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August 13, 2002

Phil Mickelson


JULIUS MASON: Phil Mickelson, ladies and gentlemen, joining us at the 84th PGA Championship. Phil, welcome to the Twin Cities.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you, and I apologize for being late. As I think you've been explained, we had a Ryder Cup meeting where we played together at nine o'clock. I had originally planned on playing at eight, but I appreciate your understanding.

JULIUS MASON: Your thoughts on the course and we'll go to questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: The course is wonderful. I'm sure you heard rave reviews from everyone. It's a tremendous setup. Not only is it a wonderful golf course, but set up perfectly for this event. It's got challenging rough, but it's what I would call fair rough. You can sometimes get a lie where you can advance it, and the greens are rolling perfect and fast. The golf course is very challenging and very playable. It's really a fun test for a major championship.

Q. How do you feel about your game? At the British, you said you were not completely comfortable, and the past few weeks, you probably wished you had played better in Denver and the Buick?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I did not play the best at the British Open, as was pretty obvious. When I go over there, I sometimes develop some swing habits that are not the best, trying to keep the ball down with the wind. At The INTERNATIONAL, I really had not worked them out yet. I spent a bunch of time with Rick Smith last week, which is where he's from, and as the week progressed, I felt like I was hitting more and more good shots. I was pleased with a number of good shots I hit last week, making a number of birdies, but also my misses were bigger, making a number of bogeys. So, my swing is starting to settle in and I'm feeling comfortable and the misses are starting to be minimized. So I feel like this golf course, and the way I'm playing, should set up well. Hopefully, I'll be in contention on Sunday.

Q. You've won twice this year, second and third in two of the majors. Will this be a disappointing year if you do not win a major championship here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it would be wrong to put the whole outlook of a year based on four tournaments. Now, I've been trying to win major championships for a number of years, and if I had looked at a year on that premise, then it would be a very disappointing career. I don't look at it that way. Now, I certainly would very much love to win this tournament. I've played well in PGA Championships and I value what the PGA Championship means to the game of golf and would love to win it. I think to have a truly great year, I would need to win here. But I wouldn't look upon the year as being a disappointment, because I feel like my game has progressed. I feel like I've won twice already, and I've started to -- I've continued to play at a consistent level, which was my goal two years ago, to try to get in contention more regularly. So I would not look at it as a disappointment, as much as a stepping stone to the future. I do feel as though my game is ready and I feel as though I'm ready to come out on top, finally, in one of these tournaments.

Q. Tiger said he did not expect to use driver too often on this golf course and Sergio said he would hit his quite often. Where do you fall, on using the driver out here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, probably somewhere in between. I think a lot of it will -- what holes I use driver on will depend on the wind conditions. For the most part, I expect to hit it a fair amount of the time. I don't see any real short irons. The 14th hole is probably a 2-iron, but otherwise, it's probably a driver or a 3-wood for me, throughout the course. I understand what Tiger is saying. As long as he hits the ball, he's hitting it to a spot where the fairways are starting to angle off into the rough, so he's hitting into a much tighter fairway, but you can hit it up to about 310 yards here and have it be on a level spot or in the middle of fairway and not catch those angles that he's talking about. I think that's probably just a 3-wood for Tiger.

Q. You said you appreciate what this tournament means to golf. Can you try and put into words exactly what it is, especially in relation to the other three majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's tough to do. But I think that this tournament holds a special place for all professionals, not just touring professionals. Everybody that is a professional golfer has an opportunity to play in this tournament through the Club Pro Championship and through good play. So I think this tournament not only has the great history behind it, but has the support, as well as it supports the professionals. It has a support from the professionals and it also supports the professionals through the revenues generated, it helps to promote the game of golf through PGA of America avenues with, obviously, the apprentice program, the countless annual meetings that they have, the seminars that they give, as well as the First Tee donations that this tournament generates, a number of dollars that helps promote the game of golf, via the professional golfers.

