January 10, 2001
LEE PATTERSON: We'll get started real quick. Phil, thank you for spending time with us. Begin ending the season very well at THE TOUR Championship. Ready to get started this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think we're all looking forward to a fun year this year. It's been a very exciting time for me, a very fun time. I want very badly to continue the play that I had last year and the start of this year.
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions?
Q. Can you expand on that with some particular goals, if you have them?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I don't want to necessarily say specific goals, but in general I felt like the latter part of the year I had accomplished some of the things that I had set out to do golf swing-wise. I feel like I'm striking the ball better than I have in some time. I feel like the area that I want to improve on this year is wedge play. I feel like the critical element for me will be from 120 in, again, similar as the goal was for the past year. But this year especially with the new technology that we have, the new golf ball that we have, it seems as though I have a lot of wedges in the holes. If I can improve that area, I think I can shoot some really low numbers this year.
Q. There's been a couple of guys throughout the last five or six years that have changed equipment and have not done so well. Was that ever a concern of yours?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I don't want to speak too freely on the subject, but I will say this: it was important to me that I not compromise equipment from here on out. I needed the opportunity to work with Scotty Cameron putters, Bobby Vokey wedges. I needed that opportunity. I feel like the last -- a critical piece is to be able to have the exact equipment that I wanted. I had some obstacles before where we had a manufacturing plant that was across in the Pacific Ocean. We had a language barrier. I felt like this was the best move for me. I had been wanting to do this for some time. I'm very fortunate that it worked out.
Q. Something you said early last year, getting back to some of your Ping wedges. Do you have any Ping wedges in the Ping?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. It goes in and out with the Vokey wedge. I'm experimenting with some wedges. For the most part, I feel very comfortable with my wedge. I'll continue using that. I had a call from Wally, and Wally said, "Do not switch equipment." He said, "Play whatever it is that you want to play. I don't care how long it takes." We're working on a set of irons, working on some drivers that will be about another two months. It's been a process that we've started from scratch on the computer. In about two months, it will be all said and done. To have that type of response is so refreshing for me. I feel like they're a freedom to play whatever I want to play, to play my best. You know, that's not always the case.
Q. The persistent questions seem to be, can Tiger do it again, and is it the same cast of characters, you, Tiger, David, Vijay, Davis Love. Do you see it that way? There's like eight or ten or 12 of a group right at the very top, then maybe another group a notch down?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're looking at it a little differently. I think from most of the things I've read or seen regarding the game of golf, involving Tiger, it's as though everybody is trying to chase an individual. That's not really the way I see it. I see it a little bit differently where he is certainly a stand-out player, but I see a bunch of other players that are accomplished players that are trying to get better. I see some good young players coming up through the ranks trying to play their best. I don't see them or me or anybody else trying to compare ourselves with one individual. I think that that would be the wrong way to go about it. I think that we're all trying to get better and we're all trying to win golf tournaments. Ultimately to win a tournament that he's in, we have to beat him, that's true. To compare ourselves to one individual is not the way I choose to look at it. I believe that the equipment that has been developed, not only just this past six months, but over the last five years, has really brought a lot of players together because the misses aren't as bad, the ball's going so far now. It's very difficult to separate yourselves from the rest of the players the way Tiger has done, which makes what he's done so unique. I think there are a lot of players that have been able to close that gap. I think this year will be an interesting year to see if that's the case.
Q. What has the equipment change, technology change, meant to you? Club setup different in your bag? You play the courses differently?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've added another wedge. I was saying earlier that wedge play is critical. I've added a fourth wedge. It seems -- I've touted this golf ball a lot, but I still can't believe the different style of play that this ball has allowed me to play, that is to hit it long off the tee, have wedges into par 4s. By adding a fourth wedge and working and trying to refine my wedge play, I feel like a golf course now is not really a course where par is a good score, but I feel par should be attacked and birdies should be made on almost every hole. I'm starting to be able to visualize a different style of play where on holes that normally I thought par was a good score, and move on, I feel like there are 18 holes out there to be birdied.
Q. That sort of runs counter to what you learned in the last few years when it comes to major Championships.
PHIL MICKELSON: True.
Q. Is that another readjustment?
PHIL MICKELSON: It will be interesting to see. It will be interesting because this ball not only goes longer, but it goes straighter. I'm curious to see if I'm able to hit the ball longer and keep it in play. If that's the case, coming into US Open style greens with a eight, niner wedge will be more productive than mid. I feel like you can't hide the pin from me. When I get to the longer stuff, that's where I'm starting to think middle of the green and par is a good score. I'm curious to play some difficult tests of golf, hitting driver. I feel like East Lake was a great test because the fairways were very tight there. The second, third, fourth rounds, I drove the ball well there. I was hitting wedges into the par 4s and making birdies. If I can continue to play that style of golf, I think we're going to see in general much lower scoring than we have in the past.
Q. If you were -- you're hitting the new ball farther off the tee, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
Q. Are you hitting your irons longer because of the ball?
PHIL MICKELSON: Moderately.
