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January 28, 2004

Phil Mickelson


TODD BUDNICK: Thank you for joining us this morning, Phil, at this early time. Of course one of your first events last week, Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. Just jump right into that. Great win to start the season.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was a fun first tournament of the year, and I'm looking forward to 04. I think it's going to be a great year. I can't wait to start here. We've got a new title sponsor, some new changes to the course that is going to make it challenging and it's going to be a wonderful event.

TODD BUDNICK: It's the fifth time in your career you've won your first event. How special is it to start the season that way?

PHIL MICKELSON: Starting with a win is a little more special than it has been in years past, because last year was such a tough year, and to play well, work hard in the off season and see the results right away, it's very exciting.

TODD BUDNICK: You led the tournament in birdies last week with 37, which has a bit more significance this year with your charity program.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's been kind of cool, been a fun deal with Amy that I wanted to do, and I had some pretty cool news, I think, and that is that the business partners that I've been lucky enough to be associated with, Bearing Point and Ford, have agreed to join me in this deal and match what Amy and I give. I think it's pretty cool that I have those relationships, that they're that supportive of what I've been doing and I think it's exciting, too, for the Special Operations Warrior Foundation.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll go into questions.

Q. So it'll be triple the amount?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. It's kind of cool.

Q. One question I forgot yesterday. Are you still doing the martial arts work?


Q. How is it going? What level, what standard are you at at the moment?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I'm not really sure if I have a good answer for you, but I'd say I've been doing it about a year and a half, between two and five days a week.

Q. How does it help you with your game?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the biggest thing, that it requires balance just like the golf swing while doing a movement just like the golf swing. It's not standing stationary, it's not just doing the movement, it's trying to keep your body stationary while doing a movement, whether it be a kick or a punch or what have you, and I think that functional movement is what's been very beneficial to golf.

Q. Good fun, as well?

PHIL MICKELSON: I enjoy it, yes.

Q. Can you kind of translate what you've been able to do with your conditioning, all the other stuff, to your golf swing? Just from my perspective it looks like you're kind of swinging a little more effortless than you were in the last couple years, kind of like you were a couple years ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that what's happened, is that the smaller muscles, the stabilizing muscles in my hips and my legs and so forth, are much stronger, and it allows me to swing at a faster rate and stay in balance, and I think that that's what -- that's what you'll notice in the golf swing, is that when I finish it's much more balanced without having that fallback where I would fall back and legs slide a little bit. That's contributed to the workouts, to the martial arts, all that stability or stabilizing muscles that allowed me to swing a lot harder.

Q. Can you just tell us about returning to the valley and coming back to play here in an area that you are obviously very familiar with?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really enjoy it here. Last night we had a group of about 25 friends that Amy and I hadn't seen in quite some time and we all went to dinner and had a great time. The thing that I miss the most about the valley are the people. The people in this community are some of the best anywhere, and it's evident in what the Thunderbirds do. There are very few organizations like the Thunderbirds throughout the country, what they do with this event, the communities, the charities in and around the city, so it's very fun for Amy and I to come back. Plus I love the golf course. One of my fondest memories in competitive golf is winning the 96 Phoenix Open. That was an amazing experience with that many people out there and being an ASU Sun Devil and having support from a lot of the fans here is a very special feeling.

Q. I wanted to ask you a little bit about technology. There's been some criticism about the ball is going too far, maybe it's obsolete on some golf courses. What are your feelings about technology? Is it good or bad?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that each person, each player, needs to match their games as best they can with the equipment that's out there, whether it's loft and lie, golf ball, weighting of the head, what have you, and that's stuff that Tour players have been able to do to really maximize their abilities. I don't have a problem with the golf ball getting longer and so forth, but I don't see it really getting any much past where it's at. I don't see it getting any longer.

The USGA is trying to tighten their restrictions on the golf ball. And where they're at, they've really maximized the golf ball for the long players, where that wasn't the case before. The golf balls were made for guys that hit shorter because they spun so much. They've made them hit a little bit longer, and I don't see where it's going to get longer than it is today.

Q. How much do you think has contributed to length more, technology of the clubs, the length, the balls are the fitness of the player?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the golf ball improvement for the strong players. You have to have a certain amount of club head speed to take advantage of that Pro V1x to get the extra 10, 15 yards out of it. So fitness is an element because you have to be able to swing the club fast enough to take advantage of it, but I think the golf ball is the biggest issue.

Q. How about computer matching of club to balls? Do you take advantage of that a whole lot more?


Q. Is that a big improvement in the last couple of years?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. Being able to match the golf club, the driver specifically, to the golf ball is a tremendous advantage because what you can do is take the golf ball spinning or flight the way you like it with the irons and create a driver to match it. So if you have a high spin golf ball you can create a driver that takes a lot of the spin out for the tee shots only, so that is a big part of it and that is where all the manufacturers have been heading and where Tour players like myself have been able to take advantage of it at the test sites.

