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June 15, 2016
THE MODERATOR: Good afternoon. Welcome again to the 2016 U.S. Open Championship at Oakmont Country Club. It's my pleasure to welcome this afternoon Phil Mickelson. Phil is here playing his 26th U.S. Open Championship, has also played in the 1994 and 2007 Opens at Oakmont.
Phil, can you give just a few opening comments about your initial thoughts on Oakmont this year.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's one of the most difficult golf courses I think we'll ever play. I think that it is a very strategic course that you'll have to put the ball in the right, correct spots, and if you don't, kind of accept the fact you'll make a bogey and really try to minimize any doubles. If you play smart, you can probably minimize or eliminate doubles. If you do that, you should have a pretty good week.
Q. Could you describe your schedule the last 36 hours and why it was so important for you to be at that eighth grade graduation?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a very important thing in a person's life that I was fortunate enough to be able to be at. And I think any parent would, if they had a chance to be at their child's eighth grade graduation, I think that's a big milestone as they head into high school the following year.
It's just important for me to be there for that stuff. At 46 years old now, come tomorrow, those are the differences that I'll have, where a lot of the young guys in their 20s don't really have to think about yet.
But it's also brought me some of the greatest joy in my life. So to be able to be there for that means a lot to me.
Q. (No microphone)?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was an all day thing, and it was just enjoyable to see all the hard work that they've put in, the three kids have put into getting where they are.
Q. Phil, we know what happened with you in the rough in 2007. How does it compare this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's very similar. What happened in '07 was I came a couple of weeks prior and it was before they even cut it, so it's thicker than what we saw the week of the Open. And I hit way too many shots out of that stuff.
And there were -- I mean, there were dozens of other players who got hurt the week of the Open that particular year. I wasn't the only one. I was fortunate that it wasn't anything serious. It was just a bone bruise. It went away after 12 weeks. And this year, I've eliminated practicing out of the rough for that reason. I'd rather wait to get hurt during the tournament rather than before it.
Q. Phil, I know you called it the hardest course you've played or that you're going to play. Do you like the golf course? Can you imagine it being a members course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it accomplishes the goal that the members want, which is to have the hardest course in the world or in America or wherever, and I think they've accomplished that. I think that there's no reprieve off the tee, there's no reprieve into the greens, and there's certainly no reprieve on the greens.
These greens are way more difficult to putt than Augusta's because where the hole locations are, they're pitched twice as much and the green speeds are comparable.
Now, with all that being said, I believe it also gives me the best chance because after 25 years, you have to really know how to play this style of golf. It's just not like a regular Tour event. It's not like going out and playing golf at any other golf course. This is a whole different style of golf, something that over the years I've become very effective at playing.
Because of that, I would love to see it cross, the line the way U.S. Opens often do, and become a little bit over the edge. That actually benefits me because we're going to have a winner at the end of the week. Whatever that score is, who cares if it's 5 under or 12 over, doesn't matter, the lowest score wins.
So I would like to see it go over that edge because I feel like I've learned how to play that style of golf, and this golf course, specifically, even though past performance hasn't been it. Over those two Opens, over the times that I've prepared, I feel like I've developed a game plan now coming in that will allow me to shoot the lowest score.
But you still have to execute. You still have to hit great shots, make putts.
Q. Over the edge like Shinnecock?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are a lot of examples you can cite. Yeah, that would be one of them. Again, that gives me one of the better chances. When that line is on the edge or crossed, I feel like I have one of my better chances to come out on top.
Q. Now, Phil, obviously, we know the track record with the U.S. Open, but you're coming in this year with a lot of confidence and a lot of momentum. You've just tied for 2nd at the St. Jude, and your daughter graduated the eighth grade. So how are you feeling overall about the course, and how confident are you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, my daughter's graduation doesn't really help my game, but it -- exactly, it's fun. I've played very well this year, and I feel like my game has come back even though I haven't had that elusive win that I'm looking for. I've played some of my better golf than I have in a long time, in probably ten years or so.
