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July 26, 2016
Springfield, New Jersey
JOHN DEVER: Welcome back to the 98th PGA Championship. Glad to be joined by Phil Mickelson. Welcome back to your 24th PGA Championship, and welcome back to Baltusrol.
How does it feel to be back 11 years later at the site of your second major victory? What does that moment mean for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this is a special tournament and golf course for me, because of having won the PGA Championship here in 2005. A lot of history has taken place here, and for me to be a part of it means a lot.
I've had a lot of relationships over the last 11 years kind of form and develop here in the area. None more important than Doug Steffen, the head pro here, who after 20 years here at the club, is going to be retiring at the end of the year. He and his wife, Gina, have become very good friends over the years, and it all stemmed from our time at Baltusrol back in 2005. And then we've got Little Joe's Pizzeria over there. It's a great place to eat.
I've been coming here now 11 years; also going back to the Jersey Science Center over in Jersey City, where we've been having the Mickelson ExxonMobil Teachers Academy for the last 11 years there. This is our 12th year and we just had it last week. I've spent a lot of time in the area here over the years and it's meant a lot to me to be part of the community here and to spend time.
To come back and play another PGA Championship at Baltusrol is special.
JOHN DEVER: You've got a well-documented relationship with the fans here. Maybe speak about that and how do you draw on that this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: The people here, the way they have been so good to me and my family and have supported me and have been very helpful in my success in this area; it not only makes it fun to play but it also keeps my energy level up throughout the round when I have a tendency to make a mistake or two. And so it helps me overcome some of those mistakes. But I'm very appreciative for the way that the people here have treated me.
Q. The 2-iron was really effective at Troon. What's the relationship with the driver right now, given everybody comes in here and says, long and straight, long and straight.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it will be important to drive the ball well, and I actually am looking forward to that challenge. I feel good. I feel good with the way I drove the ball at the stretch, especially coming down the stretch hitting drivers and being able to put it in play there on a difficult golf course in tough conditions.
But that will be a key club this week. You've got to drive the ball straight for sure. It doesn't have to be long. If you notice, the great thing about Baltusrol is how the front of the greens are always open. You have an opportunity to run shots up.
The only holes that are closed off are the short holes where you're coming in with a wedge, like No. 8. Every hole allows you an opportunity to chase one up. So you can get it on the green, even if you do miss a fairway. You just can't get it close to many of the tucked pins.
Q. You started working with Andrew and you changed the swing plane. How much have you had to tinker with the plane, especially with the driver, throughout the course of the season?
PHIL MICKELSON: The initial challenge was to get the driver swing plane, and all the clubs', swing plane shallower through the ball so I didn't have to use as much hands and effort to try to square the face. And especially with the driver, the challenge is now not so much the swing plane, but trusting it and not having to prior to search and do something at impact but just let the club go through and not manipulate it. When I do that, I seem to hit good shots.
Q. Just curious, was there any mourning period or any hangover after The Open? You were sort of unsure on that Sunday how you might react given how well you played. Can you give us an idea how it went the next day or two after?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's one of those things, Bob, where I'll look back over time and my disappointment will probably increase, because I think it's the first time in my career that I have played to that level of golf and not had it be enough to win a tournament. That's a disappointing thing because I would have loved to have added another Claret Jug.
But because we have big tournaments coming up right now and because I am playing well, I don't want to let an opportunity, another really good opportunity that I have to play a PGA Championship here at Baltusrol at a course I like, while my game is sharp, and let the effects or disappointment linger.
The idea is just to get back and start playing at that level again and hopefully it will be enough this week.
Q. Following up on that, you have been unlucky the last couple weeks. It's frustrating for your fans and perhaps frustrating for yourself, as well. Going into this coming weekend, do you look at yourself and feel like it's perhaps right there on your fingertips, or will you just go in with momentum or do you just play the game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that any time you enter a tournament with the results in mind, you never play your best. And so what I want to do is just play to that level that I played at the British Open. I have to try to believe that it will be enough this time, if I'm able to duplicate that performance.
So that's kind of the goal and the game plan, to not really do too much, to not try to force the issue, but to just go play and trust that I'm hitting a lot of good shots, which I have been and trust that my putter has been good and that I'll make some putts and just try to go shoot a number and not try to worry about it. But that's easier said than done.
Q. When you get back to a place where you've had major success and you get out on the golf course again, do a lot of the shots run through your head that you hit 11 years ago, and overall, is the walk kind of an emotional experience?
