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February 6, 2008
PEBBLE BEACH, CALIFORNIA
JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We welcome defending champion Phil Mickelson.
PHIL MICKELSON: I obviously love this week. I love the fact that I won it last year, and I'm excited about the week.
But there's something that's been going on last couple of weeks that has been finalized, and I'm excited to announce today that I've created a partnership with KPMG, and this will be the first week I'm going to be wearing the new hat.
Tim Flynn and John Veihmeyer are with KPMG. Tim is the international chairman, and he's here, as well. This will be our first week together. And I just wanted to share it with you and let everybody know how excited I am. Just real quickly, KPMG has a lot of the same beliefs that I have. They have acted with such professional integrity, and they give back to the community in ways that Amy and I are consistent with, and we try to give back through education as well as through improving the lives of children, and it was just a perfect fit, and I'm excited that we were able to bring this partnership together.
Any questions about the tournament, about KPMG, about the week?
Q. Talk about being defending champion and coming back here and trying to defend your title.
PHIL MICKELSON: I love the Monterey Peninsula. I've loved this tournament. I appreciate it for what it is; it's a special event that brings the game of golf to households that we can't reach with just normal TOUR players, the fact that we have such wonderful CEOs from the greatest companies in the world as well as great celebrities and actors that help us reach a demographic that we couldn't reach without them.
So this is a special week. I also am able to make some great acquaintances and do friendships and relationships. It's a fun week, and I'm excited to be back playing and trying to defend my championship.
Q. You opened in San Diego and played not quite as well I'm sure as you wished. Then you have a tremendous tournament. Are you excited or disappointed in the way the last round went? You caught the guy and then you're beaten in the playoff. Is that a little bit of a downer at the end?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that when I entered the year, I knew that I was a week or two behind schedule. I had been sick, I hadn't been able to practice, and I was rusty. But I was able to come out and finish sixth, which I thought was a good performance because I improved every day.
Last week was close. I felt like I hit a lot of shots that were good enough to win the tournament, but I hit a lot of shots that cost me the tournament, whether it was a four-putt on 9 or a couple of tee shots in the water.
I had a great practice session with Butch on Tuesday, yesterday, before I came up, and I believe that the subtleties or some of those shots would have been eliminated. I really expect to have a good week. I think this is going to be a great week.
Q. I read about it, but would you explain what happened with the breathing problem? Was it something where you worked after the fire and you breathed in smoke and congestion or what?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it was related to the fires or my trip overseas. I think it was just a timeline around it. They were sharing the same timeline.
But it was apparently bronchitis. I did some chest X-rays and I had a bunch of stuff in my lungs and had a hard time breathing. I think my kids are getting it, too, so we're going to try to get rid of it for them, and they've been coughing a bunch, as well. For three months it just hadn't gone away until I was on a very strong antibiotic that kind of wiped it out.
Q. Does that mean your kids will be unavailable to run across the 18th green when you win?
PHIL MICKELSON: They might have to run a little slower just so they can catch their breath. I think for me as a parent that's one of the coolest experiences because I use that as kind of a timeline for their development, and as I look back on pictures, I say, oh, I can't believe they were that little, or wow, I won that tournament and Evan wasn't even born. It's kind of been a timeline for our family.
Q. Think what it'll be like in 2022 when they're college age.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, but fortunately we have so many great photographers that have been able to capture those moments in time and I'll cherish them.
Q. For many years Mark O'Meara was the king of this place. Are you now some royalty here after doing so well here?
PHIL MICKELSON: He's got five wins out here, man. That's pretty majestic from a king's standpoint. I'm not there yet, but maybe one more I can start to challenge him.
Q. You've got three.
PHIL MICKELSON: I've got three. I need to get a fourth to get close enough to challenge him.
Q. We're supposed to have really beautiful weather. How does that change your game plan walking into a tournament when it's going to be bright and sunny as opposed to some years in the past when it's been less sunny and windy? How does that change your game plan the night before?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, first of all, the last four years we've had great weather here. I don't think we've had any delays. We've gotten very fortunate with the weather. And it's been great for the tournament. In fact, I just saw AT&T re-upped for five more years, which is fabulous. They've been a great sponsor for the event.
I don't think it changes the game plan how we approach the golf or how we approach the tournament. I just think we're going to enjoy the week, and I think Pebble Beach will be showcased as the beautiful spot that it is, whereas a lot of times with the weather people shy away and say, gosh, it's always raining there, I don't want to go there. When they see how beautiful it's going to be this weekend, I think a lot of people will come out here on vacation.
Q. Going back and thinking about every shot on every hole, do you really do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I never said that. That's Tiger.
