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January 24, 2007
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA
JOE CHEMYCZ: We welcome Phil Mickelson into the interview area. Phil, just talk a little bit, you got a chance to play the Pro-Am today, and talk about the conditions today, what you've seen of the golf course, and then we'll open it up for questions.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's going to be a fun event. Obviously it's Tiger's first tournament back this year, and the course is going to be hosting the U.S. Open in '08. I think I'm actually surprised there aren't more players, more in the top 15 or 20, here. I think a lot of guys are going to get kind of a heads-up on how the greens are going to be and how it's going to play for the U.S. Open, even though the rough isn't quite as thick as it will be next year.
Q. What do you think about the new FedEx Cup, and do you think most of the players, including yourself, will play most of the tournaments towards the end of the playoffs, leading up to the playoffs?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I think that it's -- anything that will create interest in the game over the course of the year I think will be a good thing, and I think it's one of those that will take time, a few years, to really catch on.
What I'm hoping is that we have something that keeps players and fans interested in the game after the PGA Championship, after the last major. A lot of times even at the TOUR Championship, the money title has been decided, the Player of the Year title has been decided, and so it's just another event. So I think that this will culminate with having all of those things be decided over those last four tournaments.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm planning on it, but again, that's eight months from now. So it's a little too far for me to look.
Q. Obviously a lot of attention on Tiger going for a seventh straight Tour victory. Has it crossed your mind at all what happened the last time he was here going for his seventh?
PHIL MICKELSON: He didn't get it I don't think (laughter). Well, he's on a remarkable tear. He's obviously incredibly talented player, but when he gets on runs like this, it's very difficult to stop him. But I know a lot of guys in the field are going to be doing their best.
Q. I think I might have asked you this before, but playing in this era, do you ever feel like maybe your timing might have been better if you had been born sooner or born later or --
PHIL MICKELSON: I love it. I think it's just a great chance to take advantage of all the new excitement in the game, to take advantage of the new opportunities and to try to compete against either the first or second best player of all time. It's a great opportunity for all players.
I love it. It certainly makes it more difficult and more challenging, it's harder to win majors, it's harder to win tournaments, but it makes the majors that I do win that much more rewarding and fulfilling.
Q. Can you talk about your feelings having the U.S. Open here in San Diego and some of the changes that are going to be made to the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love that we're hosting the U.S. Open. I think that San Diego has needed that, or I think it'll just really do a lot for the game of golf in the area. So I'm so excited that it did get the U.S. Open.
The golf course is very difficult to play. It's probably not as fun to play day in and day out as it was, but that's what you have to have to be able to host a U.S. Open. It's one of the hardest golf courses I've ever seen day in and day out, 7,600 yards at sea level, it's just very difficult.
PHIL MICKELSON: High school. Actually I'd say about two years ago I played with my dad and friends.
Q. During Tiger's press conference he talked a lot about expecting his first child, and those who have children know how much it changes you. How much does it change as a golfer? Any idea what he's in for, and how much does that change your priorities, your commitment, your life as a golfer?
PHIL MICKELSON: Aren't you scheduled to be on the air soon (laughter)?
The biggest thing when you have kids is just creating a great balance. You have to have a good balance between your practice schedule and your play schedule, but you also have to have balance just to make sure you're spending time or enough time with your child to make sure that you still have time to go on dates with your wife so that it's not just all about your kids, that you still cherish and value your own relationship. It's just about balance.
It's not the easiest thing, but it's not impossible. A lot of great players have done it and played better because of it and get a better perspective and all that. But you look at Nicklaus, having so many kids at such a young age, and he only got better and better. That would be difficult if that were to happen with Tiger, very difficult.
Q. Do you think it's going to affect his play at all, his priorities are going to change at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't. I don't see how. I mean, I certainly hope it does, but I don't see that happening. I don't see that happening. He's always been able to balance so many different areas of his life that I think this will just be another area that he adds into the mix, and a very rewarding part of his life.
Q. Have you guys talked at all about fatherhood?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think he saw the way it was for Amy and I early on, and I think he waited a few more years, so we haven't gone into that yet.
Q. Do you think having done it yourself, do you think an amateur will ever win out here? It seems like a long, long, long time ago, but the talent pool out here is so deep.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, people said that it would never happen again, and yet Scott Verplank came back and won years later, a decade later. Do I see it happening in the next few years? I really don't because the talent -- because there are so many good players on Tour already and because guys are turning pro so young. They're turning pro a year or two into college. So that really knocks out that chance. It was my junior year I ended up doing that. The likelihood isn't great in the coming four or five years, but I don't think it's impossible, and I think it probably will happen again sometime in the distant future.