PHIL MICKELSON: I get that feeling every time I play Augusta, because we -- history is made there every year, and playing there every year, something happens that kind of sticks out or that I seem to remember.
But this is the first time we've been back in 11 years and we don't come back every year. So those memories aren't as sharp. Those shots aren't as clear in my head as they were or as they are at Augusta, where we go back every year.
Q. With the weather being so warm and that you went to The Open being cold, how are you holding up in this kind of heat for the week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like the heat. I think that the heat loosens your body. It loosens your muscles. It allows you to swing the club freer. Ball goes farther. Ball goes straighter. It's a lot easier to play golf in the heat than it is in the cold and rain and wind.
So I actually think if we have this kind of weather, we have this kind of heat, I think the scores will be pretty good. I think they will be fairly low.
Q. With regards to Jordan, playing with you today, he's expressed recently frustration about the burden of expectations after winning the two majors last year and he's won two tournaments this year, and there's a perception he's not having a good year. I wonder with yourself when you started winning majors and putting one on top of the other, how did you handle the heightened expectations, whether it was from your own or the outside and can you see kind of where Jordan is coming from?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a tough one, because we all know how good he is and our expectations are pretty high of him as a player. He's still performing to that level, winning a couple times this year. But when you get to a certain level, if you don't win a major, the year is going to be a letdown no matter how you look at it.
Winning a major seems to make or break the entire year, no matter what you've done before or after, how many times you've won or not won, a major makes it a great year. Those are the expectations that have come from his great play in the past, and we have of him. And so I don't think those are going to diminish.
I think we are still going to have those expectations of him. He's such a good player, and we've seen the level of performance that he's able to play at that we expect that every week. It's just difficult to do every week. In fact, it's not possible to do every week. Although Tiger did it for awhile.
Q. Do you take pride in how well you've played in your 40s, and as a follow-up to that, is there a window of how long that you see yourself being able to do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like the fact that as a kid, I learned based off of kind of that Ernest Jones theory of swinging the club and quieting the body down and using the length of the arc and the swinging motion of the club to develop speed and so forth and feel and sensitivity; and I think that that has really helped me to play successfully in my mid 40s without having injury (knocking on wooden table) and having repercussions of having practiced so long for so many decades.
So I think that I've been fortunate that that was kind of the teachings that I grew up with and have continued to this day. And my instructors along the way from Rick Smith and Butch Harmon and now Andrew Getson, have stayed consistent with that and not tried to change that.
I don't believe that there is a small window. I think there's a really big window of opportunity to add to my resumÃ©, to continue to compete in big events, for the simple reason that the feel and sensitivity of hitting shots; the ability to play golf courses a certain way, to visualize, to make birdies, to pull shots off, that has not diminished.
I just haven't been on plane for a couple years, and all of those sensitivities go away when your golf swing is not on plane. And now that it's back on plane, I think there's a really big window of opportunity to have some success. I'm having more fun playing because of it.
Q. You said you played some of your best golf in that final round at Troon. Does it make it easier to handle in the aftermath or more difficult that knowing you played maybe your best? And do you have any regrets as far as shots or decisions during that final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't look back on the final round with anything that I would have done different, other than maybe go over to Stenson's bag and bend his putter a little bit (laughter). That's probably the only thing I could have done and had a chance.
I look back, and I have kind of mixed emotions of that, because there is a disappointment factor of having not won. But I'm also starting to play good golf again. I'm having a lot more fun on the course. I'm able to play the game a lot stress-free. I had two bogey-free rounds in a major. That's really good for me, okay. A lot of guys, I get that they have done it, but for me, that's pretty good.
I'm starting to really enjoy playing and competing, because I'm playing back to the level that I expect to play at.
Q. When you do look back to the win here, what are the warmest memories? What did it mean to your career as far as winning a major at someplace other than Augusta about what you could do from that point on?
PHIL MICKELSON: That is one of my fondest memories, Evan running around the green. We still laugh and which you can billion that.
That other memory is the chip; knowing that I needed to birdie and hit a good chip shot inside a couple of feet and make that putt, those were the two memories that stand out the most.
And it was important for me to validate my Masters win in 2004, because I had said going in that when I win one, that I'm going to win multiple; it wasn't going to be just a one-and-done. I needed to come back, a fairly short time period and validate that first win.
