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July 14, 2016

Phil Mickelson

Troon, South Ayrshire, Scotland

MIKE WOODCOCK: We can make a start. I'd like to welcome the 2013 Champion Golfer of the Year Phil Mickelson to the interview room.

Phil, tremendous round today. You had the chance. You came so close to making history there. The putt at the last looked in. Could you talk us through your feelings.

PHIL MICKELSON: I mean, it was one of the best rounds that I've played. I mean, nothing will match that final round at Muirfield, but it was one of the best rounds I've ever played and I was able to take advantage of these conditions, and yet I want to shed a tear right now. That putt on 18 was an opportunity to do something historical. I knew it, and with a foot to go I thought I had done it. I saw that ball rolling right in the centre. I went to go get it, I had that surge of adrenaline that I had just shot 62, and then I had the heartbreak that I didn't and watched that ball lip out. It was, wow, that stings.

It really stings to have a chance. It's such a rare opportunity to do something historic like that and to -- I mean, if I had just hit a weak flail-off and never had a chance and left it short, so be it. But this ball was hunting right in the centre and didn't go. It was just heartbreaking.

Q. Was there a point in the round where you, was it from the first hole on, where you just kind of knew you had it today? You just seemed to be dialled in in every aspect.
PHIL MICKELSON: I made a lot of putts today, and it allowed me to play to not have to take on too much trouble. The only time I got really aggressive was my second shot on 16, and it was a conscious effort to try to get it down there and knowing that I might need a little luck if I went in one of the bunkers. But I didn't take on a lot of trouble and was able to get hot with a putter.

The golf course plays a lot different for me than I think right-handed players, because going out with that wind off that slice wind for the first eight out of nine holes, I'm more cautious on the birdie holes, and I feel much more comfortable on the inward nine, where the wind is kind of a hooked wind off the water for me.

So I actually felt like with the wind being soft I could take advantage of the back nine, which is usually where you're just trying to hold on. But I actually feel a little bit more comfortable on the back nine than I do going after the front.

Q. Phil, this was just another day in Rancho Santa Fe as far as the weather goes. When you went out to play, did you think this might be here for the taking, but then also did you have to guard against wanting to do too much?
PHIL MICKELSON: You're exactly right, you don't want to try to force the issue. I think one of the most important shots of the day was the putt on No. 2, because I got my first birdie and it kind of calmed me down and I felt like I didn't have to press to try to make birdies, when you know going out are the birdie holes and coming back in are the more difficult holes. Getting that first birdie allowed me to not force it, and it allowed me to play to more conservative lines and rely on my putter to make the birdies, which is what happened. I ended up making a lot of good putts.

Q. And was the weather just as good as it could be out there as far as the scoring goes?
PHIL MICKELSON: It couldn't be better -- I haven't seen a day like this in some time. I've been here 11 days, the wind is non-existent and the sun is out. That was weird (smiling).

Q. Ernie said that he was sort of rooting you on there at the end, and he actually even putted before you even though you were away. Could you just talk about that? Did that help calm you at all or did it heighten things for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: We were walking up the fairway and he said, "You know this is for 62?" I said, "I know. Why do you think I hung onto the drive?" So he came over and said he's going to putt first and so forth. So he was fully aware.

We've shared our careers together. We've competed against each other. We've pulled for each other. We've had a lot of moments that we've shared together, and that was another one that was really fun. He's a special guy.

Q. At what point did you start thinking 62, and were you talking to Bones about it as you were going around?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was aware that if I birdied the last two after making the one on 16 that that would be the case. But the problem is 17 is such a hard hole. It's one of the hardest par-3s that I've played that I was not thinking 2. So I didn't think about trying to shoot 62.

Then I hit one of the best -- I hit probably the best shot of the day, that 4-iron on 17. It was perfectly struck. It soared through the air on a straight line, just staying left of the pin, which is where I needed it, and it gave me an opportunity. It gave me a putt. When that putt went in, then I knew I had a chance. But I wasn't thinking 62 because of how difficult 17 is. And it's a hole that can cause a big number, every bit as much as the Postage Stamp can. I just wanted to make par there.

Q. (No microphone).
PHIL MICKELSON: Either way, it still stings. That putt didn't go in on the last. It's still heartbreaking, even after such a great round.

