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September 8, 2004

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thanks for joining us. A couple of comments regarding playing the Bell Canadian Open and we'll take some questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: I came from Montreal, about an hour flight away, played The Skins game earlier this year, had a great time, enjoyed that. This is a great chance for me to get back up into Canada, it's a week before the Ryder Cup, it's a nice preparation for that, but also it's a chance for me to play this great open championship.

Q You signed with Callaway this week.


Q Can you talk about some of the challenges perhaps that you face switching clubs, switching to a new brand of clubs?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see there being challenges, I see there being a lot of opportunities, because I have been wanting to play this ball, this driver. I'm very comfortable with the driver, the 3 wood, the 4 wood and golf ball. It's a prototype driver and ball, but it's something I'm very excited about.

Q (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I don't know what to say, it was all right.

Q Take us through the events that led to your signing with Callaway, and from your perception what Callaway does for you as a player and maybe what you bring to them the other way.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there have been a couple of misleading things that I've read as far as what's been written, as far as how this all came about, as far as what I was making and so forth. I would actually refer those off to Titleist. I'll let any questions you have go there.

I'm very excited about this opportunity. Although it's not a ball or driver there's been out yet, you haven't seen it yet, it's something that I think came about when Callaway and Spalding merged and shared patents and production manufacturing processes on this golf ball to create what it is today, which basically is a longer flying ball off the tee with the type of performance inside 150 yards that I'm used to. I'm awfully excited about that.

Q You looked like you were having fun today. Can you maybe describe for us some of the weirdest or whackier moments you've seen in a Pro Am?

PHIL MICKELSON: Describe the whackiest moments of a Pro Am?

Q Weird anecdotes, funny things going on out there on a Wednesday?

PHIL MICKELSON: Good question. I don't know if this is a whacky moment, but I played with a lady today, Peggy Mulligan, who hit an amazing set of shots on the par 5, 13th hole, where she almost holed out for birdie. She was getting 2 shots and she had a net double eagle and she had a net eagle on one of the par 3s, and I thought that was pretty impressive. And that just happened today.

Q With the Ryder Cup, people look at the American team and see you and Tiger at the top of the order. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the bottom of the order, the captain's picks and the importance of them next week, Jay Haas, Stewart Cink, even Fred Funk.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that there's a lot to the team that goes on that's important, in addition to the play, and one of the things that I notice is that our team has incredible putters. We have a great putting team, and we have a great core of guys that are all fun and easy to get along with. I think that's going to help relax the atmosphere environment for the week.

It's a very stressful time for us. We want to win this and we struggled in the last four Ryder Cups, winning only once, and even that was a gift, if you will, or unexpected. I think what some of the captain's picks bring to the table is obviously a solid reliable game to fall back on if some guys are struggling, and also some leadership qualities that Jay Haas brings, and a fresh attitude, a fresh excitement for the game that Chris Riley or Stewart Cink brings that's exciting.

Q Were you surprised with Bernhard Langer's pick with Colin Montgomery?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, and Luke Donald is playing well, too.

Q I don't know if this is the toughest field of the Bell Canadian Open, but certainly it's one of the toughest fields. Your overall impression on how the field is shaping up going into this weekend?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it seems like the field here has always been strong. Tiger has played here traditionally. Vijay plays, although he plays every week. There are a lot of top players here and it's a great event. I think that last year over Hamilton Golf Club, it had rave reviews from the players, the loved the course.

Glen Abbey has been very well received. I think the rotation has worked out quite well, because the choices of courses have been such quality source courses that it's open my eyes to getting back to adding the Canadian Open back in my rotation.

Q You mentioned Vijay. You of course have had great runs, Tiger has had some great runs, but Vijay right now, what he's doing on the course the past few months, what's your overall impression of what you've seen with his game and how he's taking over the No. 1 ranking?

PHIL MICKELSON: He's one six times and it's very impressive play. He strikes it very solid. The thing I've noticed is how well he's been putting, he's putted very consistently, he's made a lot of putts that you should make or need to make to win tournaments and he seems to be doing it on a weekly basis.