So that's what winning here at the PGA did, and it also gave me confidence to come back and win the following Masters a few months later.
Q. Given your ability to run balls on to some of these greens, is there any carry over from the type of shots you were hitting at Troon a couple weeks ago, and ordinarily you wouldn't think so. When you look back at 2005, what are the keys to winning?
PHIL MICKELSON: There really are not any similarities that I take from Troon over here. Totally different conditions, different shots and different ways you want the ball coming into the green.
So there's really not much similarity. The greens roll 10 there; they roll 13.6 here. It's just a totally different style of play. But that's the challenge of major championships is that you have to be able to adjust to the different styles of play if you want to try to win all four. And that's why you've got to be a complete player if you want to contend in all the majors.
To win here at Baltusrol, you obviously need to drive the ball well. That's going to be a given in just about any major. Putting is a challenge here because the greens have a lot of contour, and they are not consistent contours. There's a lot of little rolls and knolls. You can see multiple lines and only one of them is correct, and it's sometimes hard to see. I think reading the greens is going to be the biggest challenge for most people out here. Putting is so important that it's not going to be easy.
But I think driving, if you drive the ball well, and you putt well, those two things are going to be constants. The iron play into the greens, very fair. The greens are receptive. The greens are large enough. There's a lot of mid and short irons that you can get aggressive on.
Q. Thursday at Troon you made reference to the golf gods. At some point will they allow someone to shoot 62 in a major?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sure they will. The conditions will have to be right. We'll have to get something kind of like what we had in Riviera in '95 where there was a heat wave and the greens were soft and it was a playable golf course. It would have to take something like that.
But I don't see anybody shooting that here at Baltusrol. But I think there are going to be some hot rounds. I think we could see a couple 6- and 7-under par rounds. I just don't see a 9-under par round.
Q. You talked about when you won here, you played 18 in 4-under par, it was a very good hole for you for that week. It's changed a little bit with the water moving in on the left. Will that change your approach to the hole this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, it changes it significantly, because the water has been moved so close to the edge and because the bunkers have been brought in on the right; if you want to hit driver there, your line has to be within six yards of the water's edge.
But if you choose to hit a hybrid or a 3-wood off the tee, you can now aim 20 yards to water's edge. So what it's done is it's just taken driver out of your hands and driver is not a very good play, unless it's obviously into the wind and you have to hit driver to get there. But then if it's into the wind, your line is still 15, 20 yards right of the water.
Basically the water has taken driver out of your hands, which means you're going to have a longer shot in, with most likely a hybrid.
Q. Looking ahead to next year, you have a well documented affinity for Quail Hollow. What are your thoughts on it going there, and how do you think it will set up as a course for a major championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've always enjoyed Quail Hollow, playing there in our PGA TOUR event that we have. I think it's a wonderful golf course. I just think that it's going to be a great site for the PGA. It's been a great site for the PGA TOUR, and I think this championship is going to be glad that it's there.
Q. Davis Love was in here this morning and he said that you and he had a conversation about Ryder Cup matters, conversations that have been going back a year and a half. Do you sense a new feel of organization and purpose, and what do you think that could or will mean in two months here at Hazeltine?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we've always wanted to do well in The Ryder Cup very badly and we've worked very hard to do that. But on our side, the players haven't had any involvement or input into the process and I think that that's changed and Davis has been kind of the leader of that change.
So that now, there's a lot more input from players, assistant captains and building kind of a platform for years to come, because Davis will be a vice captain two years from now, and try to keep some continuity from year-to-year, something we really haven't had in the 20 years that I've played.
Q. Do you feel a need to go back there --
PHIL MICKELSON: I missed the first part of that.
Q. You've played Hazeltine three times in your career. Do you feel a need to go back there, perhaps with some of your teammates who haven't seen it before Ryder Cup week to take a look at it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, yeah, I think that's going to be important to get an idea of how the golf course is going to play, and how you want to play certain holes, and that's going to make a big difference on who you try -- you want to partner with. Davis has already got to be thinking about that; he has been thinking about that.
Those type of details are things that you want to have set before you go into The Ryder Cup. It's the most pressure-packed event we play in. The last thing you want is uncertainty. Uncertainty leads to more pressure, and we want to try to diminish that as much as we can and put the players in an opportunity to succeed as best we can.
JOHN DEVER: Thank you, sir. Enjoy your week.
FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports