June 12, 1996
BLOOMFIELD HILLS, MICHIGAN
LES UNGER: Another gentleman who has come in from the rain, Phil Mickelson. How about letting us know what your last couple of hours have been like and then we will get into golf.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I am a little disappointed with the rain as everybody is. This golf course just isn't playing the way that they had expected it to play. And with the greens being soft and slower, it is going -- it is just not playing as difficult as it should. When these greens are hard because of all the hills and swells and so forth throughout, they are very difficult, difficult not only to hit the ball close, but just to hit it. Difficult to hold. And now because of the rain, they are so soft that the ball just sticks there and they are not very difficult to hit and it is not very hard to get them close. The toughest part of the course is the rough being so thick.
LES UNGER: Questions for Phil.
Q. Phil, how are you hitting your driver and what do you think this is going to do to your chances?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when the fairways are soft like this the fairways are a lot easier to hit, because the ball just sticks there. It doesn't release on through and run into the rough. I, as well as all the other players in the field, have been working on driving the ball; trying to hit fairways; driving it accurately, so you know, I won't really know until the real test, starts tomorrow, but again, you know I have been working on them, but so has everybody else.
Q. What does this rain do for your chances? Does it enhance them or does it bring too many other people to the equation or what do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really don't know. I really don't know what the score is going to be like, the rough is so difficult I don't know if that is going to offset for the softness of the fairways and greens. And it is very difficult to make putts on the greens because of all the little swells and different breaks, but with them being wetter and slower than in the past, I would think scores will be pretty low. I don't know how that equates for my chances or what, but it is the same for everybody.
Q. Can you reflect back a little bit on your playoff in Phoenix; how well you played the clutch putts you made down the stretch there and what that tournament - winning the second of those two in a row did for the year that you have been having, the impact of that stretch at the end of that tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was an exciting finish to the event and at the time I wasn't really aware of what was -- or how it looked or how exciting a competition it actually was, because when I am participating it I don't think about that. I just know that I have to make this putt or I have to get this ball up-and-down to have any chance to win, and I was just able to find a way to get a couple of putts to drop and keep me in the tournament until I was able to win on the third extra hole of the playoff. It was special to me, not because it was two tournaments in a row, but it was special to me because I had wanted to win the Phoenix Open very badly; especially because I live there and I wanted to stand on that 16th hole and hear that gallery. I thought that that is something that we don't experience anywhere else on Tour. That is a very unique crowd and gallery. It was very exciting and a lot of fun to hear the people get excited during that tournament and they were extremely loud.
Q. Where on the course were you when the rain came and what about the conditions, what effect will it have on the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, what I was trying to say earlier is that because of the rain, the course is playing a lot easier. The rough is difficult because it is long and it is wet, but because the fairways are softer and the greens are soft; the scores are going to be a lot lower. I don't know what that is going to be. I don't know what would be a good number. It is kind of hard for me to tell. But it doesn't really matter because everybody is playing the same course, and it is the same for everybody.
Q. Phil, the chipping areas, do you see that opening up an advantage to other players or would you prefer to see just long rough around the greens, with your short game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I noticed that they did kind of shave or mow some areas behind some greens for chipping areas. I don't really know how that helps or doesn't help anybody. I think that it gives a player an opportunity to get up-and-down as opposed to having it being a crap shoot from out of the rough. No matter how good your short game is, when you get in rough this thick, it is guesswork as to how the ball is going to come out. So it gives everybody an advantage or an opportunity to get up-and-down after a poorly struck shot. Does that do it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Okay.
Q. Given the weather conditions and if it continues, your thoughts about the first round, should it be delayed, how will that affect your mental preparation in a U.S. Open having to think about a delay?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am expecting delay. I don't expect to play in this type of condition. I think that I would be -- I, as well the other players, would be disappointed with lift, clean and place in a National Championship and I believe that the tournament should go all the way through next week if necessary. I think -- there is no reason we shouldn't be playing Monday or Tuesday if possible or if the conditions will be better. I think that is how big this tournament is, and I don't think that we should settle for anything less. I don't think we should decide a national champion on compromising the state of the game, by that, I mean lift, clean and place or putting pins in high positions just because it is dry and not making it the most difficult position, just stuff like that.
