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July 14, 2014

Phil Mickelson


MIKE WOODCOCK: I'm delighted to welcome the 2013 Open champion, Phil Mickelson to the Media Centre. Phil, thank you very much for joining us today. It was a wonderful performance last year at Muirfied. How does it feel to come in as a defending champion?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a different feeling for me coming over here now having won this tournament. The way I felt was, am I ever going to come through and break through and play well on links golf and win an Open Championship? Now I know that I can. I know that I've done it and it takes a lot of pressure off me. But more than that, when I arrive as a past champion, it just feels terrific.

Q. Was it hard to give back the Jug?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was. It's been a really fun year with the Jug because I've been able to share it with a lot of the family and friends that have been helpful throughout my career. I've been able to share it in my corporate outings and at my local clubs where I go play. It was fun to see the faces of the people that have such respect and reverence for the game of golf and this championship, and what it means to be able to take a picture with it or drink a sip out of it. And it's been a really fun year with that Jug.

Q. Could you discuss the last 12 months. I know you've been hurt a little bit. But I would think it's been a disappointment, you haven't been -- I don't think you've had any top-10's or one top 10, except for Dubai. And it's not just The Open Championship, but just your own piece of mind, what's it been like?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it obviously hasn't been a good year. Normally I would be discouraged or frustrated, but I'm just not. I'm not frustrated and I'm not discouraged. I feel like I've had some good breakthroughs in some areas. I haven't had the results, I know I haven't played well. But the parts feel a lot better than the whole right now. And I don't know when it will all click together. I don't know if it will be this week. I don't know if it will be in three weeks or a month or what, but it should be soon. I feel like it's really close to being good. And rather than trying to force it or press the issue, I'm going to be patient. But I'm driving the ball with more confidence and better than I ever have. I don't know if the stats show it or not, but I know that I am. And this has not been a good putting year. I think that's the results haven't been there. But I had a good breakthrough these last couple of weeks since The U.S. Open. With Stockton I have the direction that I want, and I feel much better with the putter. And I feel from here on out I should have more consistent week-in and week-out good putting weeks. But we'll see. That's why we play the game, you just never know. But if you look at me, how I feel, it's not the frustration that you would think, given the year I've had relative to the last past 20-plus years on Tour.

Q. Some of us would say at age 44 you perhaps are in a decline, because it's tough to continuing to do what you do, any golfer, when they get in their 40s. Do you feel any age situation?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't. I actually feel better than I have in years. And I've had to work a little bit harder. Every day I have to start my day on a physio ball or on a TRX band and strengthen back and core and legs and so forth to make sure that I'm able to withstand the practice sessions that I'm about to have. At the end of the day I have to do the same thing. But I feel better than I have in a long time. The other area that I've struggled with is my short irons, which has always been a strength; I haven't been sharp. Last week they started to come back -- I saw kind of glimpses of my normal short iron play. So when you combine that, the scoring clubs, short iron putter, it's going to lead to a bit of an off-year. But I know that that would be the assumption, but I believe that the next five years are going to be some of the best in my career.

Q. I'm just curious, your history in this championship was spotty, but did you ever lose faith that you would succeed at one of these Open Championships?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't, and as I look back on it, again, like my own self-analysis over the last ten years of links golf, I've played very well tee-to-green. I've played very effective on the ground, keeping the ball low, playing in crosswinds, downwind. Where I've struggled here is on the greens. I've putted the fescue grasses, the native grasses very poorly. Last year I had a very phenomenal putting week. I felt like I kind of keyed in on something on some of these greens. Giving it a much better roll that helps hold the line, and I putted these greens much better. And I think that was the difference, not the challenge of links golf. Certainly the first ten years of my career I did not play it well from tee-to-green. But the last ten I felt like I was close, and the last key was on the greens. I didn't feel like the ball-striking was the issue. I felt like it was the putting on these greens. Last year I certainly solved that.

Q. Back to the Claret Jug for a minute, outside of Krispy Kreme, where all did you take the Green Jacket in public the three times you had it? And could you describe maybe the difference to the reaction to the Jug and the Jacket, depending on where you've been?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the Krispy Kreme was prearthritis, okay, so let's keep that in mind. I've had to change a lot of stuff since I came down with that. I've had to change diet, exercise, drinking, can't -- I haven't had a soda in years. So I've had to make a lot of changes. So that was after the Masters. One of the things that I stressed is that we have to treat the Claret Jug with reverence and respect that it deserves and only put good stuff in it (laughter). There was nothing to be -- no bad stuff was allowed. And each person that I brought it to had a different definition of what the good stuff was (laughter). But one of my friends, one of my friends, their definition of the good stuff was a bottle of 1990 Romanée-Conti wine. Now, I didn't know what this was when I drank it. I just knew that it was really good. And that was the best bottle that was ever put in there.

