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January 30, 2008

Phil Mickelson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the FBR Open.
PHIL MICKELSON: A lot of faces we don't normally see often. What are they here for?
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: They're here to talk to you.
PHIL MICKELSON: How's Brady doing, all right?
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: We were just talking about the fact that you won here the last time the Super Bowl was in town. It was an exciting event between you and Justin Leonard in that playoff. You've had a lot of success here and you've had an opportunity to play the course. Just talk about being back in Phoenix.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's fun for me to come back here. I love the West Coast. I love playing here in the Phoenix Open because it was a special place for me living here for 12 years and coming out and competing in this event, having won it twice. I think coming down the final four or five holes there's a feeling in this event that you don't get at any other tournament, and I think it's one of the more exciting events that we have on the PGA TOUR. I would love to be in contention and have a chance again on Sunday.

Q. What did you feel like you got out of last week? How did you feel like you played?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt a little rusty going into the week, but as the week wore on I started to play better each day. I had a good weekend, and I feel like I'm starting to play some good golf, and I expect to have a good week this week.

Q. How would you rate your health as of right now? Are you 100 percent, close to it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I feel like I'm pretty close to being 100 percent. It's been good. I've been taking some antibiotics and my strength is back. I've been able to work out again. Again, I'm starting to feel much better.

Q. In years past I know you worked a lot of 150-yard shots, and during the off-season. What was your focus during this off-season would you say?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, when I started working with Butch it's been driving. I've been trying to drive the golf ball better and I feel like I've been doing that. That's been coming around, so I feel very -- feel much better off the tee. But it ultimately will come down to 150 yards and in, chipping, putting, short iron shots, getting them close, and so that's going to be a critical part to playing well and to winning.
But fortunately I'm hitting more fairways or I'm hitting the ball less off line, and because of that I'm able to play much more aggressive.

Q. Is there a part of you that's looking forward to seeing a full year with Butch? It's almost been a year, I guess, now, getting on it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's been almost a year and I feel very comfortable with the changes. I'm seeing results off the tee. I'm feeling results, different sight lines, I feel more confident. I think this is going to be a good year. I'm really looking forward to 2008.

Q. How did you get involved with Caddie For a Cure? And how is it working with John today as your caddie?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been a while ago that somebody asked me to do it. I agreed to do it. We scheduled it here. I had a great caddie. John was terrific. He's got a little daughter, not little, 13, who is a really good player, been playing in some national junior events, and we're trying to get his son to play a little bit. He's only eight. But it worked out well. He's really a neat guy, and we had a great day.

Q. Can you talk about your recent decision to play the week before The Masters, just all the factors that went into that?
PHIL MICKELSON: The biggest issue I have had in the past when I don't play the week before the majors is I get off to a poor start, and last year's Masters when I did not play the week before, I was 5 over through 7, about shot myself out of the tournament. I fought back to get in contention somewhat on Sunday, but it was that first seven-hole stretch that really killed me. I feel like I need to be competitive and play competitive rounds leading into The Masters.
The tournament at Houston said that they are going to try to set the course up as close to Augusta as possible, same width fairways, same kind of first cut, same green speed, and so I think it's -- I'm going to try it and see if it's a good place to warm up for The Masters.

Q. Have you heard any player feedback from Redstone?
PHIL MICKELSON: I heard a lot of good things. I heard it was set up a lot like Augusta and that it was a great place to play the week before.

Q. You've had so much success down here in the desert, not just here but in the Hope and Tucson even a long time ago?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just think it's the West Coast. I enjoy playing the West Coast, it's close to home. It's easier to travel, and I'm excited after a layoff to get started to play golf again.

Q. Do the greens have anything to do with it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been fortunate to win on the old bent greens here at TPC Scottsdale, as well as the Bermuda, so I don't think it's that big of a factor.

Q. What are your memories back from that '96 thing with Justin?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I look back on that, and I remember a lot of shots, but the key one was the playoff hole, the second playoff hole, No. 10. I made about an 18-footer to keep the playoff going for par that curled in, kind of getting dark. I think that was the one that I looked back on as the highlight.

Q. You can remember individual shots like that here and there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Every now and then, yeah.

Q. You've hit a lot of golf shots.

Q. This course has just undergone a heck of a transformation since you won back in '96. What is it? Can you kind of go over this course and kind of the changes from that period of time to now and just how it plays?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, just about every tee box has been moved back, so it's playing a lot longer than it used to play, and the greens have been changed from Bermuda to bent, so they probably don't hold as well. So that makes it a lot more difficult test because you're coming in with longer clubs and it's harder to stop it.
That being said, if you play the tough holes well and make pars, there is enough birdie holes out here where you can have some good low scores.