Q. Tiger talked about, in 2000, on 17, his hand was shaking from nerves when he put his tee in. How big a part do nerves play in a major, especially on Sunday?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that everybody feels nerves to an extent, and I think that that is the cool feeling. That's the cool part of playing competitive golf, and playing in the big tournaments, the major championships. I think that some players use it as a benefit to help them play better, to help them focus better and see things more clearly. I think other players feel that it's a hindrance, so that it's on obstacle to overcome. I actually enjoy it. I enjoy that feeling. I look forward to it and that's why I enjoy being in contention in big tournaments. Now, it is much easier to deal with finishing second or third in a major after having a chance to win, than it is to never have any chance to win and not feeling that emotion, those butterflies or that nervousness that you call it, and I think that that certainly plays a part in the competition. But some players, I think that it helps them perform better and some people, I feel it becomes an obstacle.

Q. This tournament's history is having a lot of first-time winners and a lot of competitive championships with a lot of people involved in it. What is it, whether it's strength of field or setup, what is it about this championship that lends itself to that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't know really what to say. I would say that each major seems to have a certain identifying factor. The Masters is identified with length. The U.S. Open is identified with accuracy and penalizing rough and the British Open is identified with howling winds. I think the PGA Championship has tried to incorporate a very fair test. They have tried to incorporate all elements of the game at the venues that they have chosen and the setups they have chosen. Meaning they try to take driver out of your hand. They try to have rough be difficult, but still playable. Length is a factor, but accuracy is a big factor. Wind tends to be an element in the courses they play in, not as strong as the British Open, but we have wind coming off Lake Hazeltine, coming off 16, making the hole very difficult. So, I think the PGA tries to identify a more complete player, and that is why players value this tournament. I don't know why this would lead to a tournament that would be the first major for many players. I don't know why that is; but I do feel that it identifies a very complete player.

Q. How does the field of the PGA Championship compare to the other majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: As far as what, as far as the golf course or the atmosphere or the people?

JULIUS MASON: The strength of field is the question.

PHIL MICKELSON: The strength of field seems to be pretty comparable with every other major championship. The criteria for getting in lends itself to having been in the top players playing, and also, all of the players that are playing well in the field. It also has 25 spots open for players that don't normally play the PGA TOUR. But the U.S. Open and British Open have open qualifying, and their criteria does not seem to get as many of the top 50, top 75 guys into the field the way the PGA Championship does, and obviously, the Masters is more of an Invitational and they try to make sure they have 80 of the top players in the field. So I think all four majors try to have 50 to 80 of the best players and I think that's what makes it a strong field for all four majors. I don't feel that one weighs heavier or less than the other. The last couple of years, we seem to have equalized or strengthened each field via the World Ranking system.

Q. After last year, when you shot a lower score than anyone had ever shot in a major and lost by one to a guy who made a hole-in-one on a 240-yard hole, did you have to fight off any feelings of "What more do I have to do to win one of these things?"

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't. I think that it would have been more frustrating had I not had a chance to win. I felt like I played very well that week and I felt like although I didn't beat every single player in the field, I played to a level that I need to play at to win a major championship. Certainly, it was disappointing not to have won, but it would have been much more frustrating had I not had a chance to.

Q. No one has really commented on the par 3s. They are not particularly long. Any comments about any of them?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's interesting. You're right, they are not very long, but they are very difficult, and strategic placement of water on both par 3s on the back side make them very difficult. The front side, as well as No. 8 on the front side -- so it seems like they can really bite you if you're not careful. The greens are not that big. They feel much smaller than they really are. The 17th hole has that bowl affect, much like 16 at Augusta and will pull the ball down to the bottom. It's very difficult to get it close and make birdie. When they put the pin on No. 8, close to the water, it's very difficult to get birdie and there's not much room to bail out and have an easy putt. You'll end up in the bunker. I think they are very difficult. They are holes that really just want to make 3 and move on. They are really not holes that you are looking to attack and make birdies. Now, there are probably one or two pin placements on each one over the four days that will lend itself to birdies and we'll see that happen. But for the most part, they are holes that you want to hit it to the middle of the green and walk away with three.