Q. As far as the difference between the reaction to when you've been out in public with the Green Jacket and the Claret Jug, where else --
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the reason this brought out a little bit more emotion was everybody had a chance to share in it. Everybody had a chance to drink out of the Jug or hold it and take pictures with it. There's really not much you're going to do with the Jacket, other than pull on the lapels. And I think that's why it was a bit more emotional.

Q. How much do you expect to use your 2-iron this week? After this week how much will you use your 2-iron the rest of the year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the 2-iron -- I have two clubs that are specific to this tournament; it's a 2-iron and a 64 degree wedge that has very little bounce. Those two clubs I basically put away after this event and I bring them back out in July again. But they've been very important and instrumental in my success here, 2- or 3-iron. This week it will be a 2-iron.

Q. Is there any sort of balance between the satisfaction of winning this championship and then motivation in trying to pursue another? Could you be kind of say, I checked that box and not worry about it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that would be a possible assumption. It's just that the memories and emotions that took place last year and that I created and will have for a lifetime, I'd like to do again. I'd like to create new memories and new opportunities. And it almost motivates me to work harder and play even more, practice even more because I know there's a finite amount of time. As I look back on my life, I look back on the highlights of last year's tournament, and it brings out the same emotions that I experienced at the time. And same thing with Bones, too. So I'd like to create some more, if possible.

Q. Your final round last year was just one of the great rounds ever. Can you talk a little bit about what it felt like to have that kind of round, what's going on, what's different about a round like that and how as a player you try to perform like that again?
PHIL MICKELSON: The tough part about it is that when you try to have a round like that, that's when it goes south and you end up making big numbers. And the thing about that was -- about that round is that I never really got ahead of myself, I never really tried to force birdies. I just kind of played the hole and the next shot as strategic and as well as I could. And every shot was coming off well, so I was able to be somewhat, a little bit more aggressive, a little bit more aggressive as the round wore on. But you're going to have to make some long putts to make birdies out here because of all the bounces and the firmness. You're not going to be able to fly it and knock it a foot. So you're going to have to make 20- or 30-footers for your birdies. There was a putt that was about 12 feet, after one of best shots of the week on 13, that was really a critical putt. And that putt got me back to even par for birdie. Got me back to even par and it allowed me to not force the issue coming down the last five holes, not press for birdies, but just play it smartly for par and see if I can make one of those putts for birdie, which I did on the very next hole. To answer your question, you have to let those rounds happen. You can't go out there trying to force them.

Q. (No microphone).
PHIL MICKELSON: You have to have everything kind of come together. You have to have your game sharp. You have to have the opportunity there and be able to execute it at the right time, and you need some luck. You need the right bounces, the right breaks on the greens. It all has to kind of come together.

Q. Apologies in advance for asking about your rivals this week, Justin Rose won yesterday, you did it last year, back-to-back. Do you think, A, that will help him or, B, which of the other British golfers are going to be in contention this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, prior to last year I think everybody would rule him out because he won the week before. But now that it's been done, and somebody has won the week before and followed it up with The Open Championship, I think it's an advantage. I think it's an advantage to play the Scottish Open on links golf, get acclimated to the time over here, get acclimated to seeing the ball bounce, and the fescue and thicker grasses on the greens and long lag putts that we are going to have, and putting in crosswinds. Putting in crosswinds is brutally tough. Into the wind, downwind not so much but when you're putting in direct crosswind, trying to guess and estimate how much the wind is going to affect the break is very difficult. All those things happened last week. And all those things, I believe, gives the players that played a distinct advantage. And the fact that he's playing well, he's going to be in contention. I've got to believe that. It worked for me, too. I thought winning the Scottish was very instrumental in propelling me to The Open.

Q. You spoke about the reverence of the Jug. What is it about this tournament as opposed to the Masters or any of the other Majors that makes it something that you revere rather than get excited about winning?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, simply the history. It's the oldest trophy in sports, I believe, and this championship is the oldest championship that we have, and it's the most prestigious.

Q. (No microphone).
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for me personally because I grew up in the States watching the Masters, that's a very emotional tournament for me. But what made this Open Championship so emotional for me was the challenges I had to overcome to accomplish that victory. Challenges of learning links golf over the course of my career, coming over here only a couple of weeks a year. Not having grown up here, I had to learn it during my professional years. And it was an obstacle to overcome, and that's why it brought out so much emotion for me.

Q. Just an equipment thing, you mentioned the 2-iron before, obviously in '06 Tiger went around here and didn't hit driver at all. The conditions were a lot different. Will you hit driver here? Last year you used that 3-wood all around Muirfield.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't have a great answer. It will be very situational. I will carry a driver. I think there will be times when I use a driver, but it will be situational on the wind, pin placement and how I'm feeling at the given moment.

