August 7, 2002
GRAND BLANC, MICHIGAN
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil, thank you for joining us this afternoon. You've had two victories this season on the PGA TOUR and had some great finishes. As the season winds down, it seems you have the chance to make a great season even better.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm looking forward to the next couple of weeks. This is really the part of the year that I feel like the TOUR winds down as we start here at the Buick Open and go through the PGA and the World Golf Championships.
Last week, I did not play well at The INTERNATIONAL. I struggled and I feel like I had a lot of bad habits that carried over from the British Open. When I play in the wind over there, I can feel some things creep into my swing where I try to keep the ball down, keep it low, and so I have to iron those out now.
I've been in town here working with Rick Smith trying to get that ironed out and I feel like it's slowly coming around, and I'm hoping this week to, as I've said in the past, try to work into the tournament, where I play a solid round Thursday and hope to progress and make it better each day and take that momentum that I'm hopefully going to create this week and carry it over to next week.
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Okay. We'll take some questions now.
Q. You signed those autographs before you came in, how did you feel the gallery treated you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's interesting, the people here support this tournament like none other. It's amazing support from the community. I really appreciate the fact that they have, one, supported this tournament; and two, it's the sponsors and the fans that really allow us as professional golfers to play golf for a living and I just wanted to show my appreciation.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's first of all a wonderful tournament. It's a great preparation because it's a similar style of golf, similar tree lines and so forth. But what's really cool is that they have wonderful practice facilities where you can work on your game, and it's a course that requires you to maneuver the ball both ways, but it's also a course that you can gain confidence on because there are a lot of birdie holes out here with the par 5s and the drivable par 4s on 12 and 14; you have holes that you feel you should birdie just about every time.
So it's a course where you can build some confidence and gain some momentum, as well.
Q. Have you played any practice rounds Hazeltine?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I played there in '91.
Q. What kind of things do you sense that guys are going to have to do to play well there and score well there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's interesting because we go into a major, we talk about this kind of course, this style of course, and really what it boils down to is who is playing well. We know that in all of the majors, especially the PGA and the U.S. Open, you have to put the ball in the fairway and the Hazeltine, with the thick, gnarly rough and the quick greens -- the greens in the U.S. Open in '91 were the fastest greens I had ever seen.
Now the contouring is very subtle at Hazeltine, so the speed doesn't necessarily show like it does at Augusta, but they were rolling 13, 14 on the Stimpmeter easily, and I expect it to be the same. So the greens will be extremely quick, and if you want to play well there, you just put the ball in the fairway and hit greens and make putts; it's just like any other course. It's not like there's a secret to playing Hazeltine well. It's really just whoever is playing well should do well there.
Q. You had a chance to win your first major in Valhalla. Do you ever think back and say, "If I had won there," what that would have meant in terms of other majors you've played since then?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think back on that. I do think back on that tournament because I was leading after two rounds, and I was putting, what I thought was not very well and I putted horribly over the weekend. It's interesting, because that was really the point where I realized where I needed to be a more consistent putter and not have the ball shoot off the face as hot with a hot roll. I needed to soften the roll a little bit. I don't know how else to say it, but I would get a putt that runs four, six, eight feet by, not just soften the roll, not just hit it easier, but slow the heat of the roll out.
And it started there at Valhalla, because the weekend as the greens picked up the pace, I really struggled and consequently. I've sent some time with Scotty Cameron getting the right putter with the right loft or weight, or maybe getting a lighter or heavier putting depending on the speed of the greens.
It was that tournament where I realized if I wanted to play well in the majors consistently, I needed to improve that one specific area of putting. I have since talked -- equipment, I have talked about.
And I've worked hard with Dave Pelz on getting the right reads. Because as we see the ball could go into 90-degree angle, it's a whole different read than the greens we see day-in and day-out that you're looking at left-center or center and the ball doesn't really seem to go in sideways.
So I don't look back. My point is I look back on tournament, but not for what was brought up.
Q. You learned a lot.
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. It was not that I regret or if I had won there it would have changed things.
