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May 28, 1996

Phil Mickelson


WES SEELEY: We have Phil Mickelson, the Tour's leading money winner this year and its only three-time winner this year. Welcome.


WES SEELEY: We will start with the status of your game.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I have been looking forward to starting and playing a little bit more. I think, as you might know, I planned on taking the last five weeks off, so I played one week and had a good week in there and then I haven't played until I hit balls Saturday, a few, for about an hour and then Sunday a little bit longer, and I am slowly getting back into it. From here on out, it is pretty much a pretty busy schedule all the way through September, through the Presidents Cup. We have got three Majors and there is really no more than four weeks in between them, three, four weeks, so pretty much back-to-back, so I think all the players are getting ready for a long summer and this is -- it was nice to have some time off before the streak started because I don't really see much after let-up in there until after the Presidents Cup.

Q. How was the practice round?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played the back nine. It is just as it is always has been the last three, four years, real soft. The golf course is playing long, but because the fairways are so soft, they are pretty easy to hit. The greens are soft, so they are pretty easy to hold. I think the scoring will be about the same -- is the same as it has been the last couple of years. I don't want to put a number on what is going to win because you never know with the wind or what have you, and it is supposed to get a little sunny, but you know, I got to figure it is going to be pretty similar to what has been winning, 19 last year, to the year before, what 16, 18 the year before that, so you know, should be about the same.

Q. Phil, you said the rest of the summer is going to be pretty busy for you through September. What you have done already; how much money you have won; three victories, have you set any goals for yourself or reset any goals for yourself this year to maybe do something on this tour that nobody has done before?

PHIL MICKELSON: Actually, my schedule is not -- it is not like I want to play every week. I haven't really thought about it like that trying to do something that has never been done before. I don't really know what that would be.

Q. $2 million?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah that would be pretty cool. (Audience laughter.) Yeah, I haven't really thought about that, actually. My schedule is going to stay pretty much the same, and if anything, it would actually decrease because it has been a lot of fun playing and getting in contention and when I play poorly, I don't want to play. I'd rather take the week off and come back focused and ready to go the following week than to grind out a couple of weeks and have so-so performances. So if anything, my schedule has been lessened in the hopes of playing when I am fresh and getting myself in contention.

Q. What is your schedule? Can you tell us what the tournaments are that you are going to play?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, here, U.S. Open, British Open and PGA and the Presidents Cup, and I will play, after the PGA, the International World Series, and I will probably play the Western and the Memphis, but those aren't set in stone yet.

Q. When you say that when you play poorly you'd rather take a week off, suppose you break up that thing like you did at the Nelson and win, is there any urge to, God, I am on a roll or I am really playing well; I am playing the next week and is it difficult to walk away after you win and just put them away for a couple of weeks?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I understand that side of it and that thinking, but in actuality, after I won, I was ready for two more weeks off and the reason is, it is very difficult in my mind to deal with the -- I don't know what the word would be, but to deal with the whole competition. It is very strenuous, especially when you are in contention and after grinding out a victory. And I felt like it was a grind because it was close, and I was even with 4, 5 holes to go and hung in there. I was ready for some time off. For me to play the following week, I would not have been able to play at that level, I don't believe.

Q. Mentally you need a week off after you played if you are in contention?

PHIL MICKELSON: Right. I believe so, where it is different among players. A lot of players are playing well and they win and they say they have some momentum and they want to carry it over into the next week and they are able to keep that play up, but I feel like it is -- that is not really the type of player that I am as far as, you know, playing three, four weeks in a row at a high level. It is easier for me to play at a high level for one week and then take some time off. So after the Byron Nelson, I was ready for a couple of more weeks off.

Q. Seems like your game now is to the point where you are almost a threat to win every time you tee it up. Do you notice others are looking at you, others in contention, that you are threat to win?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know about that last part, how to answer that last part about if guys are looking at me to win. I don't really think that is the case. I think that players don't really look at who is the guy to beat until after 36 holes. And you know, so it is tough to say that before we tee it up. But I have been in contention a lot more this year than in the last few years, so after 36 holes having an opportunity to win -- I am sure that, you know, I was one of the guys that they were looking at. Not because I have played well in the week or just because I was up on the leader board. No matter who it is, whether it is Jay Williamson, Scott McCarron, you are looking at those guys as the guys to beat. I don't think it is one individual person because he has been playing well and so much as the guys who are up on top of the leader board after 36. Does that kind of answer it all right?