I'm looking forward to getting started here. I think that the course will change as the week goes on. If it's wet, you can actually shoot under par here. If there's a little bit of rain, the fairways will hold.
You know, they're very contoured fairways. So if you have a little bit of moisture, you can hit fairways, you can attack some of the pins and get the ball stopped. But when it's firm, that second green, you fly it over that front bunker and the ball still bounces over into the back bunker. So you have to adapt. You have to be able to adapt to that changing conditions as the week goes on.
Q. Phil, great to see you. You've done many, many years at the U.S. Open. Many challenging holes, many different venues. Is there one hole over the years that comes to mind as the most challenging for you? And if so, which one would it be and why?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's easy to pick a hole that we're currently playing. I think the hardest par 4 I've ever seen in my life is the 9th hole. Theoretically, it's a par 5. They just slapped a 4 on the card. But that green is extremely difficult to get a wedge close, and we're coming in there with 3 and 4 irons, and there's no area to miss off the fairway.
If you miss it left, you're in the hazard. If you miss it right, you're in the bunker, and you're wedging out. You have to hit the fairway. When you hit the green, you have one of the most difficult two putts of any green out here in any golf course we play. So I think the 9th hole is the hardest par that I think I've ever seen.
Q. Any other tracks, any other courses come to mind? Any other holes?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we could go to 7 at Shinnecock, the week of the Open. But any other week, it's a beautiful par 3. It's just, you know, we deal with that line, and sometimes it gets crossed. Then it becomes a very difficult hole.
Q. Phil, does the Grand Slam and completing the Grand Slam, does that feature in your mind a lot, or is it dangerous for you to think about that when you're trying to compete in the tournament? Would you rather see that big picture or not think about it at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I could BS you and tell you I don't think about it. No, I think about it all the time. This is the tournament I want to win the most to complete the four Majors. There's no question. I have to put that out of my head and try to execute and be patient and not think about results. You start thinking about results, you'll never play your best golf.
So I have to put that in the back of my head, but there's no question that starting this year and every year here forward until I ultimately win this tournament, it will be my biggest thought, my biggest focus because I view those players that have won the four Majors totally different than I view any other -- all the others.
Q. Phil, could you give us an idea of just how stressful the last few months have been with things that have been going on off the golf course, and whether that's had a resolution, is that reflected in how you play now? Is there a freedom in your swing now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've actually known for months that -- what was going to happen, and I'm just glad that it finally is out and over with and behind me. So it might have something to do with the fact that it's behind me that I've played well the last two weeks, and I feel like I'm playing stress-free and much better golf. That might have something to do with it. I don't know. But I'm excited that it's behind me.
I'm excited I'm at one of my great opportunities. I view this week as a great opportunity to complete something that would be historic in my mind in a career.
Q. How stressful was it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not, you know, it's fine. I'm not -- I wasn't worried. I'm not worried. It's behind me. I don't even think about it.
Q. Phil, you've earned a reputation over the years as sort of an every man, and I think you've shown that --
PHIL MICKELSON: Say that again.
Q. You've earned a reputation amongst fans as sort of an every man and kind of showed that, flying home to see your daughter's graduation. How do you square that with being involved with an insider trader investigation?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't understand your question.
Q. The image that you have, amongst fans, it's sort of an every man. You're them out there, just with a killer short game. But being involved in an insider trading investigation, they're sort of in contrast. How do you square the two to fans? What do you say to fans saying hey, look, I thought you were this. Now I'm reading stories about insider trading. Explain this to me. Who are you? Who is Phil Mickelson?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, as I said in the past, I've got to be more careful in my associations going forward and so forth. But I don't really have much more to add. I mean, I think after a multiple-year investigation which led to nothing, no charges or anything, I think that that kind of says enough for me.
Q. Phil, regarding the 17th hole, do you have a strategy going into that for the week, or do you just do it on a day-by-day, how you feel, where the weather is? How do you approach that hole?
PHIL MICKELSON: There is no place around that green that is any good, okay? So I don't care how far up the tee box is, I will lay up. Every hole out here plays over par. So to approach a hole from the tee thinking birdie is a mistake. There's zero chance that I will go for that green.
Q. Even on Sunday if you're behind by one?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how to emphasize this any more. There is zero chance I will go for that green.
Q. Got it.
THE MODERATOR: Solid no.
Q. I had one more question about the insider trading investigation. Has the PGA Tour contacted you since the insider trading news has been out there in the news?
PHIL MICKELSON: Actually, I'm not going to comment on that. Good question, though, but I'm not going to go there.
Q. Phil, given your chase for the career Grand Slam, given the difficulty of this course, given the history here, what would a peak performance here this week mean to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Again, the only thing that would be successful would be a win, and I hate to enter a tournament with that kind of mindset where you're thinking about the result because it just doesn't bring out your best golf.
But as I was saying earlier, there is nothing that would mean more to me than to cap off my career with a win here at the U.S. Open. Something that I've come close six times and that I've played well in the past but never have had that elusive win, where I've been able to capture the other three. It's my National open. It would mean the world to me.
So I don't want to be disingenuous and downplay it. It would mean the world to me. But after we finish today, that's the last thing I want to think about over the next four days because it just doesn't help me play well. It doesn't help me accomplish that goal.
I've got to enjoy the process of trying to play my best golf, enjoy the process and the challenge that each day provides for me to play my best, and that doesn't include focusing on the end result.
Q. Phil, you've talked about the difficulty of the rough. Having said that, what's your strategy off the tee, drivers, that type of thing for the holes that are par 4s and par 5s?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love a quote that Stephen Hawking says. Intelligence is the ability to adapt to change, and that's going to be critical here at Oakmont because, as the conditions change, the tee shots are going to change. As the fairways get firm with the contour, you're going to have to play to different parts of the fairway. As the pin placements move and the green moisture changes from softer to firmer or what have you, you have to adapt how you play this golf course.
So how many drivers am I going to hit? It's difficult to say. I have two or three options on every tee, given the conditions, given the scenario, given the pin placement, given the wind. So it's hard for me to really say today how many drivers I'll hit.
I would say, roughly, four would be give or take. But I don't know until it's game time and the conditions are out there. But there's probably at least two, probably three options on every tee.
Q. Phil, Dustin Johnson turned 31 and still trying to break through with his first major. I think, if the math is right, you were 33 at the Masters in '04. Can you talk about maybe not necessarily what he's thinking, but your mindset as you reached sort of peak years and then broke through, that thought process of trying to get over that hurdle.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a challenge that I'm still facing. As I try to capture the U.S. Open, he's trying to capture his first Major. And the longer it goes, the more challenging it becomes. But he still has a few more years before he really -- before it's crunch time. I think 33 is really the cut-off, so he's okay time-wise (laughter).
But the longer it goes, the more you start thinking about it. The more it's discussed, the more you start thinking about it. The challenge is really on Friday and Saturday nights, when you have opportunities and you start putting that self-imposed pressure, because then you never play free. You never play with a kind of a loose attitude, where we all play our best.
Q. Phil, I know you talked about this testing every element of your game. If you had to pick one piece of your game that was most important this week, what would it be?
PHIL MICKELSON: The tee shot. There's 18 of them. The tee shot's most important on every hole. It is magnified this week. Does that -- are you talking about --
Q. More so than putting, more so than short game, more so than anything else?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think putting is not so much how well you putt, but where you putt from. I think that's going to be the more important thing this week.
But the tee shot because your second shot will miss up by the green as opposed to having to wedge out or lay back. So I think the tee shot's going to be the most critical shot.
Q. Phil, out of all the runner-up finishes you had in this event, can you tell us which one is maybe the most disappointing, the one you really kick yourself about and why?
PHIL MICKELSON: Winged Foot is going to be the obvious one because I only had one hole. I made it 71 holes without hitting a fairway and missed it big on 18 to where I had a beautiful lie, perfect, and I let the second -- you know, people talk about the tee shot. To me, the second shot, all I had to do is start that 3 iron a little bit further right, miss the tree, and I'm up by the green. And that was the week that my short game was the best it's been in my career, in '06.