Q. My question was going to be about the bronchitis because you had indicated last week that that ate into your practice schedule a little bit. That's an ailment that does take away from your stamina. Are you back to 100 percent as far as the physical part of your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am, yes. I feel 100 percent. I've been able to work out. I've gotten my strength back. I had some atrophy for a week or two. I wasn't quite as strong as I had been. That's come back. So I feel like I've been able to practice as hard as I'd like without losing energy, and I'm excited. I feel good. My game is coming back, and I think that this is going to be a good week.
Q. I think I recall last year when you won here you said you were driving it well. Were you really driving it well?
PHIL MICKELSON: Last year I believe statistically I hit more than 85 percent of the fairways. Granted, the fairways are wider and they're wet, but still, to be able to play out of the fairway 85 percent of the time allows me to be a lot more aggressive into the greens. I drove it terrific out here last year.
Q. It seemed like you were trending the other way because at Riviera you weren't happy and then the next week you went to Butch to find something about your driving accuracy; is that right?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's accurate. That's accurate. But sometimes I might be able to hit it well but it might be kind of a Band-Aid fix, if you will. I didn't have the confidence in it, even though I was hitting a lot of good drives here and even at Riviera.
Q. So you were trying to improve something, you were trying to -- you thought it was a Band-Aid fix?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt like I wasn't -- I didn't have the confidence in my swing, even though it was coming out okay.
Q. The difference in the format here with the amateurs, you've talked about the importance of the celebrities and the CEOs. Have you ever taken time either after or before a round to help your partner practice their game or give them a little lesson?
PHIL MICKELSON: I used to do that when I came out on TOUR, and I never played well in these events, and so I've tried to not worry about their game and enjoy the walk, enjoy the time together to have great conversation, whether it's about golf or other things. But I try not to get too involved in their game, for two reasons. It detracts away from my game, and it also has them feeling as though I'm watching every little thing that they do, and I don't want them to have that feeling that makes them uptight. I want them to be more relaxed. So I try not to do that.
Q. Pelz was saying before that he felt that you hit it better in your practice sessions before the Buick than you had in any previous January that he has been with you.
PHIL MICKELSON: That's true.
Q. Is that your assessment, and if so, why, and what does that kind of portend for the rest of the season for you if you were hitting it that well in January?
PHIL MICKELSON: Normally in January I'm hitting it terrible when Pelz comes out. It's all over the place, and he's got this look of bewilderment. But this year I had worked in the off-season on a couple of changes that Butch and I wanted to implement. I feel very comfortable with them, and I was able to stand up after not hitting balls for a while and hit it the way I want to or the way I expect to or the way I usually hit it after days of practice.
He and I are both very optimistic about what that means for this year.
Q. Does it make you more comfortable right at the beginning then?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, yeah. I've missed a lot of practice time heading into the tournaments, but my expectations were still very high of my performance. I expect to play well and to perform well even though I didn't have the time to prepare, and now that I've had the time to prepare and practice, I think it's going to get better.
Q. You talked about your success here. Why do you think -- you and I talked a little bit about this in San Diego. These are not obviously courses where length is that much of an advantage. What skill in your game do you think matches up with this tournament and these courses?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the rounds that we play here last a long time. They're five-and-a-half-, six-hour rounds, and sometimes guys try to fight that. They try to speed up, whatnot. I don't do that. I actually really enjoy the extra time to spend with my playing partners to get to know them, ask them about their business, and I learn a lot this week.
When we have waits on tee boxes, I try to interact with some of the other amateurs from the groups ahead, behind us, and use it as an opportunity to enjoy the day, rather than try to force the round to go faster. It's just not going to happen.
And so once I accepted that and enjoyed the day and took advantage of the opportunity to learn about other businesses and cultures, it became a great experience, and it carried over into my play because I was having fun and I felt good and the day went well.
Q. You've been working with Butch roughly about a year now, and I see John Daly is now taking some lessons. Could you explain, and I sort of understand, but changing teachers, what you get out of it? Is there a comfort zone? You had won majors with a different teacher, and now you changed teachers, and why, and where are you now with Butch that you weren't before?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know where to go with that. I'm going to pass. That's a good question, but it's a -- I don't really have a great answer for you.
Q. Do you feel more comfortable with him than you did?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do now. I do now after implementing changes for a while. I feel comfortable with him. At first it felt very awkward. I was surprised I was able to win right away at THE PLAYERS, but I had some success right away. But it takes time to feel comfortable with changes, especially under the gun. But I knew that I needed to make it because I wasn't performing off the tee the way I needed to to win majors, and I'm seeing the difference.