Q. I would imagine that at the start of the year, that you get to Augusta, you have all four majors ahead of you; there's a good bit of excitement. How is the feeling different when you get to the last major of the year and you still have not won?

PHIL MICKELSON: For me, personally, or just in general?

Q. You, personally.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the feeling is that at Augusta, you are trying to get your game sharp, hopefully contend. You know you have something to fall back on. It's almost like best ball, playing best ball. You know that you don't make birdie, your partner still may. You may win one of the last couple. The PGA Championship, you don't have that feeling. The thought process is going in to give every ounce of energy to performing the best you can this week, or the best I can this week. And knowing that the year is pretty much over, I'll have plenty of time to rest and get ready for next year. It's like the last mile in a marathon, you really try to push yourself hard to get all you can out of your game for this one particular week.

Q. Is there anymore pressure on yourself now than there was in April?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that there is more pressure because the feeling in each major seems to be the same. I wouldn't say that there's more pressure. I would just say that there's a long time between majors now and this is where you want to put all your energy.

Q. Arguably, you played the best of your career the last two years. Is it frustrating that you have not been able to break through and win a major; and the second part, this course here at Hazeltine, what is comparable to all of the courses you've played in your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: The first part I felt I answered a little bit more so by saying it would be more frustrating had I not had chances to win. So, although I have not won last two years, giving myself a number of opportunities to win majors, as well as regular tour events, is much less frustrating than had I not. This golf course is starting to remind me a lot of Medinah. The trees and the bunkering and the greens are shaping up to be very similar to Medinah, I feel. This has turned into an incredible golf course. In 1970 when it received a lot of criticism, the trees had not been planted and over the past 32 years, has matured into one of the best golf courses in the country. I would say that Medinah is certainly up there as well, and there are glimpses of the same, with the water and trees on No. 16, much like Medinah has on a few holes. The movement of the dog-legs and the bunkers seem to be similar style, as well as the green shapes. It seems to have a lot of the same feel to Medinah, to me, personally.

Q. You had a chance to play four rounds here in '91, make the cut and played well as an amateur. Is that experience going to help you at all this week, looking back on it, and how much different is the philosophy of playing golf in a major as pro versus an amateur? Do the experiences outweigh one another? Are they similar or are they vastly different?

PHIL MICKELSON: The expectations from amateur to pro are great, not just with yourself, but the public once you put that status after your name, professional after your name, being the expectations increase. So, when I played here as an amateur, no one expected me to play well or make the cut, or I guess just even to make the cut. So, when I turned pro the following year, the expectation was, gosh, you should just not only make the cut, but you should contend. So, just changing that status seems to change the expectations of others around you. Back in '91, I don't know if it will help me this year. It seems to be playing very similar to the way it did in '91. They have lengthened the golf course a lot and the technology has gotten longer. So it seems to be very comparable to the changes that Augusta made. It played identical in '91 as it did this year for Augusta, as well as Hazeltine, is what I'm finding. I'm hitting the same approach clubs into par 4s. The yardage is different, but it's the same club into each hole. I don't know if it will necessarily help me, per se, having played here in '91, but getting accustomed to the greens a little bit, back then, certainly could not hurt.

Q. After Paul Azinger won his first major, he was frustrated with the reaction because he said people would ask, how would he top that after winning a major. Have you wondered when you break through and win a major, if people will ever be satisfied?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm hoping to find out the answer to that question. (Laughter.) But that's not really a concern of mine right now.