Q. Was that the beginning of you rebuilding all of your equipment?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. That was two years ago. The rebuilding of equipment started when I signed with Titleist and had a chance to work with the best guys. Scotty helped me with the putter, with loft, getting on his machine to see how the ball was taking off. Testing or measuring how far each ball rolled, looking on the camera how the ball was rolling. That went into the equipment.
And then with the wedges, work to make sure the soul and the bounce were what I wanted.
And Bobka (ph) designed a set of irons from scratch to get the amount of trajectory right, to control the trajectory to control the new golf balls that are flying straighter. So I needed to move the weighting more centralized to be able to maneuver my short irons, because the ball wasn't -- it was hard to get any curvature out of it at all.
So it was really two years ago that it started, and consequently, the last two years have been what I played my most consistent.
Q. Where did you work with Rick, up north or down here someplace? And Tiger was talking about the habits he got into in Scotland that he's been kind of having to work himself out of. What specifically have you been working onto get out of what you had to do over there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I practiced over at Oakland University. It's a wonderful course that Rick Smith designed, and they have really gone out of their way to accommodate myself and a couple of Rick's players: Rocco, Lee Janzen and allow us to play and practice there.
When I played in the British Open and the winds are howling and it is a thick air at sea level and you get the ball up at all and it doesn't go anywhere, what happens is you start lunging forward. You start moving your upper body forward to try to deloft it and that throws everything off. It throws the path, the timing the release off, and it's something that I never do in my swing. My biggest tendency is to fall back, hang back and flip my wrist, overhead hook, but over there I'm getting ahead of it blocking everything out.
So it's a difficult adjustment to get out of, and it's something that seems to happen every year, every time I go over there.
Q. Earlier in the tournament, you clutched at your wrist or arm hitting a shot out of the rough, has that been any problem?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. It was just a stinger. I had it a couple more times that week and I seem to get it occasionally, once every other week or so out on TOUR. You hit one out of the rough, you might catch a root or something and there's just a shot of pain up my arm. My initial reaction was concern but it seemed to go away after a couple minutes.
Q. Some guys don't ever play before a major and then there are guys who play, like yourself, you seem to play a little bit more before majors. You didn't play before the British though; right?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did not. The one year I did was Loch Lomond the week before, and my reasoning was Loch Lomond was not a similar enough style to Muirfield, so I did not go over there.
I had a difficult time getting into a competitive frame of mind and working myself into a tournament, as I talk about here. It also starts the week before, before a major, which allows me to be sharper come Thursday in a major. I find for me personally, preparing for a major the week before in a competition allows me to play my best. Because I only have three days in between competitive rounds, as opposed to ten or eleven, and so that's important to me, as well as that week, to really get my game sharp. It's a great practice week. If I'm at home, I don't have that competitive environment to test myself and see where, what state my game is in.
Q. Looked like you were hitting the ball great on the range?
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly, on the range you have tendency to play well or with friends, but you don't get a real barometer of how you are playing unless you come out and try to shoot a low number.
Q. Does this course help for next week, just off the tee, being able to hit driver?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really think it does. The reason is, you have to maneuver both shots, right-to-left, left-to-right. The fairways are tight, they are tree-lined. It's the same style of grass, same type of poa annua and bent that we will see at Hazeltine.
Q. Can you talk about what happened, joining the Pro-Am team?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was just a little bit late and I apologized. It worked out fine.
Q. They wouldn't let you in the clubhouse?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, that wasn't it at all. They were great.
Q. I was talking with Billy Mayfair, and he's your pal, I know, about his 27. Can you put into perspective what as a professional golfer when you think about somebody just shot 27, here or anywhere?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I could tell you what I thought about. Because as I was teeing off on 1, he was going down 10 and just holed out a shot, and I looked over at him and he gave me -- he gave me a pretty good grin, rightfully so. And I was thinking, gosh darnit, I've got to go catch him because we were going to be on the same flight together and I didn't want to be roughed up any. I wanted to do the roughing up. I had to shoot 30 on the back side to nip him by a shot and it brought out a little bit of motivation for me, because I wanted to go catch him.
To shoot a 27 makes you think that, hey, the course is susceptible to low scores and you have to go attack. That's what most guys were doing. The scores were pretty low last year.
