October 31, 2000
LEE PATTERSON: Thanks for joining us this afternoon for a wonderful Championship we have this week. Maybe just a couple of thoughts about what you saw on the course today; then we will open it up to questions.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think we all are pretty excited about being back here at Bobby Jones's home course and the history that has been involved here at East Lake. I, for one, have read a couple of his books and it is very interesting for me to be able to look back and understand what holes he was talking about and the golf course he was talking about. I think that this tournament being played here really adds a lot to the event.
Q. Is the setup any different from last time? I know the rough is a little shorter.
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. I tell you what, I was in the rough a few times and I had to wedge out. It doesn't look that bad, but the ball just sits right down in the bottom. You just can't get a club on it. It is a little spotty so you might get lucky a few times and have some decent lies, but there is a lot of wedge-outs too.
Q. I don't know whether many people have talked about it but they say the fairways have been pinched in so much where you guys normally land (inaudible) --
PHIL MICKELSON: They have kept the fairway width about the same throughout, but what is happening is, there will be some pitch and slope that will require us to maybe take a little less club. It is no different than we played two years ago. The fairways are about the same width, so it is really not a surprise. I think that if you can hit -- I plan on hitting quite a few drivers and if I can hit the fairway, I am going to have a lot of short irons in. I should be able to take advantage of those opportunities.
Q. I would imagine the way you putt, you just love these greens.
PHIL MICKELSON: I do like them. I putted well today and the greens are perfect. The ball just holds its line very true. There is a lot of greens that are perfectly manicured, but they are crusty and they -- divots and cleat marks really kick the ball off line. That is not the case here. The ball seems to hold its line very well. I think guys are really going to get it going on the greens this week.
Q. Are you going to Valderama?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am planning on it.
Q. Not 100% yet?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I play really well this week there is an outside chance -- well, if I win this week, I am not going. There you have it. But otherwise, if I don't, then I haven't locked up my position on the money list and I will end up going, but --
Q. Do you have incentives for two?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that that -- I don't think that there is one where two or three makes a difference. I don't think that there is a contractual deal. It is just that I'd like to finish there, finish where I have entered.
Q. Does the event take anything away from it with no Player-of-the-Year up for grabs, money title not up for grabs, everything pretty much decided on and on top of that, it is not the season-ending event? Does it lose a little?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the decision to have a tournament follow THE TOUR Championship was a poor one, yes. For twelve years we have marketed THE TOUR Championship as the end all event of year and to change that I think was not a smart thing to do.
Q. They rectified it after --
PHIL MICKELSON: I believe they have. But I wish they had listened when people spoke up before they made that decision.
Q. How about just from the effect that with everything decided individually, it is pretty much decided, does that change it at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: It doesn't change it. I think that it certainly would have been more -- provided more drama or more interest, but it is still very important event amongst players.
Q. Feel like and All-Star game, though?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I think that the thing I like about THE TOUR Championship is it is set up like a major championship so it has a very special and unique feel to it. The greens are quick. You can see that they are really hardening and firming them up. The rough is high. The fairways are tight. And we play on a traditional golf course with a lot of history to it. I think that that gives this tournament a very special flavor.
Q. Speaking of Player-of-the-Year, with the season that you had, it would have normally been a Player-of-the-Year kind-of-year except for one guy....
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, you don't think I have a chance even if I win this week? Is that what you are saying? (laughs).
Q. Yeah, things are pretty much settled. Do you take any satisfaction away from the year that you had or do you look at what Tiger has accomplished and say: I have got a lot of work to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: Both. I think that I feel as though after having not won last year and having won three times this year and played consistently well this year, I take a lot of positives away from the year. I am really excited about what next year brings and so, I feel like I can improve on that too.
Q. What you were saying about being set up like a major, two years ago some guys thought that was kind of what they didn't want to see in a late season event. It was a little too much of a grind for something that is supposed to kind of a reward --
PHIL MICKELSON: You can never please everyone.
Q. Do you think more guys feel the way you do?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. But I am just telling you how I feel. I haven't polled anybody, but I certainly think that it adds a nice flavor to it. It's a lot different than the week-in, week-out events that we play.
Q. History part really means something to a lot of guys. . .
PHIL MICKELSON: It does. I think that the reason that Augusta National, The Masters is such a unique event is because history is made there ever year. Certainly the U.S. Open is a wonderful event but it doesn't have the tie-in with one particular course. To bring this tournament back here to East Lake where Bobby Jones grew up, where he played all his golf, at such a wonderfully laid out golf course, really adds a lot to the event. If we went and played a modern day track with huge deep bunkers and whole deal, it just wouldn't have the same feel.
Q. Sounds as if you are saying you wouldn't mind this being the permanent home of THE TOUR Championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly wouldn't be opposed to that, but I also think that moving this tournament to other places in the country is important to be able to bring golf to some of the markets that we haven't been able to through regular Tour events. When we were able to go to Tulsa at Southern Hills, I thought that that added -- that was our way of being able to bring the tournament or bring golf, PGA TOUR golf to other markets. And if we can do that in areas like Portland or Seattle or Minneapolis, that would be a real plus, too.
Q. But having a major tournament as this is, very big tournament, at a regular site year in year out, it does --
PHIL MICKELSON: It certainly adds a lot, no question. I am not -- I am not necessarily suggesting that, but I think that it does add a lot to some events, yes.
Q. How about a rotation, they have talked about taking three courses and --
PHIL MICKELSON: That is a cool idea too because the courses that they were talking about were courses like Champions, here, Southern Hills and Olympic. Those were the four that I kept hearing and those were the ones that we seem to play continually. They are awesome sites any one of them are just fabulous. I think they have really done a good job with this tournament. It is one of my favorites to play in the fact that we always play good courses. It is always well maintained and the fact that there is only 30 guys adds really special flavor.
