August 14, 2001
JULIUS MASON: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Phil Mickelson joining us at the 83rd PGA Championship. Phil is playing in his ninth PGA Championship. Phil, welcome to the Atlanta Athletic Club.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you.
JULIUS MASON: Some thoughts on what you've seen out there and we'll go to Q&A.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a very enjoyable golf course to play and it's straightforward, as you've seen and it's long. It's nice to have a golf course that length will be a factor, especially given the technology today. To have the course playing the way it is, I think is tremendous. And I hope that the tee boxes stay back, because it's nice to have some middle irons into greens.
JULIUS MASON: Questions, folks.
Q. Phil, starting out with something a little offbeat, I guess, but do you think this week the players and caddies will be making more of an effort to count clubs or everybody will follow their normal routine?
PHIL MICKELSON: Understand, it's part of the normal routine. Before every round, my caddie, Bones, counts the clubs on the range as well as the first tee as I do. It's just part of your routine. It very rarely will ever slip through the cracks like it did in Europe.
Q. How are you playing? Do you consider yourself a contender, even a favorite this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not playing too bad. I've been playing well. I'd like to think that I have a good shot at it, yes. I feel as though I've played well this year, and I feel as though this golf course is a course that I feel comfortable on and I've played well on in the past. I really like the greens because they are a type of grass that I've putted well on in the past. They are similar to Augusta's. They are similar to Sugarloaf's, and they are easier -- they are very easy for me to read, as well as very true to putt on. Also, I like the bermudarough, too. Growing up in Southern California, it is the type of rough that I am familiar with. I like the length of it where the ball will sit down, but it's still very playable. Difficult up-and-downs, but you can still play out of it.
Q. With the length of this course, do you feel it divides the field almost in half or maybe to even a third of the contenders who really have a chance to win?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. I think that everybody still has the same opportunity to win. I don't feel as though the length makes it one-sided towards the longer hitters. I don't feel as though that is the case, because the fairways are tight. They are difficult to hit. And if you are not hitting them, then you are not going to have a chance to make pars. I do think that the fairness of the width of the fairway at 240 and 340 is the asset of the golf course. I did not find the fairways bottlenecking at 300, 310, as so many courses do. So what that does is it allows all players to hit drivers. So a longer player is able to take advantage of his length. He just has to keep it in play. But that's the first thing I noticed and the first thing I liked about the golf course is that it wasn't a Valderrama in the '97 Ryder Cup where 280, it bottlenecked off the tee. Everybody was hitting their approach shots from the same spot. We were able to decide how much club we wanted to take off the tee in an effort to have a shorter shot into the green, how much we wanted to lay back and have a tougher shot in. So I think that there's a lot of decision making that will be going on off the tee, as well as in the fairway.
Q. Does the fact that this tournament is being played in Atlanta give you any kind of motivational or psychological edge, given the success you've had here in the last couple of years?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that there may be a positive or a plus that comes from that in that I've played well here in the past, and I was looking forward to coming back to Atlanta and playing here. For whatever reason, I've enjoyed this city. I've enjoyed the grasses, the style of golf courses that are here, and some very fond memories have taken place here, starting in '89 at Walker Cup at Peachtree. That was a special moment for me being able to play there. This course is very similar to Peachtree Country Club. What I've noticed is typically the greens here are pretty big, quick, undulating and with the same type of bentgrass, and I've putted well on them before and I feel very comfortable on them now.
Q. You've had a reputation, and you've talked about it yourself, about your style of play, going at pins in majors and doing some things that some other guys may not do. Considering this is the last major of the year, do you tone that down a little for this course or for this event, or any chance of changing style just a bit?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think that the style of play is what has prevented me from winning major championships. I think that execution has more been the factor. Now, I will be able to attack quite a few pins here because the greens are soft and receptive. The par 3s are holes they'll not attack. They are holes that I will be playing at the fat of the green and trying to make a 3. If I can put four 3s on my card, I feel that I can take advantage of the course. If I make a double or go in the water, it's because I hit a poor shot. So there's a difference between mental approach or course management, as well as execution. You still have to hit good shots. The difficulty about the par 3s is that the water angles right-to-left, and that does not allow me an opportunity to attack the pin, and here is why. The shot pattern or shot dispersion for a left-handed player is short left and long right, where a right-handed player is short right and long left. So the angle of the shot dispersion for a right-handed player sets up perfectly for the par 3s, with the exception of -- it's either 15 or 17, the one that angles the other way. So I don't have the opportunity to go at a pin because if I come out of the shot, it's going to come up short and go in the water -- if I come out of it, it will still end up in the water. So the par 3s are holes that I'll not be attacking because they just don't set up well for me, but the other holes do. The fact that the greens are big, the fact the greens are receptive and I feel very comfortable out of the rough chipping will allow me to attack and being aggressive.