Q. You obviously your penchant for football is well documented, you're a big fan, at this time of the year after the PGA, I know you've taken some time off in the past; is that your same plan?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, not this year, because I'm going to play Canada, which I have not played and that's actually opening day. So I won't see any of the first week of football. I probably won't see much this year because I'm going to play the Ryder Cup and the World Golf Championship the week before, and I don't think that the U.K. is real high on the NFL. They like cricket where you play for five days and call it a tie; I don't get it.
Q. Does it hurt a little bit, missing all that football?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. I enjoy preseason as much because there's a lot of guys that go undrafted out of college, and I think some of the excitement in the NFL, is seeing who is going to make the team. They may not even start but who the backups are. I just think that it is as interesting as who is going to be good.
Q. Who do you like in the NFL this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like the Steelers. I like the Steelers. They are really, really good.
Q. You don't like the Lions?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the Lions are going to be improved. I think you have a great offensive line here in Detroit, but it underperformed this year. If they gave Joey Harrington time, I think the receivers need to show something. Bill Schroeder needs to step up.
I like them, Jeff Backus, left tackle, I think he's
solid. Eric Beverly is your center. I thought Dominic Raiola was going to be the starter out of Nebraska last year and Beverly stepped up. I think Brendan is as good as anybody, left guard. McDougle, he's going to play right tackle now? So I think he's solid. I think you have a great line. What happened, you lost Gibson, but I don't think that he really played that well before he was here.
Yeah, Terry Fair, who else do you have, Terry Fair, Todd Lyght from the Rams -- I don't know. It's going to be tough because your depth at defensive back is not as solid when you are playing teams that throw a lot, like Green Bay and like the Rams, it will be tough. But I don't know if you play the Rams this year. I haven't seen a schedule -- I don't think you do.
Q. You talked about Valhalla and how you learned not to hit it so heard. Some of the critics still think you hit it too hot, McCord one of them.
PHIL MICKELSON: Too far?
Q. Too hard, especially on the 3-, 4-footers.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh.
Q. Do you agree with that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you have to understand, when you're a senior player and your nerves are such -- laughter -- you just try to wiggle the ball in the hole. They don't understand that you can actually make an aggressive stroke and knock it in the back.
It's just the way Gary is. You've got to put that with the grain of salt.
Q. What do you think about the Redskins this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'll tell you why I think the Redskins are an interesting team. Their defense is incredible. They have an incredible defense. They have depth at defensive back, like none other. Fred Smoot and Champ Bailey are two of the best. And you've got Darrell Green and David Terrell, two of the best backups. And you've got great linebackers. They brought in Jessie Armstead, Loverne is an incumbent and Jeremiah Trotter from Philadelphia, three best -- probably the second best linebacking core behind Pittsburgh.
But here is the thing: They have a great defensive line, as well. If your strength is your defense, you want to run the football and run the clock out. And I don't see Washington running the football underneath Spurrier, and I don't think if they have the weapons on offense to accommodate a great passing game. They will need to have Garner to step up and he's only in his second year, and they brought in -- did they bring in Derek Alexander, did he go to Washington? Jacquez Green and Reidel Anthony, the two guys from Tampa Bay that never gave them much of a passing game are going to be the two receivers. And you have Matthews -- Sage Rosenfels, I don't think he's going to start nor do I think Pat Ramsey is. So I think it's been Wuerffel and Matthews. I don't know if they are going to be able to have that effective of passing game.
That's what I think is interesting is that their defense is so good, but I don't think they are going to play to it. I don't think they are going to throw the football, which plays right against their strength.
Q. That's what the fans want.
PHIL MICKELSON: But if they want to win, I think they have to run the football and run more of a ball control offense. But I don't think Spurrier will do that. That's why I think they are the great unknown.
But, if you look at their division, the Giants are weak and the eagles are okay, but they didn't get any better. They lost Trotter and they didn't get anybody else in. And Dallas is very average; I mean, they are much better, but they are of average still.
So it's a league where they could get wins and have a winning record. In fact, I would be surprised if they didn't.
Q. Do you have time to play golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's just reading. I read on the plane. (Laughter.)
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