Q. You missed the cut last year, but the four years before that you just almost won every tournament, so what was it about last year that was --
PHIL MICKELSON: I putted terribly. I putted just terribly. I spent the next three or four days after this event, all I did was putt. Because I hit it pretty well, and then I ended up winning actually the following week, so I had a great next week.

Q. I know you keep getting asked about 16, but it seems like it keeps getting bigger, more grandstands and everything. Is there some point where they're going to have to stop? Do you like that type of environment or is it something you don't like?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's the only thing like it on TOUR, and I think that you have to keep up with the hype. You've got to keep making it bigger and better every year, and the Thunderbirds are doing it, and it's cool. It's fun.

Q. Do you have a pick for Sunday's game and will you be able to go?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't have a pick. I don't plan on going. If the Chargers were going to be there I would be going.

Q. No predictions, huh?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I think it's pretty obvious what's going to happen (laughter).

Q. Your respiratory illness, did you get that as a result of the fires near your home or when you were in China?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it just coincided timewise around that time, but it probably started just before the fires, but around that time. It had nothing to do with the smoke, certainly had nothing to do with my trip overseas. I had it before then. But I took some antibiotics there that didn't quite get rid of it, I took some more in December that didn't quite get rid of it, and just now it is starting to get better.

Q. Is your voice going to stay like that long-term?
PHIL MICKELSON: My wife likes the raspiness.

Q. One more on 16. What is it like to pop out of that tunnel?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you don't. I mean, you walk (laughter).

Q. What is it like to walk out of that tunnel?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a cool feeling to get up on the tee box and be surrounded like that. It's kind of a stadium effect, and we don't have that in golf. Normally everybody is the same height as the players, and to have that stadium effect where both sides are built up, it's a cool feeling.

Q. Geoff Ogilvy said that it was fun on 16 but he didn't like 11 because you're right by 16. Do you kind of share that sentiment that it's fun being there but when you're around it and the crowd is yelling it's kind of unnerving on other holes?
PHIL MICKELSON: I guess you could say that, but I don't agree with it because I always like to hear what's going on at 16. I like hearing the moans, I like hearing the cheers, and I think it makes for an entertaining setup when you get on the holes that are close to it.

Q. Is that the only place you've had a golf shot booed?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, no (laughter).

Q. Do you think there will be a retractable roof on that thing some day?
PHIL MICKELSON: Somebody was saying that. There's a lot of wind there but you don't feel it because it's sheltered. But when the ball gets up above the crowd it gets hit pretty good by the wind that's up there. So maybe a dome.

Q. There's some exciting young guys coming on the TOUR. I'm just wondering, based on the Tour when you first came on, what do you think are the challenges first-year guys came on as far as adjustments?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think when you first come out on TOUR, the toughest obstacle to get over was seeing a number of players practice every day, and when you see all these guys working hard, it wasn't the same guys, but you see a number of guys and you feel like you're losing ground if you don't go out and practice. Really that's not the best way to prepare always for the upcoming tournament. You have to have a balance between practice, as well as mentally rest and get prepared. And I see a lot of guys overdo it, play the Monday Pro-Am, hit balls all day Tuesday, play a practice round, hit balls all day Wednesday, and when Thursday comes around they're tired and they're not ready to play. I think that's the biggest obstacle that I've seen most young players who play the TOUR for their first year struggle with.

Q. Did you do that a little bit?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit I did, yeah.

Q. We just had Azinger in here a little bit ago talking Ryder Cup. I'm just wondering what your thoughts are on the new selection process and if you're on board with that?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I'm one of the picks it would be great (laughter). I've got some work to do to get up on the team. I think that any changes that are made are in an effort to provide the best team, whether it's delaying the selection of the players, whether it's having more selections, but I think all the decisions that are being made, we're going to try to get the best team possible for the U.S. to compete.

Q. He seems to be manipulating things as best he can as the captain to -- he's talking about the Belfry, how everything pinched in at 280 so that you and Tiger and the longer hitters were having to hit from the same spots. Even though we're a little bit far off from it have you noticed that he's been very proactive here in trying to make a change and trying to change the result here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, Azinger is going to be a great captain. We've had some great captains, we really have. He's going to be another one. I think he's going to take advantage of our home field advantage, and I think there's nothing wrong with that. We should know where the pins are. We should have the course set up for guys who hit it wherever the landing area is for us. We need to take advantage of home court. Guys in football do it all the time. If they're playing a quick team they let the grass grow, little things like that. There's nothing wrong with that.

Q. Are you looking for some good resort golf fairways for the big hitters, nice and wide?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm always for that (laughter).

Q. We had a lot of rain on Sunday. I was just wondering what you thought about the course conditions today.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't really notice a problem. There was no wet spots. Certainly the ball wasn't running. It was playing very long, but it wasn't flooded or in bad shape at all. It was in great shape.
JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil.

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