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July 4, 2006

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thanks for joining us today, playing at the Cialis Western Open for the first time since 2003. Welcome back. I'm sure the fans of Chicago are very excited about you being here. If we could maybe start with some opening comments about the week and we'll take some questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm looking forward to getting back and playing here. I haven't been to the Western Open in a few years. Already we're off to a fun night. We got here last night and there were fireworks all over the city that the kids saw. Another fun night tonight, we're going to take in a ballgame later this week, so it's been a fun week that we have scheduled for our family.

I have no idea what you might ask (laughter).

Q. Let's just get it out of the way. Nice to get back playing after a tough Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is. I think the biggest thing about that is that I don't want the one hole to affect my play in the next couple of majors, and so I've already been over to Hoylake, spent a few days there already doing most of the major prep work because if I can get that out of the way, I can focus more on getting my golf game ready for the tournament if I'm not doing all the preparation work.

I felt like I didn't execute the way I wanted to at the Open, and heading into the British, I want to make sure I have all the preparation work done, that I am able to focus on the shots that I need to hit and see if I can get execution to be sharp in the upcoming major.

Q. How long did it take for you to get it out of your system, and is it out of your system?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not ever going to forget it, that's obvious. But what I'm not going to do is let it affect negatively my performance in upcoming majors. I've got two more this year. I'm playing too well, and I've got a system of preparation that has been helping me play some of my best golf, and right now I'm excited about the chances at Hoylake.

Pelz and I have been mapping out our game plan over there. We've got the shots we want to hit. We're working on them this week. I've got Rick here this week helping me to get those shots tight, and I'll be heading over right after this tournament to get ready for the British. I just don't want that one bad hole, again, to negatively affect the way I perform in the upcoming majors.

Q. Have you replayed, or at what point did you quit replaying that hole in your mind, and when you replayed it, if you did, would you have done anything different in retrospect?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would have parred it (laughter).

Q. Club selection? You know what I mean.

PHIL MICKELSON: I know what you're saying. Fortunately what I have found has helped me play well or have that type of performances these past years in the majors is that I've done the prep work beforehand and I know what club selection I'm going to hit off each tee, given weather conditions, whether it's raining, whether it's hot or not. I already know and have known for weeks in advance what clubs I'm got to hit off each tee, so it's helped me approach the tee box with confidence knowing what club I'm going to hit.

It helped me when I hit the driver on 18 at Baltusrol on the last hole and ended up making a birdie. It helped me at The Masters knowing what club and what driver I was going to hit off each tee, and it helped me at the U.S. Open. Unfortunately I didn't execute the way I wanted to.

But it has erased a lot of the doubt as to the decision-making, what club am I going to hit, what club should I hit. I already know weeks in advance, and it helps me hit those shots and visualize those shots in practice before I ever show up the week of The Open.

Q. Do you change the makeup of your bag for every course you play now?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do now, yes. I've been working on a number of clubs. I went back after Hoylake and I think it was really important that I went over there, not knowing -- I thought I knew what types of shots were going to be expected at Hoylake; they're totally different. I thought I was going to be hitting certain shots, and again, I'm not going to go into detail because I'm going to let everybody else figure it out, but I went back and worked on a couple of wedges, drivers, to optimize it.

I've got a hybrid club I'm thinking about using off of some tees. So having the right equipment set for each course off the tee really helps. Obviously the driver I used at the U.S. Open let's say which is designed to go shorter and straighter wouldn't be as effective at Augusta. That's why I've got the longer driver that might not be quite as straight, but I needed that driver to win The Masters. It got me into birdie range on a lot of the par 4s. Had I not done the prep work and the work - it took eight months to design that and optimize it - I wouldn't have had that performance and ultimately that win.

Q. What's your feeling on hybrids? You said you were going to maybe put one in the bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not totally sold on it yet. I know the ones I've tested for Callaway are tremendous; I really like them. But I've had success with irons and woods, and the club right in between, it takes -- it hits different shots. It just performs differently. It's taken me some time to get used to it. I'm not sure if I want to use it or not, but I do have one or two that I'm thinking about putting in the bag at Hoylake because it hits the shots that that course requires.