Q. Just curious, what did that little session you had Tuesday night do for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Is that the one on 1?

Q. Yes.
PHIL MICKELSON: So I needed to work on lag putting. It was obvious last week at Castle Stuart my lag putting was terrible. It cost me multiple shots each round. I went out and spent time Tuesday night on the first green and Wednesday morning on the 18th green doing lag drills, just lag drills, getting a reference point for all the different distances, 40, 60, 80, 100, 50, having a reference for that. And it was big today because coming down on the back nine I had a number of 60-footers, 66 feet, actually, on a couple of those holes, and I had a reference to work off of and was able to make easy pars.

Q. Phil, I don't know whether we can claim you as an honorary Scotsman. You always seem to do quite well up here. But on a more serious note, could you tell us what your intentions are as far as the Olympic Games are concerned? And when you're as old as I am and you're looking back at your career, would a gold medal from Rio carry any of the same weight as much as the Claret Jug this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Unfortunately, the teams have been decided and I'm not on them. But it was one of the goals that I fell short on this year because I would have loved to have experienced that. I feel like it's a great life experience that I would have cherished having an opportunity to do. But unfortunately I didn't play well enough.

I don't know if there's a spot open -- I don't know if four years from now I'll have a chance. I'll be 50. I'll be kind of -- but I think it's a life experience that I'd cherish. Unfortunately I didn't play well enough to make it.

Q. You've got a very healthy lead, do you push for more or hope the weather turns bad and hang on?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, one of the biggest challenges is when you shoot a round like this, you start expectations running through your head and so forth, and that's the one thing that I'll have to try to suppress and hold off. We'll have three more rounds. We'll have varying conditions tomorrow. It's going to be very difficult. Changing conditions, we'll have different winds. Hopefully I've prepared myself well enough to tackle this golf course under those conditions and shoot a good number tomorrow. A good number might be over par. It just depends on how difficult it is. But today under these conditions I was able to take advantage of it.

Q. How long did the hard lip-out for the 59 stay with you, and how long might this stay with you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, this one's going to stay with me for a while because of the historical element of the major championships. There's a lot of guys that have shot 63, but nobody has shot that 62. That would have been really something special. I'm just not going to have opportunities like that to do that. So to have that putt lip out, that's going to sting for a while.

But the 59, I mean, I haven't shot 59 in a Tour event, but I have shot 58s and 59s before at other rounds. That 59 in Hawaii for the Grand Slam of Golf back in like '05, I've done that, and I'll have opportunities under the right conditions. Maybe next year's CareerBuilder, if we have perfect weather in Palm Springs, you could shoot 59 there.

But the opportunity to shoot 62 and be the first one to do it, I just don't think that's going to come around again, and that's why I walk away so disappointed.

Q. You're very aware of the history of the game. How do you explain twenty-eight 63s in major championship history and no 62s?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was obvious right there, there's a curse because that ball should have been in (laughter). If there wasn't a curse, that ball would have been in and I would have had that 62.

Q. Do you believe in the golf gods?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't, but I do now (laughter).

Q. You mentioned backing up a round like that and suppressing the expectation. I just wonder to some degree this year you've played very well but haven't had the positive reinforcements with the results and it's forced you to be patient. Can that come into play to help you as you go out tomorrow because of the way you've kind of dealt with this year so far?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think statistically a number of weeks I've had some great performances. What I haven't had is the consistency week-in and week-out. I've worked hard in the last year to get my swing back on plane, and it was very evident today when I was able to hit shots with ease. I was able to hit fairways with ease. I was able to hit greens with ease, and I'm going to need that. I'm going to need that work. I'm going to need that swing to be there when the weather comes bad because that's going to be another challenge, too. Hopefully I've worked on the shots to keep the ball on the ground and get it out of the air, get the ball on the fairway. Hopefully I've worked hard enough on the short game and the putting that it will hold up in the challenging conditions, and that's kind of the game plan.

But it was fun to take advantage of today.

Q. Just wondering what the conversation was like between you and Bones as you size up that putt? I know you had a lot of time to look at it, and what, if anything, did you guys say to each other after?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we had discussed in the fairway that -- I said, "I need your best read. I don't know if you know this..." he says, "Oh, I know." So we're on the same page, and we took a look and we came up with a really good read. I hit a good putt on the right line with the right speed and unfortunately the curse, and it hit me hard.

