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August 5, 2014

Phil Mickelson


KELLY ELBIN:  2005 PGA Champion, Phil Mickelson, here at the 96th PGA Championship.  This will be Phil's 22nd PGA Championship appearance.
You tied for eighth in '96, and tied for ninth in 2000, but I have to imagine some good memories coming back here after the 2008 Ryder Cup, the victory for the U.S.
PHIL MICKELSON:  It really is a fun place for us to play because of the memories that we have in 2008.  Winning The Ryder Cup here, it's a very emotional experience, and the people here in Louisville, we kept calling them our 13th man because they were such an asset to us in keeping us motivated, excited and giving us momentum.  It's a great golf town.  It's just a great place to play golf, and Valhalla is a wonderful golf course, and people here in Louisville should be proud of it.
We are all excited to be back here.  This is my third PGA Championship here now and it's been a pleasure.
KELLY ELBIN:  You played some practice rounds in the last day or so.  Just some general thoughts, please.
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's just in immaculate condition, and I think that the setup of it is sensational in that the fairways are a very fair width.  There's nothing tricked up about the golf course.  The greens are in perfect condition, pristine.  And you can really make a lot of putts if you get hot.  The rough is challenging, but it's not hack it out; you have some decisions to make.  It's just a very well thought out, wonderful setup.
Now the scores might be low if the rain comes in and the course is soft.  But if it firms up a little bit, it will be a real challenge because it is a long golf course.

Q.  After your round on Saturday at Bridgestone, you sounded uncharacteristically disillusioned because it wasn't coming back the way you thought it was, and then you had Sunday.  Wonder what Sunday did for you and where that brings you this week?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I've been waiting for it to just click and just all come together in a round, and I felt like once that happened there would be some momentum and things would fall into place a lot easier.  I had expected it to happen Thursday and Friday, so I was extremely disappointed with the first two rounds.
The weekend came and I played a good solid round on Saturday, but Sunday was a big day for me because it just kind of fell together.  I felt like the pieces were close and Thursday‑Friday hit and I didn't know what to think.  But the weekend came and I played some good golf, and it felt like it started to fall together.

Q.  Bringing it into this week, can a Sunday like that kind of do anything for this week come Thursday?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's a really good thing for me to get that kind of momentum from one round.  You don't want to put too much emphasis on just one round.  But the way the pieces fell together, I started to roll the ball well and wedge play started to get good, short irons got better and just really two days prior, it was just horrific.  So it was an important day for me to get some momentum.

Q.  You and Keegan clearly had a great experience in The Presidents Cup a couple years ago and now he's right behind you in The Ryder Cup standings.  How important would it be for you to see him make the team and have you campaigned at all for him?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I'm also on the outside looking in right now, too, so we have some work to do this week.  There's a lot of things in play here, but this is a golf course that's very good for both Keegan and myself, and I expect after what I saw today playing with him that his game looks awfully sharp.  I think he's going to have a good week, and I feel like I will, too.  So hopefully we'll just play our way on this week and won't have to worry about anything.

Q.  What is it in your career, these great rounds, the 62, these great weeks, seem to come out of the blue sometimes?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, if I could answer that question, it would be a lot easier, too.  It's been 20 plus years and things are just that way.  Rather than question it or try to find an answer, I just accept it as being the way it is and look forward to it when it does happen.  It's fun when it does.
It's just kind of the way I play golf.  I'm streaky and I'll get on rolls and get some good momentum and all of a sudden the hole looks like it's huge, and then there are days where it's just the opposite.  It's just the way it's always been for me.  I don't have a great answer.

Q.  Can you remember the last time you had such a quick turnaround where you didn't feel very good about your game and everything fell into place during a tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It happens.  I mean, in this game, things can turn around really in an instant.  We see guys miss cuts and then put together four great rounds and win a golf tournament.  It happens all the time.
Ideally you want to have some momentum throughout the course of the year, through the course of a month heading into big tournaments, because when you're in contention, it's a lot easier to stay up there than it is when you haven't been playing well.
I don't want to put too much into one round.  I'm interested to see how it goes Thursday, Friday, but certainly my confidence level and my practice sessions are totally different.  I don't feel like I'm searching.  I feel like I'm just trying to now acquire that same feel from Sunday, and I feel like I've found what I'm looking for.  I just have to maintain it.

