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July 9, 2014

Phil Mickelson


MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Good morning, Phil, thanks for joining us, as always.  Welcome back, defending champion of The Scottish Open.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, excited to be here.  Bones and I have had a great few days here, getting in a little early, such great golf courses here.
I have loved Castle Stuart where we've played the last few years.  I just think it's such a great modern day designed links golf course.  But Royal Aberdeen is a real asset to this tournament.  It's a beautiful golf course.  We played here on Monday and it was opposite wind.  And as we go out today it, just feels like a totally different course.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  And how are you feeling yourself?  A massive fortnight ahead for you.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I've been over in Europe now for two weeks already, and I'm acclimated to the time and enjoying my time here and looking forward to playing some golf.  I love these two events.  They were two of the most memorable events of my career arguably last year.  Having my family here, spending the two weeks here, and winning both events was something I'll always cherish.
Talking up the 18th hole at Muirfield knowing I had the tournament in the grasp was really the greatest feeling to be able to take advantage of that moment and not have to grind it out but really enjoy the walk.  I'll always remember that, and it's a very emotional time for me.

Q.  No one has ever retained the Scottish Open title.  Do you see any reason why you can't be the first man to do so?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You know, the first part of trying to defend is you actually have to be in the field, which I am, and I'm looking forward to playing.  I don't know how it's going to go.  I'm still working on my game and the great thing about being here in Scotland is it doesn't get dark until 11 o'clock at night.  So you have a lot of time to practise and I've been able to do that.
So we'll see.  We'll see how it goes.  I don't want to project out.  There's a lot of things that have to go your way and as the weather changes, you need to have a good break with the weather and we're going to have some rough weather these next few days, which I'm actually really looking forward to.  I've played some is of my best golf in bad weather.
I remember Royal St.George's in 2011 in that awful weather playing some of my best golf.  We'll see how it goes but I'm excited to play.

Q.  You talked about how you've been working on your game, and I've seen the video footage of you which has gone viral practising overhead wedge shots a couple of days ago.  Any chance we'll see you actually do that when the tournament starts?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I hope not.  Last year I ended up messing around on the 17th green at Muirfield doing that, and it was a good omen, so I was playing a practise round with a young player, Matt Ford, and we were messing around and hit a few of those and I kind of thought it was an omen from last year.

Q.  You were obviously very praise worthy of Castle Stuart as a setup course for The Open Championship in terms of its wide fairways and generosity of the course.  Do you have any fears here with the weather forecast and a more penal setup, there's a danger of being beaten up with Hoylake ahead?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I don't.  I don't feel that way.  At least it wasn't a concern when I played my first practise round here.  I felt like there was plenty of room off the tee.  I felt like it's a very similar style of play to Hoylake, and to most major championship golf courses here and links golf.
You've got to maneuver yourself around the bunkers and keep the ball in play, get it up on the green and have some great lag putting and short game around the green because you'll have a lot of 60‑ to 100‑foot chips and putts.
I think Royal Aberdeen is a great preparation for next week and given the forecast for some potential rain and rough weather next week, having the chance to get acclimated to it this week is a great benefit.

Q.  In terms of your form this year, we all know what a glorious fortnight it was for you a year ago; do you feel something similar can happen again this time?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I'm sure hopeful.  I feel like the one area that I've really struggled with this year more than last year has been putting.  I've really spent the last few weeks working on that.
I'm excited to come over here and put, because last year I had some of the best putting weeks I've had at the Scottish and British and I feel like there was a few things with these greens and the grasses that you have to learn to make some of those 4‑ or 5‑footers and I feel a little bit more confident.

Q.  Just a history question, the Americans obviously coming to Scotland for The Ryder Cup, I'd like to ask you what you know about the Scots who brought golf to America, men like Donald Ross and what they did for golf in your country.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, their architectural stamp is really the mark that they have left in the game.  Ross especially and I know Bobby Jones spent a lot of time over at Sunningdale and used that as kind of a map for his course architecture.  MacKenzie used a lot of the links golf, as well.  And that mark that they came over to the United States and left in architectural design today is still some of the best that we have.

Q.  It's 115 years since Ross went to America with a couple of pounds in his pocket and we are still talking about him today.  It's a remarkable thing, isn't it.
PHIL MICKELSON:  It is, and it makes me at 44 feel a lot younger (laughter).

Q.  Do you see tackling a tough links course like this as an exciting challenge and something to really get your teeth into?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It is.  It's fun.  It's really a fun test.  There's a few things that take some getting used to over here when we make the transition.  One is the time change.  One is the thick, heavy air and how strong the air affects the ball here.
The other is the bounces and how firm the ground is and the fourth thing really is how strong a blade of grass the fescue and native grasses can be on the greens and how to putt those effectively.
So I really believe coming here and playing the week before The Open, playing in a great links test like this, is a real asset, an asset for players from overseas to get acclimated to the time and really get acclimated to these conditions.
When you really appreciate and love it, like I've kind of learned to, it's exciting.  It turns out to be some of our favourite weeks of the year.

