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July 13, 2004

Phil Mickelson


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Phil Mickelson. Thank you for coming across. You come in here on the back of a Masters win, on a game that's more suited for a links golf. Is that the case?

PHIL MICKELSON: Stewart, my record here at the British Open has never been the best, or something that I've been that proud of, but I am really looking forward to playing at Troon this Thursday. And it's a wonderful golf course. I have been working very hard to hit the shots or to learn how to play the shots effectively to suit this golf course.

Q. Why is it you have such a harder time in The British Open, rather than, say, some of the other majors? Is there a particular reason?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, The British Open is a major that's different than the others we have. At Augusta, it emphasizes more length. At the U.S. Open it tends to emphasize more accuracy off the tee. And this especially emphasizes trajectory, spin control and trajectory. It's firmer and it takes getting used to here. And I've enjoyed having an opportunity to come in and play the golf course and try to learn where balls will roll and end up. And it's something that I probably should have done in the past but didn't really know how to prepare the best for, and I think I'm a little bit more prepared for this week.

Q. Talking about preparation, Phil, can you tell us since we saw you last at Loch Lomond, what you've done? You said you were not going to play rounds?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played yesterday morning and was able to play the course very quickly. I went Friday after I missed the cut, I went over and played Troon again, after having a very good practice round here on Wednesday. And I did not play today. I practiced. And I don't want to play tomorrow. I feel like I have a pretty good game plan or have a pretty good idea of how I want to play Troon on Thursday. So I don't want to overdo it. I just want to try to be fresh and ready for Thursday, rather than being overprepared.

Q. In the past, did you, when you played over here, did you look at the golf courses, and they just didn't suit your eye or did you prepare for this tournament and you felt like, I like the golf course, I can play well here, and just didn't execute?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a very good question. I don't know if I have a great answer, but what I've tried to do this week, with the help of Dave Pelz, is to try to understand where balls will tend to end up and try to be effective from there to the hole, if that makes sense.

I think golf balls will tend to bounce in the same spots because the ground is so firm. I would still try to play it more through the air, and I anticipate playing more on the ground this week.

Q. Did you play the weekend at all, Phil?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not really, no.

Q. So just Wednesday, Friday and Monday morning?

PHIL MICKELSON: And yesterday, yeah.

Q. Have you at all rethought your schedules going into the majors, given the success you had playing and practicing and studying so much?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think I'll try to incorporate this more into the future, but at Augusta, coming in a couple of weeks early, learning the golf course and practicing the shots I know I'll be faced with at certain pins was very beneficial. I did the same thing at Shinnecock and that turned out to be very beneficial, too. I feel much more confident this week than I have in the past because I have come in and prepared properly.

And so I have altered my schedule to accommodate that and a tournament like the International, I plan on missing to go into Whistling Straits to plan to prepare for.

Even though I didn't play well at the Scottish Open last week, I enjoyed having two competitive rounds. I would have liked four, but I enjoyed having two. I want to be competitively fresh, as well, too, not just kind of stale, which can happen if I don't play a lot heading in.

Q. With regard to Dave Pelz, which days did you work with him?

PHIL MICKELSON: He's actually been here all three. He came in and we spent a nice day on Wednesday, and follow-up on Friday and Monday.

Q. What did you do over the weekend? Did you chill out a little bit? What was your thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'd had a pretty hectic schedule hanging in with the Canadian Skins two days prior, playing a long practice game Wednesday. Saturday I slept in and had a great day off. And Sunday I did a couple of touch-up things, came down, drove down, checked in and kind of relaxed, got ready. And had a great practice day yesterday and today.

Q. As far as course management is concerned, is it about attacking as much as you can on the first nine to score as well as possible, and take a more defensive game for the second nine?

