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August 15, 2006

Phil Mickelson


KELLY ELBIN: Phil Mickelson, ladies and gentlemen, the defending PGA Champion, having won last year at Baltusrol Golf Club in Springfield, New Jersey.

This is your 14th PGA Championship. How does it feel to be the defending PGA champion coming in this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's fun. It's my first time as defending champion of this tournament, and it's been a lot of fun. It's weird to come and defend a title on a different venue, but it's also enjoyable.

Q. When is the dinner, and what have you done for your fellow former champions? Can you share that with us?

PHIL MICKELSON: The dinner is tonight, and you mean what gifts did they get? Well, it's tough to get winners of the PGA Championship a really nice gift on an $80 budget.

But we found some cool things. What we did was we went back and found all the past newspaper clippings from the day they were born and all the newspaper clippings from the week of the year of the tournament week that they won and matted it all up in like a leather binder and gave it to them.

Q. In other sports it's perfectly acceptable for rivals to not particularly have to get along. Do you think there's something specific about golf that you and Tiger are constantly being asked about your friendship or lack thereof; that somehow it should be there and it's not enough that you should just be rivals and go out to win tournaments?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that we get to have a very unique relationship or get to have a unique relationship because we get to compete against each other week in and week out; and then we also get to team up together every year in the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup, and it makes for a fun dynamic.

I've enjoyed the opportunity to compete against him, and I've enjoyed the opportunity to play with him as a partner, the latter one probably being the better one.

Q. Dave Pelz was quoted in today's Chicago Tribune saying that when you're on top of your game, you're the best player in the world. Do you have any concerns about him saying something like that and maybe pumping up perhaps one of your opponents this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: My man, he's enthusiastic. I have tried to not give you too much to run with, and so I'm paying other people now to do it (laughter).

Q. Obviously you use the week before majors to prepare. How disappointing was it last week to miss the cut, and has that affected your preparation for this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's a different strategy going in. You know, I guess here's a great example of how Tiger and I prepare differently. He goes into the PGA Championship thinking that winning the British and winning the Buick Open is the best way, and I go in thinking that missing the cut is the best (laughter), and it gives me a week off to focus on my game. See, he didn't have that weekend off (laughter).

Q. What's your plan as far as what you're going to hit off the tee this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's still undecided exactly, because I may go with two drivers again like I did at Augusta, I may go with one.

Really, the difference is the temperature. If it's warm enough where I can hit 3 wood on some of the other par 4s where I just want to get the ball in the fairway, then I will most likely just use one driver, and it would be the longer driver to take advantage of some of the par 5s and the long par 4s.

Medinah is such a long golf course that the extra length has come in handy.

Q. Do you ever think about what your career would have been if there was no Tiger Woods?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I love the chance to compete against such a great competitor. He's one of the best players of all time, if not the best. It's been a fun challenge for me and the other guys to play against him, and he's also pushed me to work harder and get better and achieve levels of success I may not have achieved, had he not been there pushing me.

Q. If our research is correct, you and Tiger played together a grand total of one time in the majors, and that was at The Masters in '01, so Thursday and Friday will be kind of a rarity.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's amazing how those random computer pairings spit that stuff out, huh?

Q. There's obviously a formula this week. You guys have never won majors in the same year. What is that scene going to be like, and are you a subscriber to your boy Rick Reilly's theory that you can tell his fans from your fans and they sort of differ?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know about that, but I would think that 8:30 in the morning is pretty early on a Thursday, and to be on the 10th tee way out in the middle of nowhere, I don't think there's going to be many people out there (laughter).

Q. Obviously your preference would be to be paired with Tiger on Sunday, I guess, but does it matter to you that you're with him Thursday/Friday? Is it going to be more trouble than it's worth? What's your mind set about it?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I love playing with him, and playing with Geoff Ogilvy, another great player. And I love being in this pairing because it means you have won a major this year. Any time you have won a major, it makes for a great year. So I love the pairing.

I think that the PGA has everything under control safety wise. That would be the only concern. But I think it should be fine and a lot of fun.

Q. Teams, individuals, go along, play well for a while, then slip and come up again. It seemed until the 72nd hole at Winged Foot that everything was just your way for six or seven months. What's happened since then? I know the British wasn't quite what you wanted. Do you feel you're back in control again? Is it tough to sort of regain momentum, if you want to call it that, or the level you were at for a while?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when we enter the summer majors, there aren't many tournaments in between the majors. So we'll play the U.S. Open, then play one tournament before the British and then one tournament before the PGA, and so there's not that stretch of three or four tournaments where you really get into a good feel. I find most of my work in the summer months are preparing for the three upcoming majors.

So it is hard to get in a good rhythm of competitive golf. But when you have those majors where you feel like you're ready and you've prepared properly and you know the golf course and you feel like your game is okay, I never want to be firing on all cylinders because then I play overly aggressive, and when I'm a little bit uncertain of where exactly it's going to go, I play more conservative in my shot making and decision making, and I end up usually scoring a little bit better.

You never really want to enter a major when you're feeling like you're just hitting it great. You always want to have a little uncertainty there.