I don't know if statistically it's showing up yet, but I've seen the difference when I don't have these huge misses anymore. I'm not missing it big, and my ball flight now is flying inside the parameters of the fairway rather than starting outside and curving back in. A lot of the curves have been taken out of the flight, and all this has come about since working with Butch, and that was our goal.
Q. You said that was one of the keys to keeping the ball in the fairway.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I drove it great. It's not like I was incompetent. I was able to hit it reasonably well at times. I won a bunch of tournaments, but I wanted to get better, and I felt like off the tee was the one area that I could improve the most.
Q. Do you feel with as well as Tiger is playing right now and has been and how quickly he's gotten out of the gate, and it appears he's separating himself from a lot of folks, are you concerned with that, and does that motivate you even more with the Masters coming up in April?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not overly concerned with it because I think it's great for the game that he's playing well and creating awareness, and I think that it's a great opportunity and challenge for us to try to compete. I think as I continue to progress, I'm hoping to continue to have success like I did at Deutsche Bank in tournaments where he's also in the field.
Q. Talk about your expectations. How do you compare that to previous years?
PHIL MICKELSON: My expectations are higher this year than in the previous two years because I'm starting to drive the ball a lot better, and I've spent now four years with Pelz, and my short irons from 150 and putting has become much more consistent and been at a whole different level than before we started working together, so it's gotten better each year.
I think that my expectations this year therefore are a lot higher.
Q. I guess a three-part question based on your affinity for this place. What's your favorite shot here in this tournament that you have to play on any of the courses, and what's the best shot you've ever hit here in all your time here? I thought that was interesting about what you said how you deal with this by conversing with people. Give me an example of one thing you have learned while doing that.
PHIL MICKELSON: I've learned a lot about business. I remember in 2005 when I played with Steve Lyons at Ford that I learned all about the numbers and the challenges that the auto makers were facing and the pensions and the retiree-to-employee ratio and how much money is owed for health care and all this stuff. It was fascinating. You don't want to know the details, but I learned a lot about that.
As far as the greatest shots, whatnot, I don't know if I would really pick out one.
Q. What's one shot, your favorite shot here that you've played here? Can you think of one?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think one would stand out. I think there's a bunch that make me nervous. The 18th hole at Pebble makes me nervous because as a left-handed player when I look up and tilt my head, it's staring right at the water. It's a very nerve-wracking shot. I enjoyed last year having a four-shot cushion. I would try to push for that again.
But as far as one particular shot as it stands out -- one of the best shots? Again, nothing stands out.
Q. Is there a particular celebrity that you enjoy playing with or have enjoyed playing with at this event or maybe at the Hope? Let's stick to here for AT&T's sake.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played with Kenny G, and we tied for first here in the Pro-Am years ago, probably around 2000, 2001, and I remember we came to the last hole and we were actually leading by a shot. We only needed to make par. But I was trailing by a shot in the tournament, and I tried to go for the green with driver off the deck for my second shot. It peeled off into the ocean, and I remember his caddie was pretty ticked off that I didn't just lay up to win the amateur (laughter). I still laugh about that. I mean, we still talk about that.
And I'm sure Kenny probably felt the same way, too, although he never voiced it. His caddie did, but Kenny never voiced it. We've had some fun moments.
But my most memorable shot of the tournaments over the years actually wasn't a shot I hit. It came from my amateur partner last year. On No. 5 I hit a 6-iron right at the pin on the par-3 there, and it -- I thought it may have gone in, but there was no applause so something happened. It landed just over the green and kicked into the rough and we never found it.
And meanwhile my partner went way to the left into the knee-high hay and you could barely see his ball. He's getting the shot. He's an 18-handicap, and there's a reason for it. He couldn't see his shot. He's got no chance to get it on the green, the green goes away. And he takes a hack at it and the ball looked like it was being lifted by angels and it hit in the rough and bounced through onto the green and stayed on the green, and he made a 50-footer for par, so he makes a 3 for 2, I make a 5, and we win the tournament by three shots. It was those three shots. That's the most memorable shot that I can think of, but it wasn't one that I hit.
Q. Of the three tournaments last year, this one, Riviera and THE PLAYERS, which one was the biggest turning point do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, THE PLAYERS was almost the biggest turning point because had I not gotten hurt I would have carried a lot of momentum into the majors, but instead I wasn't able to play as aggressively. I wasn't able to play out of the rough and it ended up being a not great year relative to the majors.
But I would then have to say that playing three rounds head-to-head with Tiger and beating him was a big turning point because I hadn't done that in the past.