PHIL MICKELSON: Given the prevailing wind, I would agree with that. I think that seems to be the best way to play or the most effective. The birdie holes are the first nine holes. They're not easy birdie holes, because it's hard to stop the ball close downwind. But it is by far the best opportunity to go under par. The backside is a tough stretch, the golf holes that you would take par on any hole.

Q. We talked so much at Augusta about the changes you made in your game at the off-season. The fade off the tee, how much of that is applicable to links golf and The British Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think a lot of the shots that I would hit from 150 in, where it would be lower trajectory with less spin rate, has been a shot I will favor or use a lot over here because I want the ball to have less spin landing short of the greens and landing up rather than hitting high and hitting full shots. I think I'll be using two different style of play, given the nines.

Downwind I'm going to be having full swings, taking some of the release and roll out of it. And then the backside are the holes that I really anticipate hitting lower shots and letting them run off.

Q. Tom Weiskopf was talking about the shot you hit on 11, the fairway wood that was a low screamer. What was the thought on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a shot that Dave Pelz has really stressed the importance of, and something I've been working on, and it seems to be very effective on a lot of holes here because short of the green there are areas that the ball is -- will bounce somewhat straight. I don't want to say flat, but is more level as opposed to big mounding. It's a shot that I've been able to hit and have it turn out okay here on a number of holes, not all of them, but a number of them.

Q. You're playing the first two days with Paul Casey, who followed you through Arizona State. Have you followed his career, and what do you think of him as a young English player?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think he's one of the most talented players in the game. I spent a lot of time with him because he went to Arizona State. When I lived in Phoenix we played a lot of golf there. And I've known how talented he has been for quite some time and it's nice to see him fulfilling his talent. I still expect a lot out of him. I think he's going to be one of the best Ryder Cup players. I believe he's on the team, but I'm pretty sure he is. It's hard not to have him on that team. He's such a talented player. I enjoy watching his style of shots. He's an exciting player to watch because he has such strength, such length, and he's so good with short distances with wedges and the putter.

Q. If the wind tomorrow is from the Northwest, do you feel that you have an advantage on the back nine in the sense that it's not coming at you, as it is for right-handers?

PHIL MICKELSON: Northwest, you mean the prevailing?

Q. It's not prevailing, but it's into you. Apparently the prevailing, according to the secretary, but the prevailing is the one that's into you from the time you turn, with the exception of the 12th.

PHIL MICKELSON: Do I feel I have an advantage? Well, that's tough to say. I think the players who are playing the best, given any conditions, whether it's calm, whatever wind, the guys who are hitting shots and have great touch around the greens, those are the guys that are going to score well. I do like the back nine into the wind because it is such a great test of golf into the wind. And somebody said in the States, one of the TV producers in the States said that he felt for great television or great golf that you want to make the harder holes harder and the easier holes easier, and I really believe that.

And that wind that you're talking about makes the front nine holes easier, and the back nine, the harder holes, harder. And that adds to the excitement level. I'm not saying it gives me an advantage, I don't feel that it does. But it makes the tournament and watching the golf much more exciting.

Q. The Americans, in general, have a very good record in this event. Do you have any feelings why, and do you expect it to continue?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't have any theories why, but I hope it continues for one American, at least.

Q. Ernie Els was in here a couple of minutes ago, and we were talking about Tiger, and he was saying during his incredible streak he was the top player and pretty much everybody around wondered, coming into a major championship, what Tiger was going to do, is my best going to beat his best.

I was wondering if you went into tournaments like that, A; and B, if you felt a little bit of an aura change in the last couple of years or so?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I entered a tournament like that or not. I do feel -- well, that's a tough one to answer. I don't have an answer for you, sorry.

Q. You know how tough it was Sunday at Shinnecock, and given that, what do you think it says about the way Retief ended up handling himself and pulling out that win. What does it say about his ability as a player to handle that situation?