Q. (Inaudible).

PHIL MICKELSON: I kind of caught a little bit of that. It was about the U.S. Open, things going well before that?

Yeah, again, I've played two tournaments since then, three tournaments since then. So it's hard to say.

Most of my season, 80 percent of my season, is up to the U.S. Open, and then I only play three or four or five events thereafter.

Again, I've had a fun year and a chance to win two of the three majors, and I'm hoping to put myself in position on Sunday. That would be a lot of fun.

Q. Can you talk about, I guess, how you determine who you play your practice rounds with, and your group today, Baddeley, Gore, and then Small, the PGA club pro?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I rarely play practice rounds on Tour. I play the Tuesday of a major and that's usually it because I'll come in Tuesday night and play the Wednesday Pro Am. It's not like I have a regular game set up any particular week. It's just guys that I run across or guys that I like and we'll just match up. We'll talk a couple weeks in advance, do you play to play Tuesday of the U.S. Open or the PGA or whatever. That's how it came about this week. I ran into Jason Gore a couple weeks ago, I ran into Mike Small a couple days ago and ran into Aaron Baddeley on the tee.

Q. Just curious about mind sets. Tiger has talked about remembering his bad shots from rounds that enables him to improve, and you have talked about looking back and remembering your better shots, your good shots. Just curious about, as far as from your standpoint, staying away from the negative shots, is there a risk of thinking back to those? Why the focus on positive shots? Is that just a part of your personality?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's the way I've learned the game. You don't try to fix bad shots. When you're out playing and you hit a hook, if you try to fix the hook, you're probably going to block slice it and you're always going forward. The mind set is whatever the previous shot, let it go and try to hit good shots from there. That's the approach I've taken throughout the rounds is I'm going to hit bad shots, but instead of fixing them and concentrating on the negative, try to hit good shots and focus on the positive.

Q. I don't know if you can talk about your reaction when you heard about Billy and how amazed you are to see him here.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm ecstatic. I mean, it happened so quickly. It happened Sunday, and three or four days later, he's in for surgery. I'm glad that the surgery went well, and I'm glad that he's got a clean bill of health. I'm amazed in modern medicine that he's able to play this week and be recovered. We were supposed to play a practice round this morning, and he just wanted to take a little bit more time sleeping in and resting up, and understandably so.

It's interesting because a lot of times when you aren't able to play, you mentally rehearse and you hit only good shots when you mentally rehearse. You don't ever hit bad ones. A lot of times guys who maybe haven't had a chance to physically practice still come out and play very well. I know he doesn't have high expectations; I know he was just under the knife.

But the way his golf swing is so smooth and rhythmic, I wouldn't be surprised to see him play well this week?

Q. You've obviously had to answer a tremendous amount of questions about Tiger Woods. It's obviously been very difficult to beat him. But since he's been on the Tour, purses have really risen dramatically and exponentially. How much do you think that is because of him and his success, and in a way for all the trouble he's given you guys, do you owe him a little bit of gratitude if he did have a lot to do with it?

PHIL MICKELSON: No question. I thank him all the time for it because he deserves it, not just for the purses but the interest in the game of golf because that leads to increased revenue opportunities off the course, companies that wouldn't be interested in golf he's helped bring to the game. So it's been beneficial for every player out here, and myself included. I thank him every chance I get.

Q. There are ten left handers on Tour this year. Do you have any thoughts on the factors that have led to more success for lefties than ever before?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a good question. I could try to make a joke of it, but I just don't have one (laughter). I think it's great. I think that it's nice that we have more on Tour because now we're getting more equipment opportunities on Tour, which is ultimately leading to more left handed equipment or better left handed equipment immediately to the consumer, as well. I think if we can keep that up and have equipment be accessible to everyone left handed, I think we might continue to see an increase. But it takes time, like anything.

Q. How does the state of your game compare to where it was going into Baltusrol last year? And also, from a motivational standpoint, how do things compare? I remember last year you were really pointing towards Baltusrol as a last chance to make it into a great season?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, last year I didn't have the early success in the majors the way I had hoped and I didn't play the U.S. Open or the British Open the way I had wanted.

So it's not too different in that I'm coming off of a British Open where I finished 22nd and not obviously the result I was hoping for.

But everybody gears towards this tournament. This is the last chance to win a major this year. And if you haven't won a major, it's your last chance to really make it a great, special year. And if you have won a major already, it's a chance to turn it into a most memorable year. That's what we're all fighting for, we're all gunning for, myself included.

I've been gearing up for this event. I would have liked to have played better heading in; that I hit it great at The International and putted poorly. I would have liked to get a little momentum. You have to take whatever hand is dealt. I think Vijay Singh won the PGA in '04, I could be wrong, but I think he won after missing the cut. It would be nice to win a major after winning the tournament before, and it would be nice to win a major missing the cut the week before.

Q. Obviously Sergio Garcia made his name here in '99. Have you ever tried to hit the crazy shot he hit at 16?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, not me (laughter).