Q. Yeah, obviously the stature of your game now is such that we may never seen Jack or the top domination again but it seems like in 1996 you are as close to that as we have seen again as far as a threat to sort of dominate?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I appreciate that. I am trying.

Q. I mean, do you feel that tension?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I don't feel the tension like that, no. You know, of course this is kind of the first time that I really started getting in contention with some type of regularity too, so that could have something to do with it.

Q. You are one of a lot of guys over the years who have been given that next Nicklaus tag. Here at his tournament, can you talk about when you first started to hear that and how you have dealt with it over the years?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, again, I don't really think of it like that. I haven't really ever thought of it in those terms. I believe that -- well -- basically to answer one part of that, I have never thought about it. But there will never be another Jack Nicklaus. Nowadays, it just -- I just don't see it happening. The way he -- obviously, his record speaks for itself. Just recently I bought a set of old MacGregor woods. I will have a point here in a minute. (AUDIENCE LAUGHTER.) And when I went out and hit them and hit them well, they weren't the same as the clubs of today, but when I missed them, the misses were three times as bad as the miss off my clubs now that I am using. And I believe that the equipment has closed the gap between the better players and the lesser players. I believe that the lesser players now can miss shots to the same degree that a good player is going to miss shots. And I think that Jack Nicklaus and Ben Hogan and Arnold Palmer and Sam Snead, the great players of the past, were able to take -- repeat and swing so well and so precise, that it didn't matter what the miss was like because they just didn't miss shots. But now it doesn't take that skill level to shoot the same scores. And so because of that, I don't believe that we will be able to see it -- a player dominate the way Jack did and really separate himself from the field. So to answer that, you know, again I don't believe there will be another Nicklaus, but it is flattering to have that comparison, I appreciate it.

Q. Can you talk little bit about what it was like the first time you got to play in a group with Jack; how he maybe dealt with you a little bit over the years?

PHIL MICKELSON: We have played together a couple of times. And the one thing that I remember most wasn't the first time we played together, but in the '93 PGA, he was able to lag putt from 40, 50 feet to within a foot and just tap it in and never have to work very hard after his initial putts, and first putt, and I could see that that was a huge asset for him when it came Major time because the greens were so much quicker and he wasn't working on every hole to salvage par. He had a bunch of easy pars throughout that round. That was the biggest thing I feel I got from him game-wise because his patience allowed him to hang in there, hang in there, and just wear his opponents down and win 20 Majors. As far as off the course, he is a guy that, not only myself, but everybody looks up to for all that he has done for the game. And you know, -- I don't know how else to say it. It is an honor again for everybody to play in his tournament and to play a course that he designed in his hometown so this tournament is very special. I hope I answered that about, you know, playing with him and what we got out of it.

Q. What is going right for your game? I notice you are not in the top 10 in the statistical categories in a lot of them, but still you have won more money than anybody on the Tour. I know stats don't always mean everything.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that is -- I don't know how to answer that. I don't know what I have done differently. I don't know how to answer that. It is not like I am an incredibly accurate driver of the ball, but I am not that far off. It is not like I am an incredibly long driver of the ball, but I am not that short. And it's not like I hit every green, but I don't miss too many. It is not like I make everything I look at, but I make enough, so it is just kind of okay, I think, and everything. I don't know how to say it. The one difference that I see in my game from this year as to year's past has been short game. And although people have said that my short game is strong and what have you in the past, it was not as consistent as I expected it to be the last few years and I didn't work on it as hard as I needed to work on it. And although I made a couple of swing changes in the off-season, I feel it has improved my ball-striking. I feel I have worked on my short game, chipping and putting. I had a very poor last year, I feel, last year in putting. I feel like I have putted very well this year and gotten up-and-down on the shots that I miss. Those are things that you don't see statistically. At Tucson, I didn't really hit the ball the best that week, but I didn't miss a putt inside six feet for the first 70 holes, 69 holes and that kept me in it. But that is something that you are not going to see statistically because they are getting up and downs or saving 2-putts or what have you. So anyway, I think that kind of answers that, but a short game has been the biggest difference, and you don't have stats for that, really.