Q. Did you have to make some adjustments?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I would say it's about a 3 percent difference with the irons. The harder you hit it, the greater the difference. Just like at altitude in Denver. The higher you hit the ball there, the greater the percentage. 6 or 8 percent for a guy that hits the ball fairly low. You get a guy like Davis Love, The international, you can get as much as a 20 percent difference if you hit the ball high. The harder you hit this ball, the greater the discrepancy. As you get to the driver, there's a greater discrepancy in yardage than, say, with the short-irons.
Q. How much further would you hit it?
PHIL MICKELSON: On the Launch Monitor, I'm getting about 25 to 30 more.
Q. That leaves the question we keep hearing about the course is short, the guys are overpowering now, yet in baseball everybody wanting to go for the home run. Do you think it's part of the whole aggressive nature of sports, that you guys do not think the same way that a -- that, say, Nicklaus did when he was your age? Distance helps, but you played for par. Now people just say, "I've got to crash the golf course?"
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I think the style of play has changed. It's a combination of everything. I think that the forgiveness of some of the irons certainly play a big part of that. When you factor it in with the distance now and not sacrificing any feel around the green or spin rate coming into the pin, it's a much more aggressive style of play, which suits me perfectly because I love to play aggressive. I think it will be an exciting year because I think that we're going to see some really low scoring, much lower than we've seen in the past. I think we're going to see a lot of tournament records broken this year. Certainly Tiger has done that on his own, but I think we'll see a lot of guys partaking in that.
Q. Is that good?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I mean, it's fun to score low. I think it's good.
Q. Will we see an answer, longer and longer courses, tighter fairways?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know.
Q. Do you think there has to be an answer from the course setup people to protect records?
PHIL MICKELSON: If you make a course too long, then you really have taken away the average player's style of play. I don't mean just the average player, I mean a tour player who drives it an average distance. But I have seen, in my opinion, the game change to where precision is not nearly as important now as hitting long bombs off the tee, having great feel with wedge play. To me, that style of play is much more advantageous than any other.
Q. The Launch Monitor, 25 -- what is that?
PHIL MICKELSON: The Titleist Launch Monitor. The machine that they use to judge the launch characteristics of a shot. The launch angle, the spin rate, the club head speed, the ball speed, total distance. You know, last year I averaged 286 all year long. The first year I used -- the first week I used this golf ball was Vegas, I averaged 325. At THE TOUR Championship, again, 286 all year long, there I averaged right around 300-plus. I didn't hit driver on every yardage hole. I think that just the two weeks that I used this showed me that it's going significantly further, too.
Q. Sergio was talking about that, "I can reach par 5s with irons now."
PHIL MICKELSON: He moves it out there well, too. So, anyway, the other thing that will be interesting to see, is there that great a difference in the wind, too?
Q. Is your family here?
PHIL MICKELSON: They are.
Q. Can you speak a little bit about that. What are some of the things you get to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: We spent the last ten days here in Hawaii. We spent the other half on the other side of the island, over in Wailea. We've really enjoyed our off time, to be able to hang out at the beach. We did that bike ride out of the volcano where you cruise down from 10,000 feet, basically hang out at the pool and the beach. It's just been a fun downtime. When I do that, when I don't play, I find myself really wanting to come out and play and practice. So the last week or so, last four or five days, I've been working hard on my game, really getting ready for the season.
Q. Official hula lesson on Friday. Are you in?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll watch. I'll watch how it's done.
Q. Where was Amanda on this bike ride?
PHIL MICKELSON: We had our family in town, so we had somebody stay with her.
Q. That Haleakala thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it is. Fun place. Maui is a beautiful place.
Q. A week from today, the Casey Martin case is heard before the Supreme Court.
PHIL MICKELSON: Is that when they set the date?
Q. What do you think is the ideal resolution of this thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, that's really a tough thing to have an opinion on because I feel strongly both ways. I think the ideal situation would be for The TOUR to win and have an allowance for Casey, allowing him to ride a CART. I think it's important that every major sport has the right to have competitive rules. I feel like a competition must have the same rules for everybody. On the same token, I don't feel by having somebody ride a cart, he's going to beat me or shoot lower scores because of that. I think in this particular instance, it's really not a big deal if Casey rides a cart, but I think that in general, it's a big deal that The TOUR keeps its right to create the competitive rules.
Q. A year ago on No. 4, you hit your tee shots, then get -- as the ball is in play, get a shuttle up the fairway, up this steep hill. Is that right?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's correct.
Q. It is correct, I know. But is that proper? Is that right? Isn't that a test of stamina, to be able to walk up that hill, get your legs back under you, get the next shot?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. But everybody rides up the hill.
Q. True. I'm saying it would seem like it would be more of an advantage not to pick on someone, but like Tim Herron, than someone who is more in shape?
PHIL MICKELSON: It could be. But, again, I don't think that riding the cart --.