Q. Are you surprised six or seven years later that he's the guy people are asking, "why haven't you won a major," and any idea what may have held him back?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's nice that I was able to pass the mantle to somebody. I'm sorry he has to take it over. The shot he hit on 16 was just crazy. I would never try that. I wouldn't advocate that. I think you should always, always pitch out to the middle of the fairway (laughter) and hit an 8 iron on. What are these guys thinking nowadays (laughter)?

Q. What's your lifetime against Tiger on the ping pong table?

PHIL MICKELSON: Nice. Actually not so nice. But for this purpose, it's pretty good.

Q. Some pop psychologists might suggest that your play in tournaments since the Open would suggest that you're still having sort of a hangover from Sunday of The Open. How would you respond to that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you have to look at the record, and I finished 22nd and barely made the cut at the Western and missed the cut last week. So it hasn't been great. But then again, it's only been two or three tournaments, and the British hasn't been my best event.

It's a fair assessment. I haven't played to the level that I expected to in those three events that I have played. But again, gearing towards this event, looking forward to this event and trying to put everything into this event. I expect to play well.

Q. For an up and coming junior golfer or for a bogey golfer, what's one thing you think your game could teach that child or that bogey golfer and one thing to stay away from?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think the answer is the same. Go for it and don't go for it. I think that you have to have fun in the game of golf. You have to challenge yourself and hit shots. Growing up, you want to see the ball go a long ways. You want to make birdies, you want to make eagles, and you've got to go for it. You've got to try it, try the shots. That's what's fun.

And then as it becomes more intense or as it becomes you're playing tournaments and so forth, you have to start playing the numbers a little bit. You still have to go for it when the numbers say go for it. Sometimes you have to go for it when the numbers say don't go for it if you feel it. It's kind of a judgment call. But I think that it's important to be able to do both.

Q. How much does Player of the Year motivate you to try and win that? And secondly, two majors, if you win this one, two majors would probably make you the favorite. Have you thought about that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I honestly don't think about year end rewards or awards. I think about trying to win tournaments and trying to play well in these particular events and get my game better. And so if I put a lot of emphasis on Player of the Year, on Varden, on awards that are season ending; I would first of all think it would detract away from my performance week in and week out, certainly would take away from my focus, and I think that it wouldn't allow me to play my best golf. I won't adjust my schedule because of that. If I really put a lot of emphasis on those events, I'd probably play four or five more tournaments at the end of the year.

But I think what's more important is playing my best golf in whatever tournaments I play in. If I spread myself too thin, I don't play my best.

Q. Tiger is known as such an intimidating partner, and obviously it attracts a lot of attention on the golf course. How would you feel about playing four rounds with him this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, if it means we're playing well and in the last groups, that's great; I'd love it. But if we just make the cut, well, that's not so much fun.

What I would love to see happen is to see us both play well and both have a chance and be paired together in later groups. That would be terrific. But we both have a lot of work to get to that point. I've got to go get some good practice sessions in and get my game sharp. His game looks pretty sharp. He's won his last two tournaments, so he's going to be there. Now I've got to do my job and get there, as well.

Q. Not to take you back to Sunday at Winged Foot, but

PHIL MICKELSON: But go ahead (laughter).

Q. Is it more effective for you to completely put that hole out of your mind or to replay it in your head to the point of misery? Which is more effective for you? And since then, you're less than up to your standards, finishes, do you connect that at all, or is it unrelated?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's hard to say. I would look at the I've only played, again, three tournaments. I've never played well at the Western. 26th was my highest. I have not played well in the British and finished 22nd this year, so it's marginal. I've probably played better at those tournaments than I have in the past, but it's not what I expected of myself.

And then at The International I usually play very well, but I didn't score very well. I don't know if they're connected or not. I certainly haven't been dwelling on the tournament. Again, I don't want to let one bad shot or one bad hole affect my upcoming performances. I feel like I've prepared well for this tournament. I feel like the golf course suits my game. It's a course I feel comfortable on, and I expect to play well.

Q. I was just wondering what specific holes on this course work best for the kind of golf that you like to play, and why?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the par 5s work best because they are marginally reachable. They're reachable if you hit some really big tee shots. I like being able to go after the par 5s and try to attack them and get on or near the putting surface and go after those birdies on those holes.

I think the par 5s are the best example of playing aggressive here at Medinah.

Q. With the possibility of four rookies on the Ryder Cup team this year, will there be an added responsibility to the other six guys to take on sort of an added leadership role this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: Say that one more time.

Q. With the possibility of four Ryder Cup rookies this year, will there be responsibility for the other six guys, you included, to take on an added leadership role this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: No more so than in the past. You know, the team is coming into shape, and I think we're going to hopefully be ready for Ireland. Certainly our record in the past hasn't been the best, but whether it's rookies or whoever is going to play, certainly we're all very competent at our craft. It's not as though somebody needs to be nurtured along. Everybody that's going to be on the team, whether they've played on it or not, are excellent players.

Q. Not to harp on the pairings, but what's the difference for you playing with a guy like Freddie like at The Masters versus a guy like Tiger?

PHIL MICKELSON: Amount of conversation.

KELLY ELBIN: Defending PGA Champion, Phil Mickelson, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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