October 23, 1996
LEE PATTERSON: Any questions you may have for Mr. Mickelson today?
Q. Phil, your quest for Player-of-the-Year, is that on your mind this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yeah, obviously it's on quite a few players' minds, as well as the money title. And because this tournament is such a big purse, obviously a big first place, there are a number of guys who are in a position to win the money title.
Q. I think 16 players were here last year. How big an advantage is that, do you see?
PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean 16 players were here?
Q. Qualified for THE TOUR Championship, they qualified for this.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, again?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it's a huge factor, but having been able to play the course in '94 and '95, in the '94 PGA and '95 here allows the player to be a little more accustomed to the course, if you will. But I think it's a pretty straightforward test of golf, and even if a player hasn't been here or played here before, it's pretty easy to pick up on how you play it.
Q. How do you feel your game suits this course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know how to answer that. I like the golf course a lot and I played well here in '94 but I didn't play great here last year. So I guess it could go either way. But I do like the course and I think that it puts emphasis on ball-striking, but around the greens I really like it because they let the rough grow just a little bit and the ball tends to sit down. And it's difficult to judge how the ball is going to come out. But I grew up on very similar grass in my backyard, so I feel like I have a decent idea of how the ball is going to react off the face. So I like my chances around the greens here, but obviously, if I'm going to win, I'm going to need to be hitting a lot of greens and making some birdies. But if I do happen to miss a few greens I feel I can get up-and-down.
Q. Obviously the money title being kind of black and white on total numbers, as far as Player-of-the-Year that can be a value judgment. How do you see yourself in that race and how do you see what criteria people will use to select that once it's over as far as majors and non-majors, et cetera?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there's two ways those are going to be injured, because they have two different Players-of-the-Year, the PGA of America and the PGA TOUR. And the PGA TOUR is a voting thing, it's how the players feel or who they believe had the best year. So there's really nothing that can be done concrete to insure yourself of winning that one. You just need to have a good year. But in the PGA of America race, it's going to come down to the money title, basically, because the separation between myself and Mark Brooks is purely on the money list, the two point differential there. So that's going to be -- I believe that's going to be the difference in the PGA of America Player-of-the-Year. As far as the PGA TOUR, I just -- I feel like -- well, I don't know, that's abstract. It's hard for me to see a third player in there, even if a third --
Q. Even if they won here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I'm trying to see how -- I feel like the only reason I have a chance of surpassing Mark Brooks is because I've won four times instead of three. But one of his three is a major. So it's hard for me to see a third player win it with only three wins and not -- and one of them not be in a major, but obviously that can't happen, because Nick, Steve Jones, Nick Faldo, Steve Jones and Tom Lehman only have one victory, so even if they won, they wouldn't have the three victories. So to catch up with Mark Brooks.
Q. What about a player who perhaps has his third victory in four weeks?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think Rookie-of-the-Year is pretty well a lock. (Laughter.) As long as he's applied to a membership - I don't know if he has done that. He has now? So, I think that's a lock. But I think Player-of-the-Year is different than Player-of-the-Month, you know? And perhaps if he turned pro in January, perhaps he would be in the running. I guess that would be three wins for him. But, again, one of them is not a major. But I think he's got, what, Player-of-October or September,, it's kind of in between. But I think he's got a lock on that, too.
Q. Have you been surprised by Tiger Woods' performance, the way he's played over the two months?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he is -- obviously he's played exceptional. He's earned the respect of all the players. And obviously he had great credentials coming out and so forth, but a lot of the players felt that he hadn't proven himself at the PGA TOUR level and he has more than done that in a matter of seven weeks.
Q. Did you have the same feeling when you came out that you had to kind of prove yourself to these guys, even though you had credentials also?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I did. And I have felt that way for a while until this year. This has really been the first year where I've felt like I've played close to where I should be playing. And so in my mind it's taken me a while to really prove myself on this level. And it seems to me that whether it's me or whether it's Tiger or whether it's any other player, it's a constant proving process, that if I have a so-so couple of months, I feel like I need to reprove myself. Your self esteem or your confidence level constantly fluctuates in this game, it constantly goes up-and-down.
Q. So even if you have like a bad two or three months you feel like you've got to come back and show them again?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. I had a good west coast this year and I won a couple of times and yet the two cuts I missed this year came fairly close together and then I missed the LA and the Bay Hill cuts. And I felt like after those two poor performances I felt like I needed to prove myself again. So every player feels like he needs to keep proving himself. My point that I was trying to get back to, two things, even though I've had a good year this year, next year I still need to prove that I can continue playing at that level. It's going to be a difficult challenge having an equal or better year than I did this year. And the same thing for Tiger Woods. He's played excellent for the pass six or seven weeks and yet he's going to find himself - even though he's already proven to every player, as well as himself - that he is deserving of everything that has been credited to him, he's going to still feel like he wants to keep proving himself. And it's something that every player goes through. I guess the old saying of "you're only as good as your last performance" is something that a lot of the players feel or at least I do.