Q. So the same 3-wood as last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have a -- it's not the exact same one, but it performs every bit as well.

Q. When you came to Muirfield not last year but 12 years ago, you told me that you had in your luggage when you left California a copy of Stephen Hawking's book. I'm wondering whether you read that then, what have you thought about it, and what have you got with you as reading matter now, if anything? By the way, did you know that Romanée-Conti is a burgundy that you put into the Claret Jug?
PHIL MICKELSON: It tasted great, that's all I was worried about. I didn't know much about that at the time. But it was delicious and I'm very appreciative. We drank a few of those bottles that night.

Q. (No microphone).
PHIL MICKELSON: I do (laughter). As far as Stephen Hawking, that was A Brief History in Time. That was a fascinating book, I did enjoy that. But that was a while ago.

Q. Those 3-woods you hit on 17 last year were the two best he'd ever seen you hit. You don't have that exact same club in your bag this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I may. I brought it. But I've been using the XHot 2. And this one has a little bit more loft and just gets up a little easier.

Q. Do you ever find yourself watching a replay of that final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, yeah.

Q. If so, what sort of feelings do you have?
PHIL MICKELSON: The exact same as what took place during the event. Those emotions get brought out when I watch it. So it was -- the final round was re-aired again on the Golf Channel. I TiVoed it and just watch it when I have a chance or need a little bit of a confidence boost.

Q. A follow-up to the 2-iron, when you only are using a club one or two weeks a year, how easy or difficult is it to just use it effectively? And how do you work around that to get sharp using it?
PHIL MICKELSON: You would think it would take a little bit more time to get used to, but it's not like it's a new club. It performs the same as it did last year and the year before. So it's not as -- it doesn't take as long as you would think. Maybe a half hour of practice on the range or the chipping range just to develop the confidence in it. I do think hitting it -- hitting like the 64 degree wedge last week, knowing that it will come off a certain way, is advantageous in playing it for the very first week here. But I hit a lot of very good shots with it last week that gives me confidence heading into this one.

Q. Can I get your thoughts on Tiger being back in the Major field? And also given the fact that he's a former Open champion as you are you now, do you think that was a big influence in his decision to come and play this event?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's also somewhat defending champion, given that he was the last person to win here at Royal Liverpool. We all benefit from having him in the tournament. We are just glad he's back. He's back a lot earlier than I think a lot of us thought. That's only been beneficial, and hopefully he'll play well.

Q. You've achieved so much on both sides of the Atlantic, and got great fans on both sides of the Atlantic. How much would you treasure captaining the American Ryder Cup team?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a little ways away from me right now. Even though I'm 44, it's really not on the forefront of my mind. I'm looking forward to playing well these next months, trying to get on a player this year. I've enjoyed playing on the teams that I've been on. And so that's a little far down the road for me.

Q. Obviously the conditions are a lot different than '06. The temperature, the look, how do you think that's going to affect the tournament? Do you think the course will play more difficult? Do you have any sense of that at this early point?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that last time in '06 we were almost forced to hit the ball longer off the tee and take on more risk because the course was so firm, you couldn't stop the ball with a mid iron. And we needed to come into some of these greens with an 8, 9-wedge downwind, because it was so firm. I think it's going to allow us to be a little bit more conservative off the tee and a little bit more aggressive into the greens. That's my take. And the winning score, I think, will ultimately be fairly low, provided conditions, of course. If we get a strong wind, that all changes. If we get a strong wind and rain, that changes even more. But under light wind or soft wind conditions and the golf course being as green as it is, I think the scores will be fairly low.

Q. You've talked about the conditions, but how would you compare Royal Liverpool to the other courses on the Open rota?
PHIL MICKELSON: The reason I really like Royal Liverpool is the same reason that I really like Muirfield, and that is when you have to land a ball 20, 30 yards short of the green, if you hit it at the green, the ball will kick on. There is not these repellant hillsides in the landing area that kick balls off into the trouble. If you hit it off line, it will continue to go off line. It's not going to hit a mound and kick back to the green. What I'm ultimately saying is well-struck shots are rewarded and poorly struck shots are penalized. And that's not always the case in links golf. It could be the exact opposite many times. In fact, that happened quite a few times last week at Royal Aberdeen. So the thing I really like about Royal Liverpool is the same thing I liked about Muirfield, those last 20, 30 yards short of the green were oftentimes you have to land a golf ball, it will continue to bounce on to the green if you strike it properly.

MIKE WOODCOCK: Thank you very much for joining us. Best of luck this week.
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