondering if you could kind of give me your version of that conversation with him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, his perception -- we had some discussions about this, and he felt as though I may be used the flop shot a little too often. And there are times where I have hit low, running shots, but there are also times where I've hit a lot of flop shots. A lot of the times for me, it's dictated by the lie, how the ball is sitting.
When he played, the flop shot was a very high-risk shot, because he first of all didn't have a 60-degree wedge. He had a sand wedge with a lot more bounce and it was very difficult to get the leading edge underneath the golf ball with a 56-degree sand wedge with 12 degrees of bounce. The equipment today is totally different. Having a lob wedge with 60 degrees or more, or 64 degrees in cases with less bounce, the risk isn't as great.
And so we will debate that, and I will start to reevaluate and take his input and see if maybe a higher-percentage shot might be the play. But he also needs to hear, and he has heard, that nowadays the risk isn't as great as it was when he was in his prime.

Q. Do you guys have those type of, I don't want to say heated debates, but --
PHIL MICKELSON: No, they are not heated debates, but they are great discussions, because it forces me to think about is the way I'm playing a shot the proper shot, or am I making the right decision or the best percentage shot. And there's times when he's been right and times when he hasn't. And having somebody to discuss that with makes me more confident in the decisions when I know that I am correct, and it makes me make a better decision when I'm wrong.

Q. How much has your discussions with him actually kind of at least made you rethink the way you think, and how long did it take to kind of take that to the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was able to implement some of these changes fairly quickly, because again, it was not a monumental change. It was very similar, if not identical, to what I have always done as a kid and earlier in my career, somehow gravitated away from whether it be the forward press in my putting stroke or whether it be some of the place-the-ball-back in your stance and hit a low, running chip shot.
I think it's been very easy to implement, and I've had some immediate success with it, which has been great, having won THE TOUR Championship, as well as the World Golf Championship in Shanghai.

Q. Did you get a chance to see Tiger's statement, or tapes of it later, and what's your reaction to the way he handled that situation, what he had to say?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, you I really don't want to go into too much detail on that type of stuff, but I did see the statement and I thought he did a great job and I don't really have too much more to add.
LAURA HILL: I had a question e-mailed in from someone who had to sign off. You addressed this a little in the beginning, but you won at the CA Championship last year for your first WGC, and then added another title in Shanghai, as you mentioned, at the HSBC Champions. Can you just speak again to kind of where that ranks in your career accomplishments and what it means to you to have those kind of special events in your profile now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's very cool to win these events. I didn't know how cool it would be, because these events were fairly new. But now that they have been around for almost I guess ten years now, their status continues to grow in the game, and to finally win a couple is important to my career I believe.
LAURA HILL: Phil, best of luck this week in Phoenix and we do look forward to seeing you in two weeks down at Doral and thank you so much for your time tonight.

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