Q. Is that pressure, Phil? Because you came on the TOUR with everybody expecting you to be as you've proved to be? Is that pressure for you and is that pressure for Tiger, extra pressure?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know if I would say it's extra pressure. I think it's just higher expectations. I don't think that -- pressure comes along with expectations. It's just because of the performance he's given, players are going to -- players as well as fans and spectators, media, have higher expectations of him.
Q. You mentioned that your confidence fluctuates throughout the year. Where are you now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've played well recently and I haven't played that much, but I had a really good stretch there in August for a while, ending in a victory at the World Series. So I still feel or have a lot of confidence. My last performance was a top-ten finish, even though I really didn't have a great chance to win, I kind of snuck in the top ten and then our team won the Dunhill Cup and so forth. So confidence-wise I feel good about myself, about the game. But again every week is kind of a new test, and it's going to be -- it's a challenge. So just because I have confidence doesn't mean I'm going to play well.
Q. Especially when you've got 29 other guys that are --
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I will say that I'm looking forward to this week, and I feel that as though I've put myself in a position money also wise and so forth, that if I play well, if I play well and have a good tournament and play smart, I don't believe -- I feel I can put myself in a position that players won't be able to pass me. There are only -- everybody has to win, except Mark Brooks, to pass me. And yet even if they do win, if I have a good tournament it still won't be enough. So what I'm trying to do is not really worry about other players and take the game that I've had, follow the pass few months, and really grind it out this week.
Q. Everyone's been talking about their fathers. We were on teleconference talking with Johnny Miller about how important his father is. Can you talk a little bit about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the one thing that I keep thinking about my dad or that I appreciate most about what my father has done is that he never pushed me. He never said, you need to go practice, you need to do this, you have to do that. But yet he always had the opportunity -- the opportunity was always there for me to play and practice. If I needed to go to the golf course, my mom or dad was always there to take me. What turned me on to the game was how much I enjoyed playing in the afternoons with my father. We would go out to a lot of the local public courses or what have you, and we would play together. And I loved that so much that it kept my interest and drive for the game high and I always wanted to practice, whether it was to beat him or just to play with him or whatever, because I loved playing with my dad so much it kept my interest in the game always high.
Q. You talk about this season, meeting expectations. Where did the breakthrough come, do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, last year in November, December I was kind of reflecting back on the way the last couple of years had gone and I wasn't really pleased with the way I had performed. I hadn't performed consistently enough and I hadn't won enough. And so I've made a conscious effort this year to practice and work harder on my game before and after the round, in practice rounds, in my off time. And it was important for me to have the results that I've had because if you put that extra time and effort in and you don't see the results, it gets very discouraging. But it's been very encouraging because the harder I've worked, the better I've played. And because I've won some tournaments, had opportunities to win others, it makes me want to practice harder, even, even more.
Q. So it's simply practice; it's not your approach each day, like going for more pins, that kind of thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the difference in approach was trying to focus harder or play harder on Thursday and Friday. I had had a lot of success on the weekends when I would be in contention, but I wasn't putting myself in contention enough times, heading into the weekend. So my approach for Thursday and Friday was to be patient and play smart, not try and necessarily lead, but make sure that I didn't give the tournament away in the first couple of rounds. And because I've done that fairly effectively it's given me a lot more opportunities to win tournaments.
Q. Can you point to one part of the game where the hard work has paid off most?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think ball-striking is probably the biggest area. I've been driving the ball a lot better. I believe, now I'm not sure statistically, but I believe my accuracy is up as well as my distance off the tee. That's been a big factor. I'm not sure how the greens and regulations are. The one area that I haven't spent as much time in and probably shows statistically is I haven't spent enough time on the greens putting, because I've been more worried about subtle changes in my swing, trying to develop a more boring driving trajectory that is more consistent day in and day out. Yet the tournaments that I've won have been because I've putted well. So I think the -- anyway, I think the ball-striking is the area that's improved the most.
Q. Well, what are you doing the rest of the year after this?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm done after this week.
Q. Totally done?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I've got a little over two months off, I'll be back at LaCosta.
Q. Are you getting married?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm getting married and we just bought a new house and we'll be moving into that after the honeymoon. That will be time consuming, and I'm going to be getting my instrument rating for flying and that's going to be two or three weeks of straight days.
Q. When do you do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm going to do it a little bit before, but primarily after we get married. So probably the first couple of weeks in December is when I'll be spending most of my time.
Q. Is November the wedding?
PHIL MICKELSON: Middle of November.
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