Q. You could probably appreciate this as much as any player, Tiger being second on the money list, he has got a chance to Top-10 million this year in earnings. Did you ever think that kind of figure was achievable?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is cool. I mean, it is really cool and I think what he has done for this sport, I think is a heck of a lot more than the guys that are making 20 plus million a year guaranteed. So for him to make 10 still I feel like he is not getting the value of what he has given to this game.
Q. If you were put in his position where you already won 3 majors and locked up Player-of-the-Year honors all that, would it be difficult to come to a tournament like this even as big as it is and stay mentally focused?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly, but I think that he is always able to create new goals for himself. I think one he has right now is to try get double-digit wins for the year. That would be something special. I think that is something that he is shooting for.
Q. What he has done, you come to a tournament like this, does it motivate you even more?
PHIL MICKELSON: Than what?
Q. Than if he wasn't here, say, he decided I have won everything; I will take the rest of the year off?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that makes really a difference on how I prepare, whether or not he is in the field.
Q. If you got this tournament on those historical courses, moves back to the end of the year, will it have the prestige back to it then or will it require some drama with something at stake like it was originally intended?
PHIL MICKELSON: You make it sound as though it has lost something. I don't feel like it has really lost anything. I just think that some of the uniqueness and the finality to the event has been taken away by the addition of another event. But I don't think that the Championship has lost any importance or uniqueness.
PHIL MICKELSON: Let me say this, I am a real big fan of the World Golf Championships. I really like them. I think I am just going to say that when the tournament moved from La Costa, I was adamantly opposed to that. I felt like that was a huge mistake and when the date was moved to where it was, I was adamantly opposed to that and voiced my opinion without being heard and so we have had a family vacation planned starting the end of December, for a couple of weeks, for quite sometime, I mean, a year or two, so the answer is obviously I am not going to be going. I am going to stay with my family on vacation. The reason why I am so disappointed is because I really wanted to support these tournaments. At the times and places they have been placed just makes it very difficult to.
Q. Get a sense -- Commissioner Finchem admitted earlier this year that was really a mistake in hindsight (inaudible) you also bring up THE TOUR Championship being slotted in front of it. Are they listening to you guys?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. No, because these are the ones I am talking about. The Presidents Cup, South Africa, they have all done things that the U.S. players have adamantly been opposed to, and fallen on deaf ears certainly.
Q. Does that concern you at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. Yeah.
Q. What can you do about it or anything?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know --
Q. Is it a point where you feel like no matter what you say they are not going to listen?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's frustrating. I don't know what I am going to do. It is just frustrating. Because I am a big fan of all those events. I think that they are critical for the expanding of the game and I think that they are all critical to -- I think it is important to take advantage of the momentum that golf has been building worldwide, with what Tiger has done with television ratings and worldwide exposure, and I think that we could have made some better decisions to capitalize on that momentum than some of the things we have done.
Q. Following up, do you feel it is still necessary to take these world golf events around the world?
PHIL MICKELSON: That is an interesting question and it is a difficult one because certainly there is a lot of validity to the fact that or the theory that to make them "World Golf Championships" you have to move them throughout the world. The problem is last year in Spain we had all of 4, 5,000 people come out and watch and the country didn't support it. I mean, you have to bring the tournament to the places that would support it. And it just didn't -- the interest wasn't there. I don't see how the sponsors are going to continue to step to the plate when the television ratings aren't there, the field starts to dwindle and the local -- or the public is not turning out.
Q. Would you say that it could still have a worldwide reach if it were played exclusively in America?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know.
Q. Because of the television, because of the -- you still got everybody in the world playing together if everyone shows up?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't know, that is an interesting question. I really don't know.
Q. A lot of players were upset last year or two years ago about especially the 5th hole, converted par 5, it really wasn't a very fair landing area. Have they improved it?
PHIL MICKELSON: The interesting thing about 5 is that if you hit the fairway, it rolls all the way down in the bottom of the hill. If you don't, it gets caught up in the rough; you are talking about an 80-yard difference. I think that -- I don't think there is anything wrong with that. I just think that it is a critical fairway to hit.
Q. Can you tell supposedly they widened it?
PHIL MICKELSON: They may have. It seemed like it was a -- didn't seem like it was unfair by any means. The width of the fairway, it seemed very reasonable.
Q. Do you have a favorite spot on the course or favorite hole or anything?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think there is one particular area that I favor, no. I like -- I really like all the holes. I think that each one is a very fair test and I like the character of the golf course. I like the bunkering. I like the greens; the softness to the greens. I just really enjoy it. There is a lot of holes that tend to look a lot alike because they parallel each other but even so, I think they are all really solid good holes that emulate one another.
Q. If you and several other players of your stature are voicing your opinion about World Golf Championships, and the Commissioner is making decisions you disagree with, who do you think he is listening to make these decisions?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know.
Q. Just to follow-up on that, it happens on every Tour but the players employ the officials, the people that make the decisions. They are employees of the players. So isn't it strange that the players don't have a strong input?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think so.
Q. You talked earlier about bringing the tournament back here gives it a very special flavor. Being as appreciative as you are about the golf history, what is it like walking through the steps that Bobby Johnson walked?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is a very unique feeling to feel like you are a part of the history of the game. And playing in Ryder Cups playing, in Majors, gives you that sense and walking the grounds here where Bobby Jones grew up gives that you sense. Looking at the house that he grew up living in, and knowing the way he played the golf course, talked about it in his books, and how he shot 32 this particular day when he was 16 and it is cool. It is just a really cool feeling. And I think that as a player to be able to play inside the ropes and play in a championship held on his event is a very unique feeling; that it is something that we will look back on when we are 55, 60 years old looking back on our careers and we will cherish it and think they are special.
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