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January 23, 2008

Phil Mickelson


CHRIS REIMER: We want to welcome three-time winner here, Phil Mickelson, to the media center. Start by talking about how you're feeling, your health.
PHIL MICKELSON: I feel a lot better. I've been struggling with my health here in the off-season with this respiratory thing, almost three months now. But I had some blood work and some lung X-rays, and I think that it's just a case of bronchitis, and I should be fine here shortly.
CHRIS REIMER: Talk about the return to Torrey Pines.
PHIL MICKELSON: I am looking forward to playing here. I think it's exciting that we have the chance to host the U.S. Open. I think San Diego is going to be a great venue for the U.S. Open. I think the USGA is going to be very pleased with the way that the golf course and the way that the city of San Diego treats everyone, and I think it's going to be -- this is kind of a start, I think, to that because so many guys are here to get ready and know the golf course, learn some of the tricks on the greens and where to play it, where you can hit it, where you can't, and try to get ready for the U.S. Open here.

Q. This is probably going to be a different course in June than it is now, but what can you learn this week that is going to be of some value in June?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think getting on the greens and seeing the breaks is going to be a big factor, plus there are a lot of holes that even though the course is set up maybe a little softer this week, you still have to hit to the middle of the green and putt 45, 50 feet up to the tucked pins. And I think knowing those putts and those reads, having hit them in tournament competition, the speeds won't be that different. They won't be more than a foot or so faster, I think, than what we see this week. But I think it gives you a good feel for the golf course.

Q. Following that, what do you think the guys that are playing overseas are going to miss by not being here this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, they'll miss out on some of the nuances of the course that they might have seen had they played, but they'll have to make up for that. They'll come out early before the U.S. Open and get a number of practice rounds so that they find out or know what to expect on the greens especially.

Q. I know you occasionally get out here for practice rounds and stuff, people see you out here, and I'm just wondering, how much analysis do you do when you get out here just to get around? And also, if you can talk about what the last six years out here have been like for you on the new South relative to the old. The record is very clear about the wins before but not after, and what are your thoughts on how you've played the new South?
PHIL MICKELSON: When the South was redesigned I lost all that local knowledge and knowing which way every putt broke that I had gained from playing countless high school matches here.
As time has gone on, I begin to get more comfortable with this golf course, and I find that you have to play it much more patient than in the past. In the past it was a course you could really light up, make a lot of birdies, and now it's a course where you have to pick your spots.
I actually think that if the conditions stayed the same at Torrey Pines as any other golf course, I think Torrey Pines is the hardest golf course in the country because it's 7,600 yards at sea level with no bail-out on any hole, bunkers are left and right, pins are tucked, and there's no letup; there's no easy par-4s. Par-5s for the U.S. Open are going to be long and almost impossible to reach. And I think that changing the mindset from attack to playing for par has been the biggest challenge for me. But as soon as I've been able to do that, I've played this course a lot better.

Q. I guess my question is how you think you stack up to Tiger, but I ask it in such a way --
PHIL MICKELSON: Be more creative.

Q. Just from having a really strong spring last year and then a lost summer and then a big win in Boston and then in Shanghai, where you think you are in relation to all that coming into this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I could answer that relative to Tiger. That's kind of a separate entity.
But as far as where has my game progressed, I believe that heading into the 2008 season I am much better equipped to drive the ball well. I'm much better physically equipped to accommodate the changes that Butch Harmon and I are implementing. In fact, I'm going to see him as soon as we get done. So I feel like I'll be able to drive the ball in the fairway or just off the edges, keeping the ball in play, not having the big misses much more efficiently than I have in the past. In the past I've had penalty strokes almost every tournament.
I think that that's a realistic goal to go the entire four rounds in a number of events without any penalty shots, which doesn't seem like a big deal, but it has been for me in the past. I think that will allow me to get to my strength, which is 150 yards in.

Q. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about the condition of the course last year. They had a few problems with the turf. Is the course in some of the best shape you've ever seen it?
PHIL MICKELSON: The South Course is in as good a shape as it's ever been since the redesign, and I think the biggest reason is the coverage of the greens. Letting the poa annua take over has been a big key. The greens are rolling terrific and they look terrific. They're healthy, they're holding shots, and more than that there's just a lot of grass on them, a lot more so than in the past.

Q. About your health, you mentioned that you had an issue when you were overseas in Asia. Was it kind of going back and forth in the off-season or did it just kind of come up in the last few days?
PHIL MICKELSON: It got better. I don't think it had anything to do with Asia, it just happened to be around that time, just before I left or around that time when I got this stuff in my lungs. It's lingered the entire off-season. I've had my voice kind of scratchy like this the past couple months, and finally we're getting a diagnosis what it is.

Q. Did it take you by surprise? Were you really surprised by it?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I'm just surprised I haven't been able to get rid of it. Certainly antibiotics haven't worked and I just haven't been able to get rid of it.

Q. Is your sense that you did get the bronchitis ultimately from cleaning around the house after the fires?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, I doubt it, but it just happened along that timeline. I don't know the cause and effect.

Q. You got back from your corporate outing, and at that point the fire had already gone past?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we spent two days I think cleaning everything up before we left.

Q. So you were out in the yard doing that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I was on the ladder cleaning in the house.

Q. I was curious why you didn't have other people do that. There are plenty of people who can do that.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly when we left we had an assistant, professional cleaning crews and stuff in, but we still had -- I don't know why. That's a good question. I guess it's my house, I wanted to help out.