Q. I assume you'd be against a Tour spec ball for everybody.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've said this in the past. I think that to say that you have to play a 7-degree lofted driver or you have to play this rock hard golf ball or you have to play a wedge with a certain lie that is too flat for you, I think that it's wrong to say everybody has to play one piece of equipment, because I put a lot of spin on the golf ball. If you force me to play a real high spin golf ball, I'm not going to be able to play anywhere near my capability. If a guy with a flatter swing doesn't create spin, he plays that high spin ball. That ball is perfectly suited for him. If everybody had to play my golf ball, the ball that's best suited for me, then I'm probably okay with it, but I don't think it's right.

Q. What's your feeling of the driver testing? Have you had your driver tested?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I get every one of my drivers tested at Titleist, and the fastest COR I've ever hit is .825. When you start getting between .820 and .830, you're talking about two yards' difference. There's no way you can tell, and I just don't think that anybody out here -- first of all, would play an illegal club, second, that a manufacturer would allow them to play an illegal club. I don't think that anybody would even be able to tell if they did.

Q. Why do you think they're doing the tests?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it's good to be able to check equipment because if there is questions, I think it's important to have the foundation set up to be able to test stuff, to be able to answer any questions about equipment. I know that I don't have a problem if somebody were to grab my wedges and check the grooves because I know they're legal. I don't have a problem if somebody grabs my driver because it's legal and I don't have a problem if somebody checks the golf ball I just finished the hole with because I know it's legal. I think that it's nice to have that capability if there is any questions, because nobody wants to do well out here the wrong way. We want to know if stuff is over the edge.

Q. How do you feel about the changes here at the TPC?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, to be honest, I haven't played them yet. I'll play them today. But from what I gather and what I've looked at so far, I don't see them affecting the scores. I think that they might be -- make the course a little longer, but I don't think that the scores will be affected.

Q. You were always known for your phenomenal short game but a few things went wrong and you worked with Dave Pelz. What went wrong and what specifically have you worked on with Dave?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, specifically we worked from 140 yards in. The off season I did not hit any golf balls. I spent all my time chipping and putting. My short game really slid last year because I didn't spend any time. I was so worried about mechanics and trying to get the golf swing down because I was hitting it so poorly that my short game slid, as well. I spent all my time chipping and putting knowing that Rick was coming out at the end of the year. I also went to Palm Springs a couple of days to work with Pelz to get a little bit more direction on how I wanted to go about practicing my short game to get better, and that seemed to give me a little bit more direction. The thing that we worked on the hardest was really distance control, and I noticed from 140, 150 yards in, my distance control seemed to be much better than it had been in quite a while. A lot of balls were up around pin high, which was very encouraging.

Q. Can you talk about the kind of player that does well here or that wins here at the Phoenix Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, typically you look at Mark Calcavecchia, he's a very aggressive player, makes a lot of birdies. That's the type of player that is going to win here. Rocco Mediate makes a lot of birdies. He's an aggressive-style player. This course has a great risk-reward, that backside. The two par 5s that you go for, the 15th hole is a risky one. 17 is a risky tee shot. The guy that's going to win is the guy that's willing to take those chance to make some birdies.

Q. Two-part question. You've had such an amazing connection with fans over the years, and I'm wondering how important that is to you. I know it's not your play that attracts them but how you interact with them. Is that something you paid attention to when you were coming on the Tour?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't think about it too much, but I just feel like -- I feel very fortunate to be able to play golf for a living and it's the people that come out and support the game, support the tournaments, that watch golf on television that enable us to do with it. Every player feels a responsibility to show our appreciation.

Now, the way I do it or the way I like to do it is spend time after the round, sign autographs and interact with fans. I don't do that before I play and I don't do it during the round, but I feel it's important to set aside time after the round.

Q. You talked about aggression being a key ingredient out here. Because of what happened last week, your victory, will that allow you to be more aggressive this weekend?

PHIL MICKELSON: I sure hope so. I think the biggest thing that will allow me to be aggressive is driving it in the fairway. I drove it really well last week. I feel much more confident with the driver. I feel like I'm hitting it straighter than I have, swinging more in balance. I think if I can drive the ball in the fairway I'll be taking a lot of shots at some pins.

Q. Does it help you mentally to know you've got one out of the way early?

PHIL MICKELSON: No question, it really does, because I want this year to be a great year. I feel like I'm playing better than I can remember. My family is healthy. Things just couldn't be better and I'm really excited about 04. To win right away takes a lot of the -- if I don't win or it takes me a while to win, I'll press, I'll try to force things to see the results, but now that I've won I feel like I can go out and just play and not worry about the results, that they'll happen. It makes it a lot easier.

Q. I'm sure what you're doing is because you want to be better and you want to do things but you feel like because there's always so much mention of Tiger, do you feel like you can battle this year and be there in the majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think about -- I haven't really thought about that. I think to worry about my rankings, to worry about how I compete against Tiger, how I compete against other players, it's not where I want to be right now because it won't allow me to play at my best. I feel like I've got to continue working on what I've been working on with Rick and Dave Pelz and continue getting in stronger and better shape, and I feel like the results will come. I feel like I'll have a chance at the majors and be able to compete without thinking about it.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Phil.

End of FastScripts.

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