Q Talk about Callaway, the change over to the clubs. If you could talk about what Titleist clubs are you still use the 983K? I'm wondering what the transition has been or how long will it be for some of the clubs in the bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: This is a very new relationship. It took me about a year when I went with Titleist, I have an opportunity to work with one of the best club makers in the industry in Roger Cleveland, who started Cleveland Classics and knows a lot about making clubs. So I'll spend a lot of time with him, we'll go through all the wedges, just as I did with Bob Vokey, and we'll go all the irons and design kind of a progressive set that I like that are going to be forged. There will be a cavity back long iron with a little bit deeper sole, a little of the center of gravity moved back to help get it up, and the shorter irons will be muscle back, very similar to what I've been playing. The woods were easier for me to get into, and the ball is what I'm excited about.

Q What are you playing with now?

PHIL MICKELSON: The driver, it's prototype Fusion, 3 wood and 4 wood, regular Big Bertha, and a prototype golf ball, very similar to the Hex Tour, but it's probably the best way to describe it.

Q I was wondering, you mentioned you're here for preparation, as well as just the regular Tour stop for the Ryder Cup. What kind of things now that you're here and seeing the conditions that we're getting, what kind of things will this course lend itself to in allowing you to prepare for the Ryder Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, good practice facilities and very similar style of shot making is needed here. There are a lot of holes that have bunkers in front of the greens, so you have forced carries. There aren't very many run up shots. That's very similar to what I expected at Oakland Hills, you'll have to fly it over the edge of bunkers and get the ball stopped quickly. So most of the fronts of the greens here are guarded, which are requiring very similar shots to what I anticipate next week.

Q What do you think the Chargers chances are this week against the Texans?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. That's anybody's guess. I know who I'm pulling for, I don't know how good are chances.

Q There's been a lot of made about the change in both the way you play the game a little bit and your mental attitude or your attitude on the golf course, has that been overstated or did you actively make that transition? People say you made it before the Masters, you changed your game slightly, you won the Masters, it seems that may be a little overplayed. What's your take?

PHIL MICKELSON: Last year was probably my worst year on Tour so I had to do something different. The way I approached my preparation, the way I approached my shot making and so forth had to change this year. And I was able to develop a good game plan with Rick Smith, a good game plan with Dave Pelz from 150 yards in that have translated into lower scores. So as I've worked on those areas, the scoring has dropped down, which isn't always the case. Last year I practiced a lot, but the scores weren't coming down, I was just practicing on the wrong things. I did have to have a renewed attitude, and Amy and I wanted to make this a special year, and I think we've been able to do it and it's been exciting.

Q With Vijay winning last week up, now up to six wins and very strong front runner for Player of the Year, will that change your schedule for how much you play the rest of the year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so, no. I've actually added a number of events. I feel like I'm playing well, I'm excited about a number of things and I want to play, my desire to play is strong. I want to play here, I want to play the Ryder Cup. I'll be playing in Ireland, I'll be playing the following week in Vegas, definitely the TOUR Championship, and I don't know if it will be one or two weeks heading into the TOUR Championship. So I've added a number of tournaments.

Certainly with Vijay winning six times, he's going to be the front runner for Player of the Year. I probably need to win two or three times to have a realistic shot at it. That's not really my mindset right now. I feel I've been working on some great things this year. I want to continue to improve those. I've had a number of Top 5 finishes, I want to turn those into a couple wins.

Q Looking ahead to the next five or six months now that there's a new No. 1, and the next year when you're not going to be losing as many points, obviously, from the

PHIL MICKELSON: Two years ago?

Q Exactly. And Ernie and Tiger not really playing all that badly, just lost No. 1, do you see it shaping up to be at least a four way shuffle?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's possible that if all four continue playing at this level, it's very possible. It will take me another six, eight months to get into the mix, I haven't had time to make points. Last year that killed my chances for the world ranking, but if I continue to play the way I have this year in the next six to eight months, I think I can the fray there and it will be fun.

Q The Ryder Cup, it's the same thing every year, the Americans look stronger on paper, et cetera. Are we kind of beyond that now, the fact that they've win the six out of the last nine cups. I think they have the same number of players that you guys do that have won this year, number of guys who are playing well, Luke Donald, Stewart Cink, Jiminez, the whole nine yards, are you guys actually the underdogs?

PHIL MICKELSON: Are we the underdogs? That's a go question, because if you look at the last nine Ryder Cups, six were won Europeans, the last four, they won three and we had a great upset on Sunday to get that one win. I would say they bring out their best game in the event and we have not in years past. But I really have a gut feeling that this year is going to be different, that the U.S. is going to come out really playing well on our home soil and thing we're going to play some of our best golf. I have no reason to base that other than

Q (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: I just have a good feeling this year. I think our team is starting to come together and guys are really playing well, and I'm hoping we all put it together, because the Europeans are playing great golf right now.

Q (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I don't know. Obviously we want to reverse that trend this year, but I don't know how to answer that.

Q When you're dealing with a national open like the Canadian Open, is it better for the strength of the field to have variety and bounce it around at different courses or is it maybe better for the strength of the field to have it set at one location?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the decision to rotate the courses the past few years has added to the field strength and the prestige of the event, because as they have moved to more historical golf courses, players have really enjoyed employing those tracks. And what happens is when you get locked into one particular course, you get locked into one particular style of player who likes that course, so The INTERNATIONAL gets long ball hitters and very rarely do you see some of the shorter players on Tour go play there. I think this tournament where it was held every year, we started to get a lot of long ball players because it was a long golf and because the fronts of the greens were guarded and it didn't a lot for run up shots, now it's being mixed I think we're seeing a greater mixture of players that are committing to the Canadian Open, so I think it's a good decision.

Q So you would be more encouraged to see this tournament bounce around, maybe going

PHIL MICKELSON: I like it. I know I like the fact that it's coming to the Vancouver area next year, because it's a lot closer for me. I know that there are a lot of great golf courses in the area that I would be excited to play. I think as we move it around, I think a lot of guys will continue to add to this event.

Q Phil, there's a handful of guys, you, Tiger, a few of the other guys, every year you're on call for a Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, the Presidents Cup is becoming a much more difficult event now than it has been. Do you think these events kind of blur together for you now or are they separate and distinct with their own characteristics?

PHIL MICKELSON: They're very fun and I think if you look back on a players' career, one of the comments is he played in X number of Ryder Cups, and X number of Presidents Cups, so they're a very positive marker or something everybody wants to be a part of when you look back at your career. They are certainly the most memorable weeks that we have. We develop friendships, we develop a lot of matches that turn into memories and storytelling. So they're exciting events, and although we have one every year, it's not as though it's every week, we have one week a year and it seems as though it's been working out quite well.

Q The last time the Ryder Cup was on American soil, we all know what happened. I'm wondering if you're in agreement with that particular event, it put the Ryder Cup over the top in terms of a worldwide sporting popular event and now four years removed, what you think the ramifications are of what happened after Justin Leonard's putt?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought in '02 it was a well played match. I thought it was conducted the way it should. It actually strengthened a lot of relationships. I think through the '90s a lot of player relationships were strained because of the intensity of the Ryder Cup, but that seems to have subsided. As much as we want to win, it seems it's taken upon it's original meaning from when it was first developed, and that's to strengthen relationships between two golfing continents, and it seems to be doing that.

Q The superintendent here says he likes what he sees so for that he thinks the course is holding it's own. 22 under was put up in 2000. Do you see the score perhaps dropping in half or drastically lower?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough question. The rough has been up so it's playing difficult, the holes have been lengthened. 22 under won't happen because we have 16 that was a par 5, now is a par 4. I'm not sure, was nine a par 5? No, it wasn't. But there's one shot off of par, so that knocks it from 22 to 18. I don't think it will happen. We're seeing much more difficult pin placements, the rough is up, but who's to say. Guys have been playing so well and making so many birdies that with the greens somewhat receptive and not drying up, I think that we could see some low scores.

Q How much different is the Hex from the Pro V and driver fairway metals from what you were playing, and was there any thought to waiting until after the Ryder Cup to make the changes?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, was there any thought to waiting after? I'm very excited about getting into them right away. I think my excitement may have moved the timetable up, but I think it's also going to help me in the Ryder Cup. It's going to help me this week, it's going to help me down the line.

From 150 in, it's identical to what I've been playing. But with the driver, I've added probably 15 to 25 yards. All the wedge work I've been doing, the ball goes exactly the same, I can't tell the difference, but I'm gaining quite a bit off the tee and it flies a lot straighter.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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