Q. You mentioned that you haven't really thought about resetting goals. What were your goals starting this season? What did you want to do?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, let me say that the goals are kind of personal, so as far as specific victories or what have you, I'd rather not say. But I have been working on just kind of the overall game and felt like if I could get myself in contention, to play Thursday, Friday stronger, I believe that I would play well on the weekends. And that was something I have not done in the past, get myself in contention after the first two rounds, so that has been really my goal as far as competitively. What I am trying to do is just play Thursday Friday a lot tougher.

Q. Personal goals that you won't divulge, have you met them or not?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I don't know. (Mickelson winking)

Q. Could you talk about what you will do the week before the Open? I assume you won't put the sticks in the closet. What will your preparation be for Oakland Hills and have you played there and just a couple of impressions of the golf course?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't played there. I have the '85 tape. I played it when I was 15 and watched it ever since and have a decent idea of the movement of the holes and so forth. The grasses are very similar to here, so I am going to spend a lot of time chipping and putting around here on the greens here. We have the best practice facilities on Tour here at Muirfield, and I plan on -- the reason I didn't play too much was I wanted to be fresh and give myself a two-week span and to work on my game and improve it. And I felt like it would be more beneficial to start at Memorial, here at Muirfield where the grass and the course are going to be very similar. I didn't want to do it necessarily in Arizona where I am hitting off Bermuda fairways and rough, because it is not the same. So basically, the next two weeks I will be working on it. I will be back in Arizona next week, though, so that is why I want to get my short game down this week and work on ball-striking next week.

Q. Just general impressions of that golf course?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't seen it. I haven't played it yet. It seems like it is a regular Open course and if not, a little tougher -- I mean the monster in '51, and although it played a little bit easier in '61 -- is that when Littler -- yeah, who did he beat? He beat Souchak, did he not? Anyway, it was a little bit tougher in '51 and I expect the fairways to be tight; the roughs to be long; the greens to be hard. If the weather is the same as this, as it is here, it will be a little bit softer; play a little bit longer, but the greens will be a lot easier to get up-and-down. '58 it rained quite a bit last couple of days so I think it is just going to be a regular Open course in that it is going to be thick rough; you have got to hit fairways, and it will be different than Shinnecock because I don't expect it to be too windy.

Q. Ryder Cup last September played so well; go 3 and 0. Did that have anything to do with the big confidence boost coming into this year and getting off to a super start?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would say that it did in that the whole Ryder Cup experience was a very difficult one -- the whole Ryder Cup experience has been -- it was a very trying time; very difficult week. There was a lot of anxiety and pressure upon all the players and I felt like going 3 and 0, I felt like I dealt with it pretty well that week and when I participated in a regular Tour event or a Major, even The Masters, it wasn't -- it didn't seem as overwhelming as it had in the past, and so I feel like trying to deal with the whole Ryder Cup experience has made playing it and being in contention at other tournaments not as difficult or not as overwhelming - would probably be a better word - and I think that is a big reason why I have been playing well this year.

Q. You mentioned that you taped the '85 Open. Do you have like a library of tapes of former tournaments?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I used to tape all the tournaments and then I would watch them when I got home on the weekend from playing golf weather it was just a regular Tour event or the Open. That happens to be one that I saved for no other reason than it was just kind of a cool tournament. I don't really have a library to answer that, because I tended to tape over them all.

Q. I am intrigued, though, about '85. What can you pick up from, you know, a tape that almost looks black and white almost from '85 Oakland Hills to apply your game this time around?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when I was watching obviously in '85 I never -- I wasn't thinking about how I was going to play the course in 1996 because I didn't know it was going to be a tournament; I didn't know I would be on Tour, what have you, but as I think back to the golf course and the way it played, it seemed like it was very difficult to get up-and-down from off the green. It seemed like it was easier to have a 50-footer double triple breaking putt down hill than to try an get up-and-down out of the rough. So with that, the greens weren't that small there and I felt like they were -- they would be decent size or fairly easy to hit. I don't want to say easy to hit, but hittable. And I think it would be a better play to hit the greens somewhere than to try and get close to a pin and short side yourself and have is a difficult chip. It seemed like the pins would be on little small plateaus and there would be little fall-aways, 17, the par 3 it seemed like the back right pin kind of was on a top tier, I believe -- it was either back right or back left. There was a huge fall-off, and if you missed the green, it was hard to get it up on the proper tier, so it would be easier to just hit it on the bottom of the tier off the tee and try and 2-putt, you know, so that is what my point is, it would be smarter to hit the greens, hit the fat part of the green, short side yourself.