Q. Will your schedule change much this year? Have you given that a look? Do you think you'll be playing the week before majors again? Will you alter anything differently?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm going to play Houston this year before The Masters. The tournament director came up to me last year and said, "You know, I just wanted you to know we're really making an effort to have the golf course match up to the Masters. We're going to have the rough the same height, green speed the same, practice facilities to accommodate." And I thought that was really cool, and it provides a great spot to get ready for The Masters, so I'll end up playing there, which I haven't done in the past.
But I will miss the week before the U.S. Open. I think having the course closed and being able to come out here when I'm living at home is too good of an opportunity to pass up to fly somewhere else.

Q. What about the Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's what I'm talking about.

Q. British.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll play the Scottish before the British, yes.

Q. Were you able to go to the anti-doping meetings yesterday? And if so, I'm curious about your thoughts on how that went, what the tone of the meetings was.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't go to the anti-doping meetings. I was a little doped up myself (laughter) on prescription stuff. But no, I'll have to get caught up on some of the stuff.

Q. What are your thoughts about that program, though? How necessary was it given the exposure to money the last five, ten years and that being the thing in other sports, there's a lot of incentive for people to be tempted. Do you think it's necessary just to deter that temptation?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's good for the sport because I think it'll show that golfers hold not just the rules and etiquette on the golf course in high esteem and in self-policing but I think off the course, as well. We're a major sport, a big-time sport and play for a lot of money like you say. And it's a very lucrative sport and it's important we have rules in play to cover it. But I don't think there's going to be anything there.
But better to have it in place, you know?

Q. How has the course design portion of your life gone and what have you learned from that process?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have a couple of courses I've been working on but nothing that has been overly time-consuming. We break ground on one here in a couple months, which will be fun. But for the most part I've tried to not overdo it because I want to focus in on golf for the next few years.

Q. If you had an opportunity to change one hole at Augusta, what hole would you pick and what would you do different?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've got to believe that Mr. Payne would hear, so I'm going to pass (laughter).

Q. I was curious to gauge your thoughts on the bye week this year, which is a first in our experience.

Q. There's a dark week before the Ryder Cup.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, later in the year.

Q. Whether you think that will help boost the attendance at the FedExCup things and whether you were an advocate. Does it help?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I'm not sure. I don't know. It probably helps break up the five events in a row. Certainly that will help. I don't know to what extent it'll increase participation or whatnot, but I think that a week off before the Ryder Cup will build up some anticipation for the Ryder Cup, too.

Q. You mentioned being local you can play the course a little bit while you're here. How much have you played in the last few months out here? Have you played a little extra? And have you been able to figure out the nuances that Jones put on that South Course and maybe if you've analyzed why you haven't played as well there since the redesign?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's been a lot of cross-cuts that have been done on the greens where putts now break the opposite way than what they used to, especially around 11, 12, 13. A lot of those greens have been changed. The pinches have been moved. That has thrown me off from knowing in the past that it breaks one way and it goes the other way. I've played here every week roughly. I've taken little notes on a number of putts, and I think I'm getting a much better understanding of the greens.

Q. Do you think the fact that they're poa now 100 percent will be a little bit more consistent to putt on, or how do you feel about them strictly being poa?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like poa annua as a putting surface. Certainly late in the day it gets to be a little bumpier, but I've seen some great putting surfaces being poa annua, and I think the South is meant to be that.

Q. Just curious with the developments at the end of last year, what is your status with Bearing Point? Do you have a hat this week? Are you looking for a new deal?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I don't know what I should or shouldn't say on that right now so I'm going to hold on, but we're trying to finalize some things up as we speak.

Q. Are you going to have a hat on this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. I don't know. We'll see.

Q. Tiger comes out on his website and says he thinks a season Grand Slam is within reason. If you came out with a statement like that on your website, all hell would break loose. What's your feeling about -- do you appreciate his confidence --
PHIL MICKELSON: Why is that? Why would all hell break loose? Go ahead, sorry.

Q. Do you appreciate his confidence and admire the fact that he can come out and say that, that that seems to put more pressure on him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's obviously a very confident player and he should be. He's won countless events and double-digit majors. 13, there you go. So he should be confident.
I think that this year I should be able to put myself in contention, as well, and I look forward to the opportunity to compete against him.

Q. When you think back on how well you played at PLAYERS last year before the wrist injury, do you feel a sense of frustration of what might have been, or do you close that as a chapter and just look ahead?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't have -- I didn't like the way I played the majors obviously last year, but I certainly liked the way I finished. I liked winning at Deutsche Bank, I liked winning in China, and my excitement level for '08 is extremely high because I feel very comfortable with the swing changes that I've made over the last nine months with Butch Harmon. I feel like I'm ready to play competitively without having to think about the nuances of that and to be able to react again to shots, as opposed to having to think about swing mechanics or thoughts.
So I think that even though '07 may not have been the way I wanted to play in the majors, I still had a lot of positives that came from it that set '08 up to be a good year.

Q. You did a lot of work, lower body stuff, to get comfortable with the things you were working on with Butch. Could you talk just a little bit about what that was and how it fits in with the whole Harmon philosophy?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. As we shortened the golf swing a little bit, I needed to have a little bit more explosiveness, a little bit more speed to keep up with the same distance and hopefully have more accuracy. I've had to strengthen my lower body to be a little bit more stable and then I've had to strengthen upper body to be able to accelerate and have the rotation through impact. So the off-season was dedicated mainly to accommodate the changes we've made.
CHRIS REIMER: Thank you, and good luck here at home.

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