Q. You talked about being able to hit longer irons on some of the holes. How many holes do you think that you will have to hit a 3-iron, 4-iron on the second shot?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not many. Maybe the par 5's.
Q. Do you feel like that's an advantage to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. Absolutely. The longest irons I hit in will be in the par 3s, but I was still hitting 6- and 7-irons into the longest par 4s, so with the exception of 18 -- 18 was playing exceptionally long. I hit 3-iron there. That was really the only iron longer than a 6-iron, maybe a 5-iron, that I would have in.
Q. You talked about the attack mentality. Is this course better set up for the attack mentality than a lot of other majors?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think without question, it is, because of the length and the size of the greens, as well as the softness of the greens. I think that the difficulty when I look at this golf course, is not going to be making the greens firm and unreceptive. I think the difficulty is going to be the length and the tightness of fairways, as well as the bermudarough where the ball sits to the bottom, because on almost every hole, it's very difficult to run a ball up. Either there is no fairway or the fairway is so soft, but it seems as though every hole is either blocked out with either rough or bunkers, so you can not run it up. So that means if you miss the fairway, you cannot get it to hold. So I look to the course setup to be more challenging in those areas, as opposed to making the greens ridiculously hard and so forth. That being the case, if I drive it well in the fairway, I'll be able to get at all of the pins because the greens will be receptive and I won't be having that long of an iron in.
Q. You said earlier this year that you were disappointed or felt like you should have won a major by now. At what point did you feel that way? Just this year or was it two years ago or what stage of your career or you started thinking that way?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was probably a little while ago. I felt like after winning a tournament coming out of college, I really thought that things would happen quickly like that. It has taken a lot more time than I had anticipated and I hope that it will eventually come -- I believe that it will. I think that this week is a nice place to start.
Q. Given your relative youth and what you've accomplished as a pro, do you think it is fair or unfair for us to label you as the best player never to win a major?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that it's unfair at all. I would say that if I were to win this week, I don't think anybody this room or anybody in the United States or what-have-you will look at me any differently than they have over the past ten years. I feel that the way I've played over the past ten years and the tournaments that I have done well in tend to show the style of player that I am, and a win in one tournament or not winning a tournament really isn't going to change that perception. With that being said, it would mean a lot to finally break through and win a major, just to prove to myself that it can be done and that all of the hard work that I have put into my game in trying to refine it and minimize the misses and play smarter on difficult tests is paying off, and so that's why it would be very important. But I don't think it's an unfair label. In fact, it's a very complimentary label, if you think about it, because having not won one, to be considered the best out of all of those good players who have not is a compliment.
Q. Because we have talked about you and David a lot in that category, when David won, do you feel that put any more pressure on you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't feel that way. I thought it was pretty cool the way he played the last two rounds, starting at even par on Saturday and shooting 66 and then I believe 68. I thought his play on the weekend was pretty impressive. When he won, I didn't feel as though, "Goodness, now I've got to come through." That wasn't what went through my mind.
Q. You mentioned earlier about the technology advances and the course being longer. What are your thoughts on the changes that were made at Augusta this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think they are tremendous. I was hoping for those type of changes a long time ago, as opposed to the ones that we saw, at say, 15 and 17 and some of the other holes. I thought there was spots where they could make the course play longer, and certainly, they have been able to do it. I also think that by letting the fairways grow up just a little bit, the grass, and not having the ball roll as much as they do there, which is by far the hardest, fastest fairways I've ever seen, I felt as though that would slow up the course and make it play a lot longer, too. Then, the greens would not have to be as treacherous as we've seen in years past. They would have the difficulty in length, as well, because the approach shots would be so much more difficult. I think that adding length just keeps up, basically modernizes the course and has it playing the same as it did 50 years ago.
Q. What did you take away from Southern Hills, being so close there, and just didn't happen on Sunday?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know specifically. I don't know what I would say specifically. The golf course there at Southern Hills is very similar to this course in that the grasses are the same, the bermudarough, the fairway width, the greens seemed to all be very comparable. I think guys that played well at Southern Hills will probably play well here.
Q. Following up on the David Duval question, because you two were lumped together in recent years relative to expectations of winning a major, did you find it encouraging that he was able to finally break through and win one?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think I was more indifferent. I didn't really have an opinion on him winning and how it affected me. I just didn't see a parallel there.