Q. When you were growing up, Phil, was Jack Nicklaus somebody whose game that you surveyed and watched or were there other players who influenced you more as you grew up?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it -- I used to like to enjoy watching a lot of different players and different aspects of each player's game and obviously the thing that amazed me about Mr. Nicklaus is how he was always in contention in the Majors and how he would just play on Sunday. I mean, the 1982 Open even though the though Watson won, Jack played a great round to get back in there; even the British Open; at Muirfield where he lost to Trevino, but he shot like 65, 66 or something on the weekends just to have a shot, it seemed like he was always in there. That consistency is what has impressed me. Obviously, in 1980 he had a great year and he played for some phenomenal golf at Baltusrol. I guess what I am saying, there is not necessarily one particular area because I wasn't -- I wasn't really born when he was dominating them off the tee and just blowing it by everybody. What I saw was how he would wear down his competition. There were other players from there on that I have enjoyed watching them Seve Ballesteros and his imagination, although he is having a tough time right now, he is one of the most creative players that the game has seen. A guy like Norman who is really a great ball-striker. There is a difference between his ball flight than other players. It starts out straight and, if anything, it falls a little bit right and he can really control which way it falls,; whereas, a lot of other players have kind of the ball starting off rounding. If you watch him hit balls, than any other player on Tour, you can really see the difference. So that is another area that I have enjoyed watching about you know, Greg Norman, but Ben Crenshaw the way he rolls it. Everybody likes watching him putt. I guess what I am saying, there hasn't been one player that I just thought was it. There has been certain parts of many players that I have really enjoyed watching.

Q. You mentioned all the work that you have put in on your short game to make it more consistent. What problems has this course given you in the past and what do you think you are better able now to play here than you have been?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really remember what problems I have had in the past other than just not shooting very low - that is probably the biggest difference.

Q. What are the demands that this course makes on your game?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it is hard to say other than you just need to take advantage of the birdie holes. There is a lot of holes out here that are long and difficult, but to have a good birdie opportunity, you need to be patient on those, but there are also some like 15 that you really need to capitalize on and I think I just haven't taken advantage of those holes well enough or have been patient. I have made a lot of mistakes that has hurt.

Q. Given the fourth at Baltusrol and the finish at Augusta, have you now paid enough dues that you are mentally physically ready to win a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I hope so. I have been trying. I have been trying hard, and you know, it is not that -- I don't know how to say it. But I believe that it will eventually happen. I believe that if I keep putting myself in that position I will eventually break through. It is not like it is to a point where I am pressing or worried about it. I have had a number of opportunities now, but I just haven't capitalized on them. It is not like I was leading the tournament, but it was a point where if I shot 65 or of the last day I could win and I just haven't shot that number yet. So I guess you know, I don't know -- I guess that kind of answered it.

Q. Phil, you have answered three or four questions about Jack Nicklaus and being the next Jack Nicklaus you said that is flattering. Can you believe that and how much, if any, pressure does that put on you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, again, I just don't think about it. Let me try and do the comparison: Before age 26, I have got 8 victories, and he had 25, so there is really not much of a comparison. And then there is even less of a comparison when you factor in that I have got the second most of anybody under 26, so if you can't -- you know, the next best isn't even comparable to him, you know what I mean? He has more than three times what I have got, so.....

Q. You just blow off --

PHIL MICKELSON: It is not realistic. What he has done is overwhelming and you just can't compare anybody else to him.

Q. Did you buy those MacGregors just on a lark to see what it is like?

PHIL MICKELSON: I like old classic lefthanded clubs. They are difficult to come by. When I was growing up and wanting to play those clubs, I just never found them. They are just great looking clubs. I have tried to use them. I would love to be able to use them, but the misses are just too great and I just haven't been able to put them in my bag.

Q. You don't still refer to Jack as Mr. Nicklaus; do you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh. You know, I don't know, sometimes, obviously, the man deserves respect, but I feel like we have played together a few times and after a few holes I will be able to call him something else.

Q. Where did you buy those clubs?

PHIL MICKELSON: A classic collector. Actually, he is from around here. Last name is Ianni, I believe. He is out here this week. He is going to have like a classic club display at his hotel room around here somewhere.

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