When he started making a move on Sunday and he hits it in there tight on 16 and I match it, that was a big turning point because even though he's playing great, as we talked about earlier, I still have this inner belief that I want to go head-to-head because I've proven to myself that I can do it and I'd like the opportunity to do it more.
Q. What about these tournaments, this one and Riviera next week, how do they fit into the scheme from how last year set up?
PHIL MICKELSON: I mean, they were nice victories. I really enjoyed playing Riviera last year, and I've added it into my schedule. I've kind of changed my schedule a little bit because I enjoy playing Riviera so much. I was able to stay at home and I commuted up from San Diego, which worked out fabulous, which is why I ended up not playing the Hope this year because it would have been six in a row.
I'm actually playing five in a row, which I never do, but because I'm home two weeks it doesn't feel like I'm out of town that much. It's not as stressful or as draining energy-wise. So it's worked out really well.
I think having played well at Riviera and having played well here probably gave me a good impression of it, and I'm doing -- which is why I'm doing it again.
Q. You beat Bones --
PHIL MICKELSON: Three times. I was home before he was in his hotel room because he had to go toward the 405 and there was a bit of traffic.
Q. You mentioned that you made some adjustments or you made some changes in the off-season. Is there something that the viewing audience at home could look at and see in you that we could make note of and you say, hey, Phil has made these changes, look at this, pay a little bit of attention to that?
PHIL MICKELSON: The only thing that would be noticeable out of the three or four things that we're really focused on is where the club is at the top of the swing. It used to be way past parallel and now it's not. That would be the most obvious to see. But I didn't make a conscious effort to not go past parallel. It's just that that's happened with the other changes. But that's the easiest to see.
Q. Comment on the World Golf Championships. Where do you think they are right now? Do you think they're still strong? Have they lost some of their sizzle from when they started?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I think they're doing well until they get put to the test. I mean, I think guys will come and play these events and they're very successful and we've had strong fields, until they move to Australia, until they move to different parts of the world. That will be the real test of where they are and how strong of events they are.
Q. They're not going there, though.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, then they're not really being tested, so I would say they're pretty good, yeah. We went to Australia. That was a while ago.
Q. Do you think they should move around more or are you comfortable with where they are?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough question because I think that they're important to help bring exposure to other countries. I think that the game of golf is a growing opportunity. It isn't necessarily the United States, it might be in China, it might be in India, it might be in other areas of the world, and yet television ratings are here in the U.S., and companies want the ratings here in the U.S., and that's the only way to get the purse up and to get the players. So that's a tough -- there's no great answer.
Q. When they started in '99 and they had that $5 million purse which got your attention, do you find it hard now to distinguish between great tournaments on TOUR? There seems to be a lot of them, whether it's Pebble, whether it's Nelson, Wachovia, World Golf Championships? Do they seem set apart like they were when they started?
PHIL MICKELSON: They're a lot of -- each tournament has improved its quality. What's difficult from a player's point of view is scheduling because if you take the five majors, counting THE PLAYERS, five events, and the three World Golf Championships, which is eight, and let's say the four FedExCup events, which is 12, and I like to play here, five on the West Coast, which one of them is the Match Play so let's say four, so that's 16 events and I only like to play 20. Well, now I only have four events to choose from from all these great tournaments. So it's very difficult scheduling-wise to be supportive of all these tournaments when the expectation is that you have to play these events, and there's only a few more that are open opportunities.
Q. You went and played overseas in the last season which you historically haven't done. Usually it's your off-season. Are you going to do more of that? Is that a change in philosophy for you? Did it have to do with the ages of your kids or traveling or education, or is it appearance fees or is it scheduling? Are you going to do more of that in the future, I guess?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's all of that, and the answer is hopefully yes. I'd like to play one or two weeks in the off-season. With the season ending earlier it gives me a bit of a break and also an opportunity to try new equipment. Like the irons that I'm playing this week I was able to work on, get ready and then test and play in competition so that they were ready when the year came out. I didn't have to do club testing.
I think that going to China, going to Singapore was an educational experience for my kids that they've never had before. They did take good care of us as far as the travel and the accommodations and so forth, so it was a wonderful experience. And time-wise I still had two and a half months off.
I'm hoping that the shorter PGA TOUR season will encourage players, myself or other top players, to play more throughout the world and try to bring different parts of the world exposure to the game of golf and hopefully help it grow.
Q. It's kind of ironic because you were looking for a shorter season and now it enables you to play more and extend your season.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think that I really stood up and said I want a shorter season. I don't ever recall saying that, I just didn't play past August or September. I mean, I wasn't trying to push for anything. Don't throw me out there like I was the one doing this; I wasn't. But I certainly like it, and I think there's going to be a lot of positives that come from it.
End of FastScripts