Q.  You've seen this golf course now in three different stages, so to speak.  In terms of the renovations, do you see some differences from The Ryder Cup, in terms of the greens especially, and how that benefits you.  And does this golf course suit a particular kind of golfer?  Some guys have talked about the challenging approach shots, as an example.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I haven't noticed too much difference in the greens, I really haven't, from when we played.  There might be some subtleties or nuances, but I don't remember much difference.
They look beautiful.  They are in great shape, and if you are in the proper section, you have a really good putt at it, which is what I like about this golf course and Nicklaus courses in general.  If you are within 15 to 20 feet, you have a very good chance to make it.  You have a consistent breaking putt.
A lot of times now, we have these double‑breakers, where the green will cut one way and then it will go back the other way and you have these constant double‑breakers from 15 to 20 feet.  That's not the case here.  You can really make some putts if you're inside 20 feet.
Now if you're outside 40 feet, it's difficult because you're not in the proper section and you have a lot of humps and bumps and challenges for lag putting that make it very difficult.
As far as the approach shots are concerned, it is a difficult course for approach shots because the front of the greens are blocked, so you have to bring the ball in high and soft.  If it's receptive, if we have 6‑iron through wedge, we should be able to get a lot of those close.
I feel like the guys that hit the ball high and soft have a distinct advantage because you're hitting to a small section of the green, everybody is.  And the quicker you get the ball stopped, the more margin of error you have; so that's going to be something I noticed today is that there are very few half shots.  Most every shot into the green is a full shot, bringing it in as high and as soft as you can.

Q.  The Ryder Cup, you mentioned you're just outside the top nine.  You'd like to play your way on; if you don't, do you believe with your Ryder Cup record and the help you've given the younger players, you will be chosen by Tom?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I'm not to that point yet.  I've got five more days here.  I really do believe that after the way I played on the weekend, I think I'll continue that play into this week and I'm confident that I'll get on the team on my own and won't require that pick, and I want to keep that streak going of two decades that I have.  I want to keep that going of making the team on my own and not needing a pick.

Q.  There are a lot of young guys this year who are winning that grew up watching you play, idolizing you and being inspired by you, and now here they are competing with you.  I'm curious what that feels like, if that's an odd feeling in any way or if it's just flattering or what?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Just makes me feel old, that's all (laughter).  You know, when somebody says, yeah, I used to watch you on TV when I was six, how do you respond to that?  Great.  (Laughter).
But it is fun to play with some of these guys, and it is fun to see their energy and their excitement and how much they appreciate being out on TOUR, and all the great things that come along‑‑ all the perks that come along with playing on the TOUR.  When you're out here for 22 years, you sometimes take it for granted, and when you see the excitement and appreciation from these younger guys, it gets me excited again, too.  So I enjoy playing with them.

Q.  Saturday you described your short irons as pathetic.  Was that discouragement?  Impatience?  And what's the state of them now?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, it's a lot better after Sunday and the rhythm and the timing and touch and things started to come back.  It was a little bit forced and tight.  It wasn't quite smooth and rhythmic the first few days last week.  So I'm trying to take that feel and touch from the weekend and bring it over here, and it seems to be a lot better.
I was disappointed after the first few rounds because my expectations were that my game had turned the corner, and after the weekend, I feel that it has.  I feel a lot more confident in my game, and hopefully I can put together four good rounds instead of just two.

Q.  Another question for the cagey veteran.  Rory has had a real shot streak here.  What advice would you give him based on your experience, if advice is the right word, on how to sustain that level of extraordinary performance?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I don't have‑‑ I mean, I don't have great advice.  I just think that what I saw him doing last week is playing to his strength, which is the driver.  He's such a great driver of the golf ball.  Even though the golf course was fairly tight and hitting fairways is important, he kept hitting drivers and he kept putting the ball in play and he kept playing the course aggressively and making birdies, and he plays to his strength.
I think as long as he continues to keep playing to his strength, he's going to be making birdies and winning golf tournaments.  He's just a very good talent.  We've been waiting a year, year and a half now for it to turn and it's really turned for him and now everything is clicking and firing and he's tough to beat.

Q.  You said that you had been working on some different things now after last week.  First of all, how are you working, what different things are you working on now than you were going into last week?  And secondly, it sounds like you feel much better about your game coming into this week and when have you felt this good coming into an event, if this year?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's been a while since I felt confident heading in, and I didn't know I was going to feel this way after the first two rounds last week.  It's a nice turn of events.
I feel like, again, that I'm not searching and I'm trying to keep that momentum going.  I'm really not doing too much different mechanically, other than I'm just trying to keep better touch and feel on those short irons so that my distance control is more precise.  I have been getting a little bit, I don't want to say mechanical, but a little tight and I wasn't taking advantage of my feel and touch.

Q.  We saw you in the Long Drive Contest with Keegan Bradley and Rickie Fowler.  Some thoughts on what that moment was like?  Looked like it was fun; was it fun?  Looked like you forgot where you were and just had some laughs.
PHIL MICKELSON:  We had a little team long drive competition, and Rickie and I were partners.  So after Keegan hit it 326, it wasn't looking good for our team (laughter).  I'm not going to be able to keep up with Keegan, so Rickie hit a solid, solid drive and got him by two yards, so we were able to win that.  That was nice.

Q.  Was it nice to have the event?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, I thought it was a great addition.  We all loved it.  We all had fun with it.  We thought it was great.  And we had the feedback right there to let you know how far the drive was.  I thought it was terrific.  I hope they keep doing it.
KELLY ELBIN:  Phil Mickelson, thank you very much.

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