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February 3, 2016

Phil Mickelson

Scottsdale, Arizona

An interview with:


THE MODERATOR: Welcome Phil Mickelson to the Waste Management Phoenix Open media center. A three-time champion here and obviously some strong local ties. What's the reception been like for you out there this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I love coming back here. It's a special place for me. I lived here for 12 years. The people here have been so nice to me and my family, and I love coming back. I love competing in this tournament.

I love coming down the stretch, having a chance to be in contention. There is nothing more exciting having won this tournament a few times. Those are very special memories that I look back on.

THE MODERATOR: How do you prepare for this tournament differently, if at all, given the different challenges and the crowd and things that come with the crowd out there?

PHIL MICKELSON: That really is never an issue or consideration or preparation for the event. The golf course has certainly changed. The golf course is a lot harder.

It's a much more demanding course, a course you don't have to go as low on, but you have to be careful. There's a lot of hard holes since the redesign. It's a lot more challenging.


Q. Does it seem like 20 years since you won your first championship here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's gone by quick. It's hard to believe that was two decades ago. It's hard to believe it's been that many years. I don't feel that old, but when I look back on the old pictures, it looks like I aged a little bit (smiling).

You know, those moments have been very special, from '96 to 2013. That tournament win was very special to me, too. I just love playing here. I just really enjoy it here.

Q. You brought up the age thing. Seems like every tournament now somebody wants to write a story about your age. I know you say it's not an issue for you. Does it bother you? Seems like it's a common topic now.
PHIL MICKELSON: It doesn't bother me. It's just part of that. I mean, it's flattering to me that I have been able to be out here so long and play successfully, and I kind of have a new energy about this year. I feel like my game is starting to come back to a level of play that I haven't had in a while and I'm excited. I'm rejuvenated and looking forward to having a great year.

Q. Everyone makes such a deal about 16, but it's been my experience that 17 is just as pivotal. They have changed it a little bit, the look this year, with a lot of corporate chalets on the left-hand side. How do you play the 17th?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that varies a lot based on the wind and the temperature and how soft it is in front of the greens, but I always like to get it down as close to the green as I can with a driver and 3-wood and rely on my short game to try to get up and down.

I don't try to get it on the green as much as I do. Just try to get it down along the right side of the green. Seems if you hit it on the left third, it will kick left in the fairway and go into the water. I really don't try to hit at the green too much. Just the right third of the green is what I'm aiming for. Then try to chip and get up and down.

Q. I'm curious if you like the changes that they have made here.
PHIL MICKELSON: I like the golf course. I like the golf course. I always have. It's not so different that it, you know, it changes, you know, what the course is and all about.

It's certainly harder. It's a harder golf course. The 14th hole is a, from a driver and a wedge birdie hole to driver, 4-, 5-iron and a very difficult par.

Those little nuances, there is probably three or four of those around the golf course that have changed the essence of the way you attack this course. I have to be more conservative at times. But it certainly has become harder overall. A lot longer, too.

Q. Aside from the U.S. Open, what's your big goal for the year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, rather than putting specifics on it -- obviously the U.S. Open is a specific goal, but besides that specific goal, I just want to play the way I know I can play and get back to that level.

I'm starting to see glimpses of it, and I'm feeling glimpses of it, and now I just want to put it together.

Q. What is it that keeps driving you with all you've accomplished in your career?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love the game of golf. I love everything about it. I love the challenge internally of just playing against a course and trying to win against a course like Old Man Par Bobby Jones used to talk about.

I love the solitude of playing by myself out in the evening or practicing. I love playing with my family and friends and having that camaraderie. I love the competitiveness and the smack talk, friendly games come in play, and I love the tournament competition. I love everything about it.

What frustrates me is not playing at the level I know I can play at, and I have worked hard this offseason to try and address that. I'm excited about the direction I have come and how far I have come the last few months, and I'm really looking forward to playing a lot.

I know that I'm going to have sporadic moments early on because it's been a little while since I have played at the highest level, and that's why I'm playing six out of seven weeks to give myself time to work on it and integrate it in competition.

Q. A couple tournaments in, how do you feel about your swing now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I feel it's been a long time since my swing is on plane and it's on plane now. It feels really good, feels really easy, and I have to take out some of the hand action and manipulation through impact that I have had to do in the past, because when I wasn't on plane I had to save it a lot with my hands. Now I don't. Now I'm trying to quiet my hands through impact and take any excess movement out of it because the club is going through impact so much easier and smoother that it's easier to hit shots.

I just need to be a little bit patient with it, but it's coming.

Q. You talked about what you love about this game, and when you come here you get a lot of love from the fans. How does that play into how much it means to you to play well here in front of the people that have supported you for so long?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is a special place to come play. And having an opportunity those last four, five holes coming down the stretch, you can feel the energy of the crowd. It actually helps me focus and helps me get into each shot.

I don't know what the exact word is. I guess it's to be better focused and to hit better shots coming down the stretch, that feeling of having an opportunity in front of these people, in front of this community that's meant so much to me, it means a lot to me to play well here.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

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