Q. Is there a danger of overthinking when you start the week with 18 clubs to try to pare down to 14 by Thursday?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not if I do it ahead of time. If you're trying to do it the week of, yes. But once you think about it, you get it decided what you want to do and you know going in that these are the clubs that you're going to use, then you just practice those shots.

So I decide typically what clubs I'm going to use a couple weeks in advance, and that may change based on conditions, temperature; as it gets hotter the ball goes farther; if it gets rainy I may want a club that goes further. But those decisions have already been made what clubs I'll hit under what conditions.

Q. You sound like a football coach who has a game plan. Sometimes the football coach has to change if the quarterback is getting sacked or the running game doesn't work. In this game plan you have, do you have the ability to change during a round and do something different if all of a sudden something isn't working?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there are always -- there are a number of holes that I will have options off the tee. For example, at the U.S. Open, the 15th hole, I had in my notes that I could hit a 4-iron or 4-wood, depending on how I was hitting it. And if I felt confident, I would take that 4-wood and fly it down to the bottom of the hill and try and make birdie.

I wasn't feeling so confident on Sunday. I had only hit two fairways, if that, and I hit a 4-iron on 11 and 15. I also thought on 11, given those conditions, which were warm and downwind, I could hit driver about 40, 50 yards from the green. But I wasn't quite feeling confident enough to do that, and so I hit 4-iron.

But there are some holes, though, that just don't set up properly for a variety of shots. I'll try to use another example of let's say No. --

Q. How about 18? Did you have an option there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not for me, no. I couldn't get an iron or a wood past the turn of the dogleg. It set up perfect for a cut driver.

The difficulty that I had was I couldn't miss it left. I missed it left earlier in the week and fought to make bogey. Missed it left on Sunday and made double.

The second hole at the U.S. Open, I said, "Do not go right, stay left," because from left you have an angle up the green, you could run a shot up, get close, but from the right the trees cut you out. I missed it right four days in a row. My execution just wasn't what I wanted that week, and yet I fought and hung in there, and unfortunately I just needed to hang in there one more hole and wasn't able to do it.

Q. You beat yourself up pretty bad in the post-tournament comments after the Open. How long did you continue to beat yourself up over that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, again, that night it was decided that I'm not going to let one hole or one bad hole affect my upcoming tournaments. Sure, it's disappointing not to win the Open. I told you how much I wanted to win it. But I've got two more majors coming up, I'm playing too well to let one bad hole affect it, and I've got a pretty good game plan for the British.

I have not had the record at the British that I would like, but I'm excited about the way I'm starting to play those golf courses after my finish in '04, missing the playoff by a shot. I want to play better there.

So I'm spending more time over at Royal Liverpool to try to get a good game plan and working hard with Rick Smith to make sure my execution is better than it was a couple weeks ago.

Q. Not to harp on this, you said the decision was made that night not to let one hole affect the rest of your play. But what did you do? Once you left the course, once you got out from in front of all of us, did you go home, let the kids hug you? Did you fly back, put the clubs down for a couple days?

PHIL MICKELSON: We flew home Monday. I took my oldest daughter Amanda, who didn't have school - our other two did on Tuesday - to a club pool there, and we swam for six, seven hours that day. We went to Disneyland on Wednesday to celebrate her birthday. We had a great week, had a fun week. It could have been really fun (laughter), but it was just fun.

Q. Did you put the clubs down then for a few days?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, until I went over to the British. We left Saturday or Sunday for the British and stayed there for quite a few days and got some good work done.

Q. Obviously the majors are very important to you and a lot of golfers. How do you stay focused for the Western Open and the non-majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love playing and I love competing, whether it's a major championship or regular Tour event, and it's just been recently that I've really put a lot of time into just focusing on those four or five events.

But I love this golf course. I haven't been back here unfortunately because it's been two weeks before the British and I've played the Scottish Open the week before, and it was just a little bit too much. I felt I'd be too tired getting to the British. I love this golf course, I love competing here at Cog Hill, although I haven't really been in contention much. My record here is not the best.