Q. When you pull off some of the amazing shots, the iron on 18 at The Masters, the flap shot over your back; some of the other flap shots you pulled off. Does that even amaze yourself or do you have so much confidence? Follow-up to that, how does that imagination and especially around the greens help you here at Oakland Hills?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, unfortunately those shots aren't going to help me too much out here because if I have to hit them, I am not putting myself in the right position. But I do have to -- I can't say that it surprises me that I hit those shots because otherwise I am not visualizing it before I strike it. So those shots I believe that I can hit, although they were very difficult and there wasn't much margin for error, so -- but again, I don't think that if I am hitting those shots, I am putting myself in contention or in the right spots so that I am in contention.
Q. Do you spend much time or have you spent much time replaying Shinnecock in your mind?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really haven't. It was a disappointing end for me. I felt that I had a good chance all week and I had played well all week and I was very patient and one hole I played poorly for four rounds and it ended up costing me the Championship. Because of that, I don't really think about it too much. Plus it was a very unique Championship. It is very different than National Opens or U.S. Opens, tend to be in that we play conditions that were more comparable to a British Open, windy, open areas in front of the greens, so you can play some run-up shots and very windy and the greens were a little different as well. But you take that course and then you compare it to this course and you can see a huge difference how here, the greens are closed up front, so you have to carry the ball onto the green. It is very wet. There is not much wind. There is more trees and so forth, so there is a big difference, so I haven't really thought about it too much.
Q. You said recently that your putting and short game has improved dramatically this year than first couple of years on Tour. You said it is something physical you did this year or something mental you did?
PHIL MICKELSON: When I came out on Tour, I had a lot of confidence in my short game because that I didn't practice it very much. I worked more on ball-striking and last year I lost a lot of confidence in my short game; the last couple of years, I had slowly lost a lot of confidence in it. I decided to practice more. I thought a lot more about my short game and worked on it more. I think it is more time spent on it, but it has come around quite a bit to the point where I have a lot more confidence in it and I have been getting up-and-down more consistently.
Q. So much is made of experience. Do you feel you have sufficient experience to win your first major A., and B., do you feel the clock running a little bit, you are only 25, still people are expecting you to win? Do you expect to win?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is not so much that I feel the clock is running. I do feel like I have given myself a lot of opportunities to win some tournaments and I haven't capitalized on it, and I am not -- I wouldn't say that there is a rush, but there is a greater expectation to win one. And I have had a lot of opportunities and to answer your first question because I have had those opportunities, I feel like the time is close, but again, to win a major championship it takes a lot of patience over 72 holes because you just can't force birdies on these style of golf courses and the way that they are set up for Majors. So, if I were trying to force a win or rush a win, I would be really putting myself back a few steps, so I am trying not to think that way. I am trying to be more patient just as I would want to be or play throughout the round. Because as you approach each individual hole, you just cannot think about making a birdie after, you know, get your par first and if the birdie opportunity is there, then take advantage of it, so, any way......
Q. Could you compare the pressure, say, at like your last day singles matches at Oak Hill versus say being in contention at Augusta or Shinnecock?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how I can compare them. Let me say it this way. After playing in the Ryder Cup and after having to deal with the pressure on and off the course of the Ryder Cup, being in contention at The Masters wasn't nearly as overwhelming as it had been the prior year. So you know, I guess -- I don't know how you want to take that.
Q. What do you think about the importance of U.S. Open, what does it mean to you and can you rank the order of importance of the Majors in your mind?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. It is difficult to rank the Majors. They are all kind of the same.
Q. Can you talk a little bit about why you played the Nelson, you were in the middle of a vacation, what prompted you to play? How big of a surprise was it that you won?
PHIL MICKELSON: I had not taken an off-season this past December and because of that I was pretty tired and I was looking forward to having a five-week stretch of not doing anything and I had missed last year's Nelson because my fiancee, Amy's, graduation and I told him that I would do everything possible to make it this year and he wrote me a kind letter just prior to the event a few weeks before, and I just -- I just couldn't say no to a legend like that who has done so much for the game of golf. So I showed up. I had not touched a club 'til Sunday before the tournament. Hit a few shots and just kind of it worked on it a little bit, but I hadn't played for a while so it was a lot of fun practicing. I really enjoyed hitting the ball after the rounds; working on my putting, and I just was able to shoot a good score that week and it was one of those weeks where I don't feel like I played exceptionally well, but nobody really had an unbelievable week like Ernie Els did last week. You know, the guys who finished second, they all played great. They all were in contention to win. Had there not been a player run away with it like Ernie did, and that just didn't happen the week of the Nelson so I was very fortunate.
LES UNGER: Phil, thanks a lot. Good luck.
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