Q. You've built up a terrific relationship with the British fans. Did you feel them willing you on today?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really do enjoy playing over here. When I've won the Scottish and British there was a warmth that I felt being here, and it's been very special. I've felt it every time I've come back, and I felt it today. It means a lot to me because I really cherish this place.

Q. I wonder, did you feel a different kind of nerves over that putt? I mean, obviously you've putted in big putts in major championships before, but like you said, immortality is a different ball of wax than sort of the typical major putt?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt focused. I think that would probably be a better word. I saw that ball going in and I just had a good, clear vision of what was going to happen. What I didn't see was what happened.

Q. You obviously had your struggles with links golf for a good while. Do you pinpoint a time when it sort of kicked in for you? Is there any moment or tournament or just a feeling that you had that's led to sort of this recent success that you've had?
PHIL MICKELSON: It started in 2004 here at Troon. This was the first time that I really played successfully in links golf. In December of '03 prior, I started working with Pelz on getting spin off the golf ball and being able to do that, which allows you to play the ball on the ground. I could hit it low, but I was hitting it with too much spin, and I wasn't getting the ball running on the ground properly, so we worked in the off-season. And that was designed to help with my wedge play and short iron. Shots like you saw on number 8 today where I take 10, 15 yards off a pitching wedge and get it to sore through the air a little bit without an apex in its flight and things like that. It really helped me play well in links golf.

But '04 here at Troon is when it really clicked. After the first round I shot 2-over, and I came back and shot three rounds in the 60s, and was able to really manage my game well over here. I missed the playoff between Hamilton and Ernie Els by a shot, and that was my first real solid effort over here. Unfortunately it took me a while to break through and ultimately win it, but I did, and that's what matters.

Q. You were pretty frustrated with the drive at 18. You had switched clubs. Did you think you were probably in enough trouble that you weren't going to be able to go for the green? Kind of instant reaction?
PHIL MICKELSON: I got a good break missing the bunker and being where I was in that first cut of rough. I got a great break there. Into that wind it wasn't a hard wind but it was left to right and slightly in. 305 to the bunker on the right, I should not have been able to hit driver right there but we weren't quite sure. If I got one turning with the wind, it was possible. So we decided to go to 3-wood, and I just held onto it a little bit. I hit a couple of great 3-woods on that back nine and I just held onto that one a little bit.

Q. The line on the putt, were you looking inside the hole?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was outside. It was outside a few inches, breaking left in the middle of the putt and then straight the last bit. Well, it's supposed to be straight the last bit.

Q. With proper Scottish weather returning tomorrow, are you happy about that? Is that a good thing or a bad thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love it. I love it. That's why I was here last week playing in Castle Stuart in that stuff, it's great. I've spent a lot of time learning how to play in that. I actually really enjoy it. As long as we all play in it, it's great. If half the field plays in it and the other half doesn't, well, that's not great.

So I enjoy that because it forces you to really play the ball low, have control of your ball flight and short game becomes a factor because you're going to miss a lot of greens.

Q. Firstly, what was the club on 18?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was a little 6-iron. It was in between 6 and 7, and I took a 6 so I could cut it back into the wind.

Q. Sitting here thinking about two putts that you thought should have gone in, here for 62, Phoenix for 59. I'm just curious at Augusta in '04, what did you think? Did you think that was in? Because it was similar, wasn't it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I thought I missed the one in '04 low because it was on the same line as DeMarco's and his ball caught the lip and missed, and my ball was on that line, it caught the lip and went around the hole and went in. My grandfather passed away in January of that year and he told me that this was the year I was going to win the Masters, and as soon as that ball went in, I had a feeling he kind of gave it a little nudge.

So I don't know where you're going with that, Doug. You know I've had some go in, obviously, that I probably shouldn't. And that was a big one.

Q. Just wondering if it raised your expectations?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if you're trying to make me feel better after the heartbreak of having dismissed that (laughter). That's nice of you, thank you. But that's not working.

Q. How long was 18?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would say 18 feet. I would say, more than 15, less than 20. About 18 or so.

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