PHIL MICKELSON: Everybody knows what a solid player Retief is. He's so talented. He's such a wonderful ball-striker with a low, penetrating flight that windy conditions are very helpful for him. It doesn't affect his golf ball as much as it would other players. I was impressed with his putting on such difficult greens. I didn't see it while I was playing, but as I looked back and saw highlights, he made incredibly tough putts with wind on very fast greens where the wind would affect the ball quite a bit. And he was able to judge the wind, judge the speed of the greens, the break. It was a very impressive last round for him.

Q. You talked about changing your style of game for a tournament to another tournament. Now you're talking about changing it from the front nine to the back nine. How difficult is it to do that and is there a concern that you might throw off the overall game?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a lot of fun to have such a variety of shots needed. It's a lot of fun, because it's a fun challenge as a player to try to hit those shots and it shows, in my opinion, the greatness of the golf course here at Troon.

Q. Given the fact that you've won a major, come second in a major, are we seeing a more relaxed and a more confident and a more patient Phil Mickelson coming into this open?

PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly in the tent.

Q. But on the course?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hope so. I hope so. I think what's been nice for me, is at each major in the past I would try different things leading in, in an effort to break through. And I feel now that I have much better direction on how to prepare for a tournament, with the help of Rick Smith and Dave Pelz on shots to hit, how to hit them, how to play a golf course, how to study a golf course, that when I get to the big tournaments I feel much more confident in the shots that I need to hit, as well as where to hit it.

Q. I think your second best open finish is here at Troon. Does it suit you better than any of the other venues in the road?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's not really saying much, my second best performance is here. But I have -- I remember liking this golf course very much in '97. I remember Thursday's round coming home in such a difficult wind I couldn't reach three or four of the par-4s. And it was so challenging. I would love to see it play that challenging again. As tough as it was, I'd love to see that again, because it was a lot of fun to try to make pars on such a tough test.

Q. The changes you made in your approach and preparation, do you feel this is still the toughest major for you or do you feel it should be on equal footing with the other three as far as your chances?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough question for me to answer right now, because I haven't really played a British Open style golf course or this style golf course since -- with the proper preparation, if you will. I don't know if I'll ever be more confident on a golf course than I will be at Augusta. The greens set up well for me. With my confidence now over the past 12 years playing there, on the greens, putting and knowing which way the putts break, I don't know if I'll ever feel as confident in a major championship as I do at Augusta, but I'm trying to gain that confidence the week before when I come and prepare and I'm hoping or I'm -- I guess I'm curious as anybody to see how I execute some of the new shots that I feel I've discovered and how the outcome is here at Troon.

Q. Do you get a sense of the different philosophies four organizations have in setting up their major championships, and is there one you prefer?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that I love the fact that each major is known for different characteristics of a player's game, because it shows the completeness of a player to those who have accomplished the career Grand Slam. There are five guys I believe that have had the career Grand Slam. And those five players are such complete players that they've learned how to hit every kind of shot and they've won under every condition that having each major be known for something different and such a variety of shots gives a player an opportunity to show his overall game.

Q. You've gone back to No. 4 in the world rankings this week. How important is it for you to rise up and be No. 1?

PHIL MICKELSON: For me, the way the world rankings are, based on a two-year performance, it's something that I don't think about this year, because last year was such a poor performance. I won't have a chance to have a great point status on the world ranking until well into next year.

Q. Does the linksy nature of Shinnecock Hills provide any kind of preparation for a British Open style course like this?

PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly, but at Shinnecock even though it was very hard, very fast and windy, there weren't many shots that we were landing this far short of the greens. So I won't say that they're a direct comparison, although many of the shots were similar, but at Shinnecock we were still trying to land the second shot around the front edge. Here we're trying to land it well back.

Q. Suddenly after the Sunday there you were talking about the fact that you had the form there being a good sign for The Open Championship.

PHIL MICKELSON: The reason was because the golf course was so difficult. To play well in such difficult conditions that are similar to what we see at the British Open, hard, fast, tough course conditions, it was uplifting.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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