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July 17, 2007

Phil Mickelson


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have Phil Mickelson. Phil, thank you for coming across, here. You came here last week before Loch Lomond for a quick reconnoiter. How is the course playing this year as compared to what it was.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not going to compare them. But I think it's set up wonderfully this year. And the course is giving players a chance to separate themselves from other players because of the quality of shots that are being required and the way that it incorporates all shots in a player's game, from having to drive the ball straight and in play and avoid bunkers and rough. To shots in the green and distance control. The greens are fantastic to putt on. The short game is going to be a big factor this week, too.

Q. Those three closing holes, the very long par-3 and then the two quite treacherous par-4s, how much of a swing do you think they could have on the final outcome of this championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: They're probably the three toughest holes or certainly the toughest stretch on the golf course. And I think it's going to be a very difficult finish and exciting finish for everyone because nobody is out of it. Obviously what happened in '99 is a rarity. But it's very easy to give away two or three shots over those last three holes.

Q. The 16th, what's it like into the wind compared with downwind?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a lot longer (laughter). The hole is 260 on average. And into the wind that's a good driver to get it there. The tough thing about 16 into the wind is those bunkers short of the green are very difficult to carry. When those are in play now you're bringing 4 and 5 -- 5 into play more. When it's downwind you can hit it left and still have a reasonable chance to get it up-and-down, where you can't miss it right. There's a lot of thick trouble to the right.

Q. I saw you out there with Dave and Butch today. I'm curious how your preparation for this championship differs from your preparation for The Masters or the U.S. Open, what other factors do you have to weight in here that you may not in the States?
PHIL MICKELSON: It doesn't differ too much. I was able to come over early after missing the cut at Congressional, and come up with a game plan that I feel comfortable with. The difference here is that the game plan changes based on the wind. Each hole becomes -- goes from a birdie hole to just trying to make a par, based on the wind. You don't know exactly how you're going to attack the course until you actually get on the course. And even then the wind often changes and the holes change.
You have to come up with three or four different ways to play it based on the three or four different winds that we'll see.

Q. I wonder how frustrated you felt as you departed Loch Lomond on Sunday evening and what you've done since then in terms of obviously getting over a disappointment, but also in terms of any technical adjustments you feel you may have needed to make?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love playing in the Scottish Open. I've played it a number of times and really enjoy going over to Loch Lomond. I've wanted to win that tournament ever since I started playing there and appreciated what a special event it is. It was certainly disappointing to finish the way I did, especially making the mistakes that I made coming down the stretch. I made some good putts for birdies on 15 and 17 but I gave them right back the very next hole.
I had a good conversation last night with Butch and we talked about a couple of things that we wanted to do with clubs off the tee and shots and how to take certain places out of play. Then we had a good session this morning on the range as we went out and played. So I think it's still a work-in-progress. It's not going to be where I want it after just three months, but it's coming and I think that in time I'll continue to get better. The good thing for me was that last week was important to get in contention, because I hadn't been in contention since THE PLAYERS Championship. I needed to feel what it feels like to be in the final group on Sunday with a chance to win. I think that betters my chances this week.

Q. Your creativity gets talked about a lot. I'm curious where you learned it, where you learned to be so imaginative with your shots?
PHIL MICKELSON: Most of the shots around the greens came from when I was a kid hitting shots in my backyard, because I couldn't drive, I couldn't go to the golf course, I'd hit the same shot over and over, it got boring. So I would move around the backyard, hitting lob shots and low spinners and try to create shots just in a small space. It kind of carries over to the way I like to play when I get in a tournament.

Q. Your first taste of links was, I'm guessing, Walker Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it was. I think it was the '91 Walker Cup at Portmarnock over in Ireland. I think that's the first time I played links golf.

Q. Did you like it right away?
PHIL MICKELSON: I did. It was certainly challenging. It was certainly different. It's amazing how the wind here might be the same speed as in Phoenix, Arizona, but it's amazing how much the ball gets affected by it.

Q. Your record on links courses hasn't been great. Why do you think that is?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't been scoring as well as I need to, obviously, to have a good record. But the last few years I'm excited about how I've kind of improved. My poor performances now, like last year, around 20th, and the year before -- '04 I ended up having a chance. So it's getting better. But the biggest thing for me was off the tee. I really struggled in the past off the tee. Now I've been working on these low drivers that have been able to keep it in play and not have the wind or cross winds blow it way off line. That's going to be a key. If I don't hit the fairway I have to keep it close enough to where it doesn't get in too much trouble.

Q. At Loch Lomond we saw a player who was ranked 320th in the world come through and win. Do you think it's possible that a complete outsider like Greg could come through and win this one?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that -- well, absolutely it's possible. And I don't think it was that long ago that it happened. I thought that 2003 when Ben Curtis won it's been like that. Since then he's had great victories in the States. But I think back then nobody knew or had heard of Ben. And it's been a great springboard for his career, and he's really validated it. But at the time I think that was kind of the example you're talking about.

Q. Just with regard to the links golf, and spinning off another question. You've been a guy that likes to try different stuff, the stuff you talked about as a kid. Is there a part of you that enjoys the elements in the stuff you have here, like the weather the way it was yesterday and those three and four different kind of game plans, do you revel in that, because you don't see it much?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's taken time for me to appreciate and learn how to hit shots that are manageable in those conditions. As I start to be able to control my golf ball in those conditions I start to enjoy it and hope for tough weather. Last week was an example. On Saturday I was hoping that it would get windy and be difficult because I wanted to test some of those shots.