Q.  And of course you did The Open 'double' last year; how important is it just to keep your focus, just one match at a time?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, that's important, and for me, each round presents a great opportunity to work on my game, to get sharp, as well as to compete and try to defend a championship that I'm very proud to have won last year.
I'm looking forward to it.  Tomorrow is supposed to be terrible weather.  I hope it is.  Because I would love to be able to get out in that stuff and play and play in that stuff that I never get a chance to back home, and have actually started to play pretty well in over the years.  It's fun and it's a great opportunity.

Q.  It took you a little while to embrace links golf, and maybe even in the early days you might have fought it a little.  Do you recall maybe a turning point or what actually happened to kind of get you to feel better about it and also to start performing better?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Yeah, the turnaround came in December of 2003, just before the 2004 season and it was when I started working with Dave Pelz on hitting wedge shots without spin, and hitting them ‑‑ and controlling the distances and the other yardages.¬† That work that we did carried over into my short irons, middle irons and ultimately my long game.
The key to playing links golf from tee‑to‑green, is being able to get the ball not just low, but low without spin, and that's what I was struggling with and why I was always fighting it.¬† I would swing hard.¬† I would put more spin on it and the wind would have a greater effect.
And now, after learning how to take more club, swing it easier and just let it feel like you're hitting little half‑shots, I'm not fighting it, because I'm not having to make full, hard aggressive swings.¬† It's much easier if you're hitting to a 100‑yard pin to hit a little 5‑iron at that pin than it is a full wedge.¬† And I find that that was really the turning point that I looked back to.

Q.  Did that change make you appreciate these courses more, like did you go to a St. Andrews or a Carnoustie or some of these great links and appreciate these venues more after that?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† It did.¬† And one of the things I started doing back then in my preparation is going to 150 yards back in the fairway and taking a 5‑iron and running the ball on the ground and seeing where it ends up.
Because a lot of the holes will have a funnel effect where the ball will always kind of funnel to a certain spot, and if you know where that spot is, then you can play to that spot, if you want where the pin is, if that's a good spot to play to.
You can play to that spot along the ground and not have to fight the wind and not have to hit a solid penetrating shot through some thick heavy air.¬† You can just chip a 5‑iron along the ground and the ball runs to certain spots.¬† I kind of realised that at Troon.¬† There's a few holes at Troon in 2004 that came in very handy.

Q.  Wonder if you are a soccer fan and what you made of the United States performance in the World Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's taking off, the popularity is taking off, and absolutely I watched every match and have been watching the other matches and watched last night, as well.  I was actually in Brazil in November of last year, and there was a real excitement for the World Cup coming up.
Although I'm sorry Brazil is not going to win the World Cup, it was a great performance by them and quite an exciting match so far.  The U.S. soccer is starting to really get exciting.  This World Cup really created an interest throughout the United States and hopefully that will propel the sport.

Q.  And the spirit that the team showed, can The Ryder Cup Team tap into at Gleneagles?  (Laughter).
PHIL MICKELSON:  That's a bit of a stretch, kind of bringing those two together.  (Laughter).

Q.  I know you and your family enjoy the cultural aspects of travel when you come over here.  Can you tell us what you've been doing the last couple of weeks?
PHIL MICKELSON:  My kids are at a great age now at 11, 12 and 14 to where they can really appreciate history and some of the great things that have gone on historically and Europe has so much more history than we do.  Each year we try to spend at least one or two weeks going to someplace different.
Last week we went to Greece and spent a lot of time in some of the ancient historical sites throughout Greece, Delos, specifically and we went to Athens obviously and a couple of the other islands.
That was really educational but it was a great family time, too, for me to be able to have that time with them.¬† When they are in school and they have all the after‑school activities and their life is so chaotic; I only see them for spurts before school and at the end of the day, and so to have them all day was really fun.

Q.  Coming to the Scottish Open, you have tended to knock off some of the great links courses, will you do that this week?
PHIL MICKELSON:  The one that I played that I really enjoyed is the Trump course.  What I really enjoyed about it is that it's really a traditional links golf course but it's on a modern day scale.
So the fairways are at a more proportional width for hitting drivers.¬† The holes are longer to where driver is the play.¬† The bunkers are placed properly for hitting drivers, 3‑woods, long irons off tees where many of The Open Championship courses that we play, we end up hitting a lot of irons off tees to try to circumvent or navigate around the bunkering; that it doesn't have the same modern day scale.
I thought the Trump course was sensational.