LEE PATTERSON: It's a play issue.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think riding the cart is going to shoot lower scores. I've said that all along. I don't think Casey having an opportunity to ride a cart is going a allow him to shoot 66 every day. That's not the case. The difference is that everybody can ride the cart up the hill on 4 and not everybody can ride a cart throughout the round. I think the cart issue is kind of a poor example because I don't think that that affects scores. I think to be able to play under the same competitive rules is important. We all play with 14 clubs. One guy can't have 18 clubs. Everybody plays 14. That's just a general rule that everybody plays under. That will affect scores. Riding the cart doesn't. But they all fall under the same synopsis of being able to create the same rules for competition. If you ask me the ideal situation, to answer that directly, would be for The TOUR to win and allow Casey to ride a cart.
Q. I don't think they can do that.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know.
Q. Tough one.
PHIL MICKELSON: That would be my ideal situation.
Q. Do you think you would shoot lower scores if you could ride a cart out here every week?
PHIL MICKELSON: No.
Q. Do you think you'd sweat as much?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just don't think riding a cart makes a bit of difference. I don't see how it affects ball striking, reading the green, hitting the putt the right way. I don't see it.
Q. A lot of people say when they ride, they get to the ball too fast. When you're walking, you are thinking the shot as you walk up to the ball, you keep your pace better.
PHIL MICKELSON: You could argue either way, you really could. You could argue either way the cart helped you or the cart hurt you. I don't think it affects scores. You know. I don't really know what side I'm pulling for. If The TOUR wins and will not make an exception, I have a hard time deciding which way I feel on that.
Q. Tim said yesterday, they won't make an exception.
PHIL MICKELSON: (No response.)
Q. Are you saying that stamina is not a factor in golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I was saying riding a cart really doesn't make a difference. I really don't think it's that big a deal, I really don't.
LEE PATTERSON: Anything else for Phil?
Q. Just wonder if you're familiar with the major championship courses this year, how you think those will be played out?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't played Atlanta Athletic Club or Country Club. I'm not really familiar with that course. I'll probably try to play there during the Atlanta Classic, just to see it. I've played Southern Hills in the PGA '94. I like the golf course. I like Southern Hills. I've actually played pretty well there. I'm curious to see how different it plays for US Open and how different it plays in June than, say, October when we've played THE TOUR Championship. I know how hot it was in August. I'm curious to see how long the rough is. That rough doesn't need to be very long for it to be difficult. The ball just sits to the bottom. The British is at Lytham where Lehman won. I enjoyed that course. I thought it was a good test. I felt like I played well there. But I haven't thought too much about the courses. I think the Masters, that's at Augusta this year, isn't it (laughter)? I like that place (smiling).
Q. I think it was back in '73, '74, good scores shot at The Open. The next year it was outrageously difficult. Do you think the USGA might be inclined, because the Tiger's scores, to go overboard in protecting par?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's a realistic assumption, yeah. I thought it was extremely difficult at Pebble. I think the next low score was three or four over.
Q. Three over.
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was extremely difficult. If you take him out of the field, have you three over par wins the tournament. It's tough to make it too much or much more difficult. But I wouldn't be surprised if they did that.
Q. Could you relate, when the flap between Tiger and The TOUR was going on, could you relate to that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly understood where he was coming from, sure, absolutely.
Q. Do you think some of the things that come out of this will affect you in a positive way, do you anticipate that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so.
Q. Have you talked to anyone about that? Are we going anywhere with this today?
PHIL MICKELSON: I mean, I don't know what to say. I think that it would be nice if we had some more input, sure. I think, though, when I read the article, I never once got the impression that Tiger ever asked for revenue from the television deal. I heard somebody ask him, "Do you think you should be entitled to that?" He said, "In a perfect world, yes." I never saw where he was asking for that, which is where it seemed like --.
Q. A lot of undue attention?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. It's where all the other articles started to go. I never heard that. I just heard that he wanted to have more input into how he was used.
Q. Have you run into any problems with marketing, trying to do your own thing, Internet?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing major. Nothing major.
Q. But something?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think he represents Buick. To have himself in an ad for the Mercedes Championship nine times creates a conflict for what he's trying to promote. When he's doing television commercials, millions of dollars are being spent on ad campaigns tying him in with Buick, to see him in a Mercedes commercial is very confusing -- not commercial, but ad. There are some areas that we all are in the same arena.
Q. You could say the same with NEC and IBM?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
Q. Would you be offended if you won NEC and they promoted you heavily in ads?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. It creates an uncomfortable situation for me.
LEE PATTERSON: Time for one more.
Q. Your playing schedule. Are you playing next week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not playing next week. I would have liked to. I thought that the commitment that Sony made in elevating their purse to the $4 million status, I wanted to support. But, unfortunately, I had already made my arrangements prior to them announcing that. I won't be playing there this year. There's a good chance that I'll play there next year. My schedule will then pick up right after at the Phoenix Open, move on to AT&T and play San Diego. I won't be playing the Hope this year. There's a good chance I'll play LA, but that's 50/50.
LEE PATTERSON: Thank you, Phil.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys. Let's all have a good new year.
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