But week in and week out, we still love competing against the best players, and with the field being here, what great motivation to have such great players in this field. I think it's one of the best fields we've had all year, certainly in a regular Tour event, and it's going to be a fun week.

Q. Obviously you are focused already on the British Open and the two majors that are left. You obviously want to win here, you want to play well. Is there a role this tournament plays in your preparation towards the final two majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. A couple big things are the practice facilities are terrific here. The weather is always pretty nice. It's always warm and accommodating; we're able to get a lot of practice in. It allows us to hit the shots, practice the shots that we're going to have in the upcoming events.

Surprisingly Royal Liverpool was a lot similar shots required as Cog Hill than what I had expected. I thought it would be a lot more run-up shots, but full shots will be working out very well there.

Q. How did you explain what happened at Winged Foot to your children? Is Amanda the only one old enough to really understand what happened?

PHIL MICKELSON: It basically went, "Did you win, Daddy?" "No." "I'm sorry. Do you want pizza?" Something like that.

Amy, am I close?

AMY MICKELSON: A little bit of "Second is so good, Daddy."

Q. When you won it at Augusta, it started a whole sort of fever about "Tiger and Phil." Do you let yourself daydream about what that would be like if the two of you were in the last group here or at a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. I mean, I would love to -- I love playing against him head-to-head. My record against him, again, is less than stellar. But I love having the chance to compete against the best players in the world, and he certainly is the best. There are a number of other guys, too, that are up there that I love playing against that are fun. Whether you win or lose, it makes for a fun day, a fun experience.

There's a lot of great players right now that are playing some terrific golf, and it's not just Tiger and myself that are doing it. There are some tremendous guys out there playing, with the emergence of Geoff Ogilvy from winning the Open and Jim Furyk, in addition to the obvious of Retief and Ernie and Vijay. There are some guys that are playing some great golf.

Q. I wanted to ask you a question about this is the last time this will be called the Western Open, and you know the Chick Evans Scholarship Fund and the beneficiaries of this tournament are them, and just your thoughts on what this tournament means and the history of the game of golf and the fact it will not be called the Western Open anymore.

PHIL MICKELSON: Since that's the case, I'm glad it has the feel that it has this week. It's going to go out in the right way with so many of the top guys here wanting to play and compete in this championship, and I'm glad that it's going out the same way it came in, with one of the best fields in golf.

Q. I'm sure you heard that there was plenty of second-guessing about the way you played Winged Foot and there was talk that you got away from your game plan, that you kind of went back to, quote-unquote, the old Phil, being very aggressive. How do you feel about that kind of talk?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, the game plan that Pelz and I dive into happens weeks in advance, and it's been pretty successful the last three years. The last thing I would do is question that. It's been working too well for me.

Q. You said the decision was made that night that you weren't going to let that hole affect how you played the rest of the majors. Was that a decision made by you? Was it a decision people were helping you through that? Is that something as simple as your daughter saying, "Second place is great, too, Daddy?"

PHIL MICKELSON: Are you asking was there a big turning point? No, it's not like there's a point where it just clicks and -- I'm never going to forget it. It's something that I'll look back on and always remember and wish that I had done differently.

I remember a practice round I played with Arnold Palmer the first time I got into The Masters. I have told this story a time or two. When I won the Amateur, the first thing I did was call Arnold and say, "Can I play a practice round with you, Mr. Palmer?" He said, "Sure." So we go out and play and had 17 great holes, a great time. We're walking off the 18th tee and he goes, "Right there, that's where it happened, right there." "What happened, Mr. Palmer? What happened?" He said, "George Lowe came over and called me over and shook my hand and congratulated me. And I'll be darned if I didn't block a 7-iron in the bunker and blade it across and make double and lost."

Here it was 30 years, 40 years later -- 30 years later; it happened in '61, we played in '91, so 30 years later, he still remembered it and it still fired him up.

I'm not going to forget it, but I'm not going to let it affect my performance negatively. I think there's some positives that can come out of it. We're certainly working on some things to try so that it never happens again, but I'm not going to let it affect these upcoming majors.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time, I think you have a special announcement you'd like to make.

PHIL MICKELSON: We're doing something kind of cool here with the help of the PGA TOUR. PGA TOUR has really gotten involved with something that I've been meaning to -- been involved with the last couple of years, something that Bearing Point has been heavily involved with, so much so that our CEO Harry You showed up, and I appreciate your time coming today, and Connie Weaver has put countless hours into this along with Larry Dorman over at Callaway and everyone at Callaway. We're doing something called "Birdies For the Brave." It's a website we're using. The details are on pgatour.com, but it's kind of cool. I'm going to unveil this here real quick.

The idea is we're going to continue to raise money and raise awareness, most importantly, for all the children who have lost parents in the special operations. We have a Special Operations Warrior Fund that will put these kids through college, and we also -- this included in here is Homes For Our Troops. It's a great organization that when our soldiers come home after putting their lives on the line for us and they're wounded, we come in and make accommodations to their house so that they can live with a quality of life that we would all hope they could.

It's something I'm very proud to be a part of. I'm very proud that the PGA TOUR stepped up, and my partners, Bearing Point and Callaway, and Harry, thank you for putting all the time into this that you have.

Q. How big do you expect this to get?

PHIL MICKELSON: We're not looking at it in terms of dollars. I mean, it would be great if people put in a penny a birdie, just so that they're aware of what's going on, and that there are soldiers out there, whether we agree with the war or not, that are putting their lives on the line for us, and when they come home, and hopefully they do come home, when they come home they have the same quality of life that we want them to, that they should have.

Q. Why is this program so important to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think everybody has something that just touches their heart. My dad was in the military, and with three children I look at it and I just want to know that if something were to happen to me that they would be taken care of and be given every opportunity in life. It's fun for me and Amy to be in a position to do this.

Amy and I have been in our charitable fund, been doing stuff like this, and I know it means a lot to her, and we've talked about how we want to go about doing this, and she's been very instrumental in getting this together as well as a good friend of ours, Glenn Cohen, has really organized and brought everybody together. It's nice to have such a joint effort and people that care.

It's not just about how many dollars we raise. That's kind of secondary to raising awareness and appreciation for the fact that these guys are putting their lives on the line for us.

Q. What kind of feedback have you gotten? Are there any stories of people that you hear about, people that have been affected by this program?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's been neat for me to meet soldiers at many of the Tour events who come out to watch the golf or many veterans and just thank us for what we've been doing. I don't think that we'll ever be able to do enough, but it's fun to have some type of impact.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time we also have several presentations to make. The first will be from John Gonzalves, the president and founder of Homes For Our Troops.

JOHN GONZALVES: Phil, Amy, on behalf of Homes For Our Troops and the veterans we serve, and with the awareness that you guys have helped us raise in our efforts to build specially adapted homes for the severely disabled veterans, I'd like to present this to you. This was drawn by a Sergeant Peter Damon from the Massachusetts Army National Guard.

Peter was changing a helicopter tire when it exploded and he lost both of his arms. This was drawn by Peter using his prosthetic arms, and we'd like to present this to you.

Thank you so much for helping us raise the awareness we need, and because of efforts that you've put forth, we got letters from a lot of your fans that are just so proud of what you're doing, and because of those efforts we have been able to add a lot more families that you're going to be able to help.


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Secondly, Colonel John Carney of the Special Operations Forces Foundation. He has been involved with the foundation since its inception in 1980.

COL. JOHN CARNEY: This says, "To Phil Mickelson for the Spirit of the Warrior Award 2006, from the men and women and families of the Special Operations," and a letter from General Doug Brown, who says, "You are always below par with us in Special Operations."

This weapon was sent from Afghanistan. It's a Jezar, an 1813 flintlock rifle, that was purchased by special forces troops up north of Kabul, and it was a real special operation getting it back here. But I have a letter so you can take it anywhere you want that said it's antique.

On behalf of the -- now we have over 500 children to educate, and with your help over the last few years, we feel confident we're going to get that done. Next year we've got 106 going to college, and three of those children are here with us today that you met earlier. We're all making a difference.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thank you very much for attending this afternoon's press conference.

End of FastScripts.

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