Q.  Would that make it a possible Open venue for the future?
PHIL MICKELSON:  That's tough for me to say because there's so many things that go into an Open Championship venue outside of the golf course itself.  Certainly the golf course could hold it.  But whether or not the other things that the R&A looks at, and I don't know what those things are; parking or hold people or accommodations and all the stuff that goes into it, I don't know.

Q.  Talking about the Open Championship, you've been speaking about the fun you've had with the Claret Jug, I know you'll get a copy but when you hand it back next week, will there be a touch of sadness?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It has been a fun year with the Claret Jug, and it's been really interesting to see the emotional response of people that get to hold it or drink out of it and how much they appreciate it and appreciate what a great trophy that is.
It's been really fun.  I've taken it to some of the courses that I'm a member at back in San Diego and left it there while I go play in the locker room and guys will take pictures of it and take sips out of it, and people that really appreciate the game of golf understand and know what a privilege it is to be able to hold it.
And it's been fun and I'm sad to give it back but I'm also hopeful that I'll have a chance to have a it for another year sometime soon, if not this one.

Q.  How many copies did you obtain?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I haven't yet.  I'm not really sure how many I'm allowed to.  I haven't looked into that yet but they gave me the replica one for me to keep.

Q.  Given how useful you found it last year playing here before The Open, do you think Tiger is missing a trick by not playing this week, given how little golf he's played?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I think that each individual has to find out what they need to do to bring out their best golf and prepare for major championships and what they need to do to play their best, and it's not the same for everybody.  I know that Nicklaus liked to take the week off before a major championship.  I know Tiger does, too.
For me personally, though, I feel playing the week before helps me play my best and I feel like playing the Scottish Open gives me a chance to get acclimated to the time change, get into the links golf mode and make some of the adjustments that are needed for the heavy air and firm ground and such.
For me personally it's been a great asset to be able to come play the Scottish.  I also know the last three or four years, the winner of The Open Championship has competed in the Scottish Open.

Q.  What was it like for you last year at Muirfield to see Bones become so emotional on 18th green?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It was awesome.  And it was an experience that we've talked about every day since we've been here and we still reminisce about.  Every time we watch the replay of the telecast it brings out the same emotions and highs and lows that we experience throughout that round.  It's something that we'll cherish forever, because this tournament does that to you.  The Open Championship does that to you.  It brings out the greatest emotions from a player.

Q.  Why do you think Bones in particular broke down, what was behind that?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I think there's a number of factors.  We've had a lot of great experiences over the years, but The Open Championship is such the pinnacle of golf and has so much history behind it.
Bones for a long time was a duel citizen here in the U.K. he loves it over here and spends a lot of time here and really appreciates what this country has meant to the game of golf.  That also brings out emotion in you.

Q.  This is probably a stupid question, but it's never stopped me before.  We all know you need to win the U.S. Open to complete the career Grand Slam but where do the other majors rank in your ambitions?  Are you still as motivated to win the others?  Or are you more focused on the U.S. Open now?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You know, I'm really surprised I'm even here.  I was just going to play the U.S. Open and not even worry about the others, yeah.  (Laughter).

Q.  I told you it was a stupid question.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I really enjoy as I get older and appreciate what each major championship provides as far as an opportunity and a life experience, and I just cherish it. 
       I cherish what playing Hoylake will be next week, and the opportunity to come over and compete beforehand and get ready and play another great historical event here in the Scottish Open, all these things, I'm just really enjoying and appreciating, because you realize as you get older, you know it doesn't go on forever.  You think when you're in your 20s that you'll have endless opportunities.
I think that was another thing that brought out some emotion, Karen, in the victory last year.  But every major championship is a week that I cherish now.

Q.¬† Your status as defending champion makes you eligible to join Tom's get‑together at Gleneagles.¬† Wonder if you have had or if you will see the course before The Ryder Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† I'm going to try to get there.¬† A few things have to change schedule‑wise.¬† I think it would be a great opportunity to be able to play the course well in advance.
But I also think that we'll get in and have Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday for practise round days, which is as many or more than I usually have for major championship prep, and I think that we'll be able to be ready.
Whether or not how we play and all that stuff, I don't know, but we should know the golf course well enough to compete at a high level.

Q.  As a young boy growing up on the West Coast of America, I wonder what was the point at which you became connected to The Open Championship and understanding its historical significance and importance to the game?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† It's tough to look back on one point, but really, I remember‑‑ St. Andrews brings out that emotion in me because of what the game has meant to me and being the birth of golf and Home of Golf at St. Andrews.
2000 was a point that I really felt this love and appreciation for the game where it started to turn, where I knew‑‑ where I became determined to start to play well in¬† The Open Championship; that this is a tournament that I needed to win to validate my career, that I wanted to win, and that it was going to take some adjustment in my game.
MICHAEL GIBBONS:  Thank you for your time and good luck with your defence this week.

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