Q. The rush of fans you saw on 18, is that becoming the normal? Do you ever get frightened for the fans who are trying to get your autograph?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have some concerns this week, yes. I really haven't felt too much concern throughout the Tour. I think that we've done -- as we conduct tournaments week-in and week-out, we are able to make adjustments to accommodate the increased enthusiasm for the game. I'm a little bit concerned this week. I think that after seeing it today, I think that we'll probably need to make some changes to make sure that we don't have injuries, not just from the players but from the people. There were some kids that might be getting hurt if we don't make a couple of changes.

Q. Courses for the majors seem to be getting longer and longer. As they inevitably run out of room in the ensuing years, do you think they will cycle back to becoming a little shorter or more difficult, and do you think that would be a good thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not sure what the future holds. I think that Hazeltine is an excellent example of what we should do. We have created golf holes that are long, that challenge you off the tee and force you to hit driver. We've created a golf course -- there's a golf course here that is not very easy to score low on, even though there are four par 5s, and the PGA has not come in and altered par. The par 5s are difficult to reach and one of the shortest holes on the golf course is one of the most difficult holes on the golf course, 16 at 412 yards. So you don't need length to make it difficult, but you want to bring length in as a factor to get the best overall ability of the player. So Hazeltine is really a wonderful setup at testing the entire elements of a player's game. And I hope that the courses we use in the future continue to do the same.

Q. Do you ever get sick of dealing with the why haven't you won a major question?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there's a very simple resolution of it. If I get tired of it, I know how to fix it, and I'm trying to resolve that. (Laughter.) For now, it's just something I need to accept until I'm finally able to break through and win, and it's okay.

Q. Aside from your battle with David Toms at the PGA Championship, probably your most memorable major tournament was the U.S. Open in 1999 when Payne Stewart made that putt at Pinehurst. With the memorial being dedicated to him this week, can you talk about your emotions walking by 16 and what that brings back?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a little weird playing the last three holes, because everyone in our group, Paul Azinger was a great friend of Payne and Scott Verplank, his partner that beat us pretty good took us on, Jim Furyk, we all had a chance to play with him. We walked across the bridge and saw the plaque and remembered what had happened in '91. He was two back, both days and the final day on Sunday and as well as the playoff with Scott Simpson with three holes to go and he played the last three holes extremely well to win. I remember him making that 35-foot putt on 16 to pull even with Scott. A lot of memories will come back. Payne Stewart will be in the forefront of our thoughts, especially the last few holes. As you walk across the bridge, you can't but see the plaque and think of Payne.

Q. Speaking of 16, I've heard some players say as much as they like the course, 16 doesn't seem like it fits the rest of the course. I wonder if you can speak to that?

PHIL MICKELSON: The reason that probably people are saying that is that the other holes seem to be inland and this one seems to be along the lake, so it just seems a little odd. I would say this. Spyglass Hill is a wonderful golf course and the first six holes are right along the ocean with sand dunes and then you go inland and play every hole with trees. It's a wonderful golf course because of the variety of holes and feel and character. 16 at Hazeltine just has a different feel or character to it. I don't think that that is a negative. I think that that's a positive. It certainly is not the same as a couple of the first holes that are tree-lined and so forth. 16 is also the only hole that you really feel the full effects of the wind. It's a very difficult two shots because the wind is the strongest right there, and so it is a unique hole, is probably a better way to putt it.

Q. Tiger and Sergio were talking about the Ryder Cup today, and they eluded to the fact that 9/11 may have changed things, as far as the approach to the Ryder Cup, and the fact that maybe now it would be more gentlemanly and what it was supposed to be; maybe in '99 it got a little out of hand. Would you talk about that, please?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that there is a different feel from the players, as well as the fans and the people who support the Ryder Cup at this year's event. We felt it last year. We felt how insignificant the event really was in the whole scheme of things. It's still a wonderful event, but I think it will take on the more original intent of promoting camaraderie and sportsmanship on both continents, and I think that's the expectation that we all have for this year's Ryder Cup.

End of FastScripts...

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