Q. Have you gone through in your head what you were planning on? Were you so young and so naïve you failed to understand exactly what it was you were doing or did you have a pretty good grip on the steering wheel at that point in your life?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I wasn't thinking about each putt being worth X number of dollars.
Q. They're all worth nothing.
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. But I had so much fun that it was hard to worry about the pressure of the event or worry about what would come of it. It was just so much fun competing at that level at a young age.
Q. You grew up here, so I'm wondering what your thoughts are, the battles here at Torrey Pines for Joe Citizen Golfer to be able to play here. I know the senior league can't play here anymore and it seems like it's almost becoming an act of God to be able to get a tee time here. What are your thoughts on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I haven't really stayed up to date. I'm going to stay out of it. I don't know the ins and outs of it. I know there's been some controversy but I haven't even read about it. I didn't want to know.
I think it's going to be great for the course to have the U.S. Open. I think it's just going to be terrific. I don't know what the sacrifices have been for others, but I think it'll be great for the community to host the U.S. Open.
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, again, I don't really want to go get involved in the politics and stuff of it. I don't know, I enjoy playing here every year. I enjoyed growing up here and having a chance to play and using my resident's card and being able to do it affordably. I enjoyed taking advantage of those privileges.
Q. Speaking a little bit about last week and the courses in the rotation recently and in the future, and then there's others, English Turn going to the new TPC, there's been a number of tournaments that have gone to new courses. Any thoughts on that, and do players have any input or do you think should have any input on when a tournament keeps to its course or does something new?
PHIL MICKELSON: In a lot of cases the new courses turn out to be an upgrade or an improvement. I think that the Honda Classic is doing a great thing going to PGA National. It's a great golf course. It's hosted the PGA there in '87, I think, and a bunch of Senior PGAs, Ryder Cup.
So I think a lot of times it's a step up, and those times you have to commend it. And I think every effort -- I think when we move to new courses, it's with the idea that this new course is going to offer us these new things and it's going to be better. It doesn't always work out that way, but I think the intent is to always make the tournament better.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that there is. I don't know. I think that the policy board or whatever probably have input on that. I don't know. I don't know how the logistics are for getting new sites and stuff.
I made a conscious effort to stay out of Tour politics. It's not my thing. I'd rather just play.
PHIL MICKELSON: (Laughing) I think we have a pretty good tough guy up there. I don't want to mess with him. That's not my thing, either. Politics are not my thing. I enjoy challenges, I enjoy new challenges, I enjoy starting working on different companies, working with companies that I have relationships with or starting new ones or just coming up with other challenges of life, but that doesn't seem to be one that I want to take on.
I don't see the balance. I don't see the ability to be with your family or be with your wife. It seems like you're always on public display.
Although as an athlete you might feel that way, a lot of times you still are able to get away, just like I did the last three months.
PHIL MICKELSON: You've conditioned me for it, thank you (laughter).
Q. During the off season how much do you think about the U.S. Open? I mean, are you over it or is it going to take a little while to still get over it? Do you think about it at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, what I did was I went back and replayed it and replayed some of the -- looked at the statistics and so forth and noticed tendencies to miss most of the fairways to the left. So that's why I addressed the driving.
And actually I was very pleased with the way the first week went because we had difficult conditions, we had windy conditions and I ended up hitting 70 percent of my fairways, which is about a 20 percent, 17 percent upgrade from last year. So I've noticed already in one week a bit of a difference, and I'm pretty excited what that might mean for the rest of the year.
PHIL MICKELSON: The fact that I kept missing fairways to the left was something that I needed to address in my game and try to make that weakness more of a strength.
It wasn't just that I hit a drive left on 18, I did it all four rounds, and that's what I needed to try to fix, and that's what I realized after I went back and looked at it.
Q. In terms of your style of play and strengths and weaknesses as a player, how do you assess having such a good record at the U.S. Open and not a good record at the British Open? How does it fit in with what you do well and what you don't do well?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really never understood the best way to play well at the British Open, the way to hit shots low without spin. I would move the ball back in my stance, I would come in steeper, and all that did was put more backspin on it. Even though it would go lower, it still spun a lot. It wasn't until '04 that I started to understand how to control the ball, take spin off of it on those little knock-down shots.
So since '04 my play in the British Open has been a lot better. It hasn't been obviously what I want it to be, but it's been a lot better. I'm hoping in the future to play well in that event.
But for as many knocks as I've gotten or received from supposedly not being able to drive the ball straight, not being able to drive it in play or what have you, I still have almost won, what, four or five U.S. Opens. So I think that that might -- when I finally do win one, it might discredit that.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for the most part, some of the tournaments I did well in the driving stats. In '95 I think I led in fairways hit at Shinnecock. I'm not positive on that, but I believe I did.
At times I'm able to hit it straight when I don't feel distance is necessary. This week here at Torrey Pines with this much rough and the fairways firm, you're going to see guys bombing in. The fairways are so tight and hard that very few balls will end up in the fairway. But to win here you've got to go with distance this week, so that's what I plan on doing.
Then next week when we go to Phoenix Open the rough might be longer and actually thicker so we'll end up trying to keep the ball in play more and hitting it shorter. You just try to hit the shots that the course requires. Instead of trying to bomb it in the Open, I'm trying to finesse shots in the fairway.
Q. You kind of answered the question a little bit already, but I walked with you a little bit this morning on the Pro-Am and you were hitting it a little left early, and then on 11 you hit a real nice drive. Were you working it out as it got warmer or starting to hit it straighter later in the day?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was 6:40 and I hadn't swung, so I'm going to ask for a bit of room for error (laughter). No reason. You know, no real reason. I guess I was trying a new driver, and so on the 11th hole when you saw me I went back to my other one.
Q. The last few years you've had seemingly an ideal preparation for The Masters with the BellSouth the week before; similar course, short drive if you want to go over and check out Augusta. I don't think you're playing Houston this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's correct.
Q. What will you do that week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll go to Augusta and spend the week there. But you're right, I'm really disappointed because that's a golf course and a tournament I've grown to love and to -- have played well at. Gosh, I've been fortunate the last two years to have won that tournament, and it's such a great place to prepare for The Masters.
So many people come, so many foreign players come over to get adjusted to the time and play there, the shots are all the same. The two-driver theory that I used at Augusta I used the week before and I was able to implement it there and prepare for it, so I'm really disappointed they moved the tournament. I'm going to really miss that place. I just think it's a terrific tournament.
Q. Are you going back this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not positive, but the way it's fitting in being a week after THE PLAYERS, it's going to be very difficult.
Q. You usually play Nelson and Wachovia, don't you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, and I'll definitely be at the Nelson this year.
Q. What's your reaction when tournaments go under or get in trouble and the tournament directors say, well, we can't get Phil, we can't get Tiger? What is your reaction when you hear stuff like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's frustrating because I'd love to help and accommodate each tournament and I'd love to play in each tournament and I'd love to have every tournament succeed. But the reality is that I can only play X number of events. This year it's even more difficult because we're condensing the same number of events in a smaller time frame, and so -- also with the addition of not playing the two weeks before the majors, that knocks out two weeks of tournament competition while I'm still out traveling and preparing for other tournaments.
So it's frustrating because I'd love to help out and I'd love to help every tournament try to succeed and so forth. But physically I'm just -- logistically not able to do it.
Q. You've always supported THE INTERNATIONAL. Have you thought about that in terms of this year yet?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a little later on in the year. I haven't. I know that -- I think that last year the sponsorship ended. I haven't heard who's going to do it this year. I hope that it goes well because I'd love to see that tournament succeed. I just love what Mr. Vickers has done with that event from start all the way through, came up with a different scoring plan, came up with an event, came up with something very unique, different than what we have on TOUR, and I'd love to see it succeed. But it's too far down to know if I'm going to play or not.
Q. Would you feel at all obligated to go to Atlanta just because you're the defending champion?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly. I mean, I remember Hartford when I won two years in a row and then they moved the date eight weeks on me, I wasn't able to go back. By moving Atlanta seven or eight weeks, it's going to be difficult for me.
Q. Is there any other tournaments that you would consider that are some of your favorites that you might have a hard time getting to just because of the rearrangement of the schedule and condensing at some point?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, there's probably four or five of them that are going to be interesting.
But for the most part I'll have a pretty full schedule and be able to get in the usual, around 20 events that I'm always excited to play, then that would be in a smaller time frame.
I may even play one of the tournaments after the TOUR Championship, which would be -- there's one in Scottsdale, at Grayhawk, a course I represent. I'm looking to try to play there.
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