Q. At the start of the year I know the major championships were an area of focus for you and for many other players, and you gave yourself every opportunity at Augusta and then at the U.S. Open. Is anything short of a victory here a success for you in the major championships this year, or can you look at another chance of contending as having sort of succeeded in accomplishing the goal of making yourself a factor in the majors?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that, first of all, it's a really good question. And to answer that, I would say that if I were to not win, then what I've been working on, I don't abandon; I feel I've been very close, but it has not been as successful as I was hoping. I feel like the last year and a half I've been able too refine my game to a point where I should be able to contend week-in and week-out and where I should be able to win the toughest tournaments because they should be the best opportunities for me to win. This week, the U.S. Open and British Open and the Masters should be the easiest tournaments for me to win because my misses have been minimized and the penalties for a missed shot are so severe it should make it more difficult for the other players and it should allow me the opportunity to excel or come out on top and it has not yet. I've worked very hard this year, especially the last few weeks with Rick on making some refinements and I've been able to minimize my misses even more so, and I feel as though this golf course is set up for me to take advantage of that.
Q. Following up on that follow-up, you were talking about how you consider it to be a compliment of being lumped in that group of considered best not to win a major. It seems like a fine line, some guys feel burdened and some guys feel complimented. Did you always feel that way about it, that you could treat it as a compliment?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see anything negative about it, somebody saying you were the best at something, even though it was not winning a major. I never saw that as a negative. What I would see as being a negative is having not won a major and not even being included among the best players to have not won a majors. That is basically saying, "Gosh, you may never do it." But I'm hoping that me being on that list will be short-lived.
Q. You mentioned after Hartford you turned back to a visualization technique from college. Are you still doing that and could you elaborate?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely I am. It is basically just performing the shot before I actually hit it. It's just seeing the right outcome I want, as opposed to letting the negative shot creep into what I'm seeing, because if I see the ball creep off into the water, then more often than not, my body will react to that and hit that shot. And so, I'm basically just trying to see the shot that I want to hit before I hit it. That's all.
Q. You talked about the '89 Walker Cup and you made a big putt in the singles in your match to halve that hole. Talking about success in Atlanta. Can you think about some of the tournaments you've won and maybe why these courses in this region of the country seem to suit you?
PHIL MICKELSON: The reason I think they suit me is because of the type of conditioning that the courses are in. The fairways and the rough are what I grew up on in Southern California, the bermuda and the greens are a big, sloping, easy to read bentgrass greens, so I have tended to putt them very well in the past. The Peachtree -- the Walker Cup at Peachtree was no different, and the Atlanta Classic at Sugarloaf was no different. And I feel I've played well at Augusta; and although there is a lot of ryegrass there, the greens are very similar. I think that's why I've played well, and I really enjoy coming here.
Q. Could you talk about your life as a golfer before you were a father and since you've been a father? And I believe, is Amy pregnant again?
PHIL MICKELSON: She is and she's due end of October. It has not changed at all. What's happened is Amy and I have worked together more as a team to keep our family together and allow my schedule and practice schedule to be the same and to be increased, even. So it's been more of a team effort now that we have children. She has had to work really hard to travel with a one-year-old and now that she's been pregnant, it's been difficult, as well. We've been able to travel together, stay together and be together. So when I get done today, I'll be able to spend a few hours with my daughter and my wife and be together as a family. It's not easy to do, but she has been able to allow me to play the schedule, the tournament schedule that I would like and to practice as hard as I would like, and we're still able to be together as a family. So it's been more work, but, really, it's been more team work and my golf has not been affected one way or the other.
Q. What is your plan for THE TOUR Championship? What's going to decide whether you play or not?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think I'll play. It would be a 1 in 20 chance that I would be able to play, and that would be if the baby came two or three weeks early. I don't anticipate that happening, but it certainly happened in '99 with our first child. It was two and a half weeks early. So that would be the only way.
Q. As a follow-up, if I could, I think it was Nicklaus who pretty much started the trend of measuring great careers by majors. Do you think that's fair?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it's unfair at all. I think that to overlook winning a tour event that is against a strong field is not correct, either. I still look at his 70 wins as being everybody bit as great an accomplishment as winning his 18 professional majors. So you don't want to overlook the other aspects of his career, either. Certainly, the majors are a necessity to be considered one of the greatest players.
JULIUS MASON: Questions, questions twice. Thank you, Phil.
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