Q. Was there any kind of breakthrough for you at Troon when you did finish 4th?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly. Possibly because I played along the ground a lot that week. I hit a lot of low shots, a lot of running shots, and I was able to control distances, make a lot of pars and some birdies when I needed to. Missing out on the playoff by a shot was a big point for me because I finally had a good performance to where I felt I could win and was inches away from doing it.

Q. Overall at Loch Lomond, the last couple of holes in the playoff, the disappointment there, did that overshadow the entire week, the fact that you were in contention the entire week? Do you look at it and say, hey, okay, I didn't win, but I'm ready to win now because of what I did?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure but I felt as though heading in, after missing the cut at Congressional, I needed to have a good week where I had a chance to win, I felt the pressure of being in contention and playing in the last groups. I felt like that was going to be important if I were going to have a good chance here at Carnoustie. So I'm pleased that I put myself in that position. I would have liked to have finished it off better, certainly, but the fact that I had a chance I think helps me this week.

Q. Earlier Tiger said that the British was his favorite major. I wonder if you would care to rank the majors in your favorites, one through four?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really (laughter).

Q. After Sunday, the disappointment you mentioned, is there a concern take there might be a slight hangover going into Thursday, after the way the final few holes worked out for you?

Q. I'm sure you're watching Barry Bonds home run chase. When the Tour starts to test next year for performance-enhancing drugs, would it surprise you if a Tour player tested positive? If one did test positive what do you think the punishment should be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what the punishment should be, but I don't think there's even a remote chance that that will happen.

Q. The problems at Loch Lomond appeared to be your driver. Have you changed it this week or are you tempted to keep it in the bag and use a 2-iron or 3-wood from the tees?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I'm very pleased with it. I didn't drive it the best on Sunday. I hit 13 fairways on Saturday. I hit a good number of them on Thursday and Friday, as well. I'm not overly concerned.

Q. The people in the world are always trying to change their golf swings, to improve their golf swings, some people say it's almost like a person's signature and it's difficult to change. How difficult is it for you to make some, I assume, fundamental changes in your golf swing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, anybody can make changes to their swing. The challenge is making changes and still be competitive or still apply it and do that while under pressure. And so that's the most challenging thing. The biggest challenge is to trust it in those situations and to trust changes because you always have the tendency to revert back to your previous habits.

Q. What's the most pressure you've ever felt on the golf course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't know.

Q. Do you remember the first time you felt what you would consider serious pressure and how you dealt with it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I remember feeling pressure the first tournament I ever played. I think I was five or six. For the most part, I think we all still feel pressure, each round that we play.

Q. Could you talk about all The Open courses, how this sets up for you versus Hoylake or Troon or Turnberry?
PHIL MICKELSON: There certainly are some courses that set up differently than others, even though they might look similar. I really like this golf course or I feel comfortable on this course because of the way a lot of the holes are set up and some of the shot values that we have into the greens. I like a lot of the holes that have bunkers 30 yards short of the green downwind. It's a challenge to carry over them and get the ball stopped on the green. 16 is an example. 15 is another example, and probably the best one is 12. Those are holes where you have to carry the ball and still get it in soft. Even though you're playing a crosswind or downwind you want to bring the ball in high and soft, which is a lot like the shots we hit back in the States. The holes that tend to play into the wind, there seems to be enough room to keep the driver in the fairway and attack some of the greens. What I really like about this course is how much room around the green there is to hit shots and hit chip shots and have a chance to let your short game make pars for you. I think that's my favorite thing about Carnoustie.

Q. Jim Furyk said he liked the fact that it was all right in front of you. Do you think that favors Americans because unlike some places like Royal St. Georges where you don't really know what's going on unless you played it a lot, this is right in front of you, this gives you more of an opportunity versus someone that plays more links golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: You could say that. I think guys who don't play a course a number of times play better with fewer blind shots. The course that you don't get a chance to play over and over each year you don't feel -- you feel more comfortable when you do play those courses more over the years when you have blind shots. St. Andrews is a good example.

Q. Could you just talk a little bit about what The Open Championship kind of means to you and what it meant to you growing up? Was it something you made a point of watching on the television and that sort of thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: I loved watching it on television because it was always on so early back in the States. Saturday morning cartoons got replaced by The Open. I enjoyed watching it as a kid and all through my amateur days. It's fun to be able to partake in it and play in it.
The great thing about The Open is that it shows that a player who's won it has a game that can be tested by elements and by different shots and by hitting shots along the ground as well as in the air. I think that tests a complete player's game.

Q. You talked about coming over here after Congressional. About how many rounds did you play or how many days did you play here before?
PHIL MICKELSON: I spent three days here before I went to Loch Lomond to get ready for the Scottish.

Q. I just wondered what your opinion was of Angel Cabrera as a golfer and as a guy. I don't know if you know him that well. There's a feeling that he's coming as an unsung major champion, not a lot of fuss and attention around him. Do you agree with that? And how well do you know him? What do you think of his golf game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have been saying for years that Angel Cabrera is the most underrated player in the game. I can't say that anymore because now people realize how good a player he is. From a player's perspective he plays with such freedom in his golf swing and aggressiveness, he hits such wonderfully long and straight drives. He has a great touch with his short irons. He's a wonderful, aggressive putter. When he gets it going he shoots some of the lowest scores in the game. He's contended in a number of Majors, specifically The Masters, for years. We as players all knew that his time was going to come. And he's no longer the most underrated player in golf, because people now see what a great talent he is.

Q. What of his personality? Is he kind of down beat?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know him that well. He doesn't speak much English. We've played together a few times. He's very enjoyable to be around. He makes an effort, which I think is cool. We always have a little banter. And I enjoy being around him. I haven't had a chance to play much golf with him or as much golf with him as I would like.
STEWART McDOUGALL: Phil, thank you very much.

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