And I was only a hole away. I was only a par away from victory. That's why I'll look back on that one.
Can't dwell on the past. I'm looking forward to this week.
Q. Phil, could you just give us the details of the last couple days, like when did you get back here? Did you practice at all when you were at home, and did you play today?
PHIL MICKELSON: I usually take Mondays off the week of a Major, and then I'll come out and play a practice round Tuesday, and then I'll come out early Wednesday, practice a little bit, and take the afternoon off. I just kind of reversed that a little bit. I came out, practiced Monday, took Tuesday off, didn't touch a club, got back last night, slept in, and had a little one-hour session before we're meeting now, and then I'll go out on the golf course and spend a couple hours late in the evening. Fortunately, I go late tomorrow, so that gives me plenty of time to rest up.
Q. Phil, you're doing a lot of things different now, like your swing and your putting. Are you going to keep trying new stuff at this age, or do you think you're okay now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sorry. Will you say it one more time?
Q. You're trying a lot of different things right now, like your swing, your putting, your gripping. At this point in your career, are you going to keep trying new stuff, or do you think you're okay now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Only the stuff that works, yeah. I've had a great year putting. I spent four years studying some stuff with Dave Pelz and going over some stuff on what the best way is for me to putt from different distances, statistically what the numbers show and so forth, and I've had really a phenomenal year putting.
And I think a lot of that is because of the time and the effort that has gone in the last three or four years coming up with different ways, different ways to do it. That different grip from inside ten feet has been extremely effective. It's really helped me putt really well.
So I'm always open to try new things, but I really only want to do the stuff that has proven to be effective.
Q. Hi, Phil. Which do you think is the most difficult part of this course, once you're there? Is it the greens, is it the bunkers or the rough or getting into the fairway?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think hitting the fairway, the tee shot, will be the most critical part of every hole on this golf course, and the green on the par 3s. That's going to be the most critical element.
The fairway bunkers aren't important because you can't recover from them. You have to just wedge out. They may as well be a pot bunker like in links golf. So fairway bunker play is not something I've even practiced. It's not a relevant shot.
The biggest difference, as we play Oakmont this year, is that in 2007, that was prior to the groove change in 2010. So when you were in the rough, you still had a chance to grip the ball, put a little spin on it chipping. You do not have that opportunity now since that groove change. So chipping downhill is impossible. You had a chance the last time we were here, but it is impossible this year. You have to chip uphill because you cannot put enough spin to stop the ball on these greens with this much slope and as firm as they are. It's just not possible.
So that element, to me, is the biggest change from last time we were here, and that means that the most important element of playing this, besides a tee shot, will be having your next shot be uphill, your putt uphill, your chip uphill. It's just not possible to do it downhill.
Q. Phil, Jordan Spieth came agonizingly close to winning his second green jacket earlier this year. Golf can be unforgiving at times. What moment in your career had you down the most and how did you recover from it?
PHIL MICKELSON: My career is built on failure, and that has been a motivator for me, because I think how you handle failure is a huge element to becoming successful. The 2013 U.S. Open, I think, is actually my biggest disappointment because I was playing so well. I was leading. I had an opportunity to win at the back nine where I was leading, and I lost the U.S. Open.
That was probably the biggest disappointment of my career. And the following week, I was very difficult to be around. I just wanted to be alone. And then kind of came to the realization that I am still playing well and that I have opportunities coming up to play some great golf in the big events.
I ended up having probably my greatest success, which is winning The British Open Championship in 2013. To come off -- to have my greatest high within a month of having the greatest low of my career is, I think, my biggest accomplishment.
But my most disappointing failure is going to be Marion because I was playing so well there, even though I look back at '06 as my most heartbreaking because I was only a hole away, Marion I felt I should have had.
THE MODERATOR: Phil, thanks so much for joining us this afternoon. Always a pleasure. Look forward to seeing you throughout the week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports