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March 12, 2008

Phil Mickelson


LAURY LIVSEY: We'd like to thank Phil Mickelson for taking some time coming in today after your Pro-Am round. You're a past champion here 11 years ago at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, so it's been a while. Want to talk about the state of your game and how you're doing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm excited to be back here playing Arnold's tournament. I know it's his 30th anniversary.
I'm also excited to share with you that I've partnered up with Barclays. Barclays and I have a new relationship and I thought it was pretty exciting given that they have been such a strong hold in the world of golf, sponsoring the FedExCup, Barclays Classic, sponsoring the Scottish Open as well as the Singapore Open, and it was a great fit and I'm excited to announce that here this week at Arnold's tournament.

Q. How was your round out there today?
PHIL MICKELSON: The golf course is looking good. I know that -- I thought the greens putted well. There was some talk about that. I thought that they putted fine, and I think it's going to be a fun week. If we get calm conditions we can probably score pretty low but if the wind picks up, it's a tough course. It looked like last week was very difficult with the wind.

Q. Talking about the greens, putting it mildly, Tiger is not a fan of them, but you said you thought they would be all right out there.
PHIL MICKELSON: Bay Hill has always been the standard for conditioning. It's always been immaculate and it's probably not up to their normal standards and there's nothing wrong with them, that's fine.

Q. Now that we've had a cycle of schedule changes last year. And the preparation you would do does not change but now having THE PLAYERS in May, have you changed anything about your routine that would lead to Augusta and examining what you did last year, will anything change about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: The preparation for the majors has not changed too much. With the schedule change, it's been an interesting change for me as a player to adjust my schedule. Because now we have a big tournament and I treat THE PLAYERS as a major as far as a tournament and how I prepare for it so now we have a big tournament every five months. Also factoring in that you want to play some more tournaments, and you only have three or four weeks between stops, it's challenging to have a good balance between competitive golf, preparation, family time, corporate time and so it does present a bit of a challenge, but nothing that couldn't be overcome.

Q. Was there something valuable about having THE PLAYERS two weeks before the Masters and whatever benefit you got out of that, does Doral kind of provide that in any way?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think we all liked having THE PLAYERS before the Masters, but personally I think I performed better last year when it was on its own as an event. And although guys would use it as a springboard as preparation for Masters, they were trying to go in and peak for Augusta, and now the tournament stands alone and I think it has a lot more creditability and status because of that. I think it was a great move for the event.

Q. Is Doral giving you some of the same feel of a tough course to get ready for Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's fine. It's fine, yeah.

Q. Do you --
PHIL MICKELSON: I am sorry, didn't mean to cut you off. I think he has a few more. Do you have any more? You were on a roll, I didn't want to slow you down (laughter). No, go ahead.

Q. Will you play these events overseas because of the sponsorship deal?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yes, I'll most likely play all of them. I'll certainly play the FedExCup, Barclays Classic. I'll play the Scottish and I'm planning on going to Singapore again this year.
And I think -- and I said this last year, I think the real benefit, I think one of the benefits, there's a lot, of having the season end at a certain time and giving us, say, 2 1/2 months of an off-season will give a lot of the top players play a week or two internationally and help promote the game in different parts of the world, because that's where the future growth is.
We are stagnant here in the United States because of our growth, and to grow the game of golf, it has to be most likely on an international level. I think that that will provide an opportunity if those countries have a chance to see some of the best players in the world compete more frequently, it might create more excitement.

Q. On another sponsorship issue, how did the Crowne Plaza shoots go, and were you surprised at the people that showed up?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought that the commercial shoots went very well. I thought -- well, Feherty was in them, so Feherty was in one or two of them, and he's one of the funniest guys. And he had Bones in one, and they were fun to do and I thought they turned out pretty funny. I have not seen the final cut. I get cut up pretty good. I hit people with their golf balls. There were some good spots. I thought it went well.

Q. Any spots that were funny or had some spots --
PHIL MICKELSON: A few of them did, it was interesting hearing their stories, some related to the shoot and some didn't but there was some funny things that happened to them.

Q. Was that a good thing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Was what a good thing, that they were funny.

Q. The guys that looked like you.
PHIL MICKELSON: Depends how you looked at it. It's helped them at times and hurt them at times.

Q. Serious question. The course, does it suit a particular style of play, trying to figure out why Tiger was unbeatable for four years and why the last four times around, he's finished 20th or higher and pretty much been out of things.
PHIL MICKELSON: I just think he has not played to his ability those particular weeks, no real reason for it.
But as far as the golf course, certainly the course has undergone changes over the last ten years, it's a lot different course than when I won here in '97. It still plays very similarly, the shot value and everything is the same. It's just a lot of the subtleties and stuff have been altered.

Q. Physically, you look very strong.

Q. Are you in --
PHIL MICKELSON: Trying to get on my good side before you hit me up with a tough question? (Laughter).

Q. Are you in some of the best shape that you've ever been in physically, with the exception of what happened last year at Oakmont? Are you physically as strong as you've been playing golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I think that I would probably agree and say that it's the strongest I've been. I feel like I can swing the club harder or faster if I want to and still have the support and balance of my lower body. I feel like I'm trying to create a balance in my workouts and I feel it carry out in my golf swing. I feel that I would probably agree with you, yeah.

Q. I was going to ask how that carried over to your golf game.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, just being able to swing harder and balance more and swinging it more controlled but being able to still speed it up when I need to.

Q. How much have you played since the Match Play, and what do you feel about your game check economic?
PHIL MICKELSON: I had a great week last week working on my game and had Butch in town for a day and was able to get things where we wanted it, and I feel really good about it. This is the best I've felt about my game that I can ever remember, and so I'm excited heading into the week and excited to start the stretch run to Augusta. And you know, I'm always cautious, you know, I haven't played in almost three weeks, but it feels pretty good.

Q. Is there any particular part of your game that you worked on more than others?
PHIL MICKELSON: There are some specific areas, but with Butch, our big thing was driving the golf ball. I feel like that's -- I feel like that's come a long ways, and now we're working on little tricks here and there to kind of eliminate trouble on one side or the other and try to carry some of the subtleties that you can apply to your golf swing help playing a golf course more effective and carrying it over to the golf course, as opposed to just making good things.

Q. This is the 50th anniversary of Amen Corner being dubbed Amen Corner, can you talk about how tough Amen Corner is and what makes it so special?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's also the 50th anniversary of Arnold's first Masters win. Did he dub it Amen Corner?

Q. No, Herbert Warren Wind (Brockton, Mass.)
PHIL MICKELSON: Amen Corner has gotten a lot tougher the last few years, specifically 11 has become a very difficult hole. 13, you always look at it as a birdie hole but it's become a more difficult birdie over the last few years.
11 has become, I think, one of the two toughest holes on the golf course, with the fairway moved well over to the left, it now brings the water more in play. It's a lot longer and that's a very tough par. I think that and 7 are the two toughest pars now on the golf course and I would probably say 11 is the toughest.
12 is tough when the wind blows or when the green is firm. When the green is firm, it's obviously a very narrow green so it's hard to hole. Again, 11 and 12, if you make pars, that's kind of the goal and if you want to try to make birdie on 13 to play them at 1-under, but it has become a lot more difficult to do that over the years.

Q. Can having children make a golfer better, as far as careers?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't see how it helps or hurts. I think it's just part of life.

Q. The timing of the injury last summer was such that it came during the major season. Does that having you looking forward to Augusta just a little bit more this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I believe it does, yeah. I'm not pleased with the way I've played in the majors last year. I felt like I developed a really good game plan to prepare and get my best golf out in the majors and I wasn't able to prepare, and it was frustrating and my performance in those events was frustrating. I felt like at the end of the season, spending time with Butch, my game has come around and I feel very comfortable with the season.
This year, I feel like I'm driving it and hitting the long stuff as good as I ever had, and I'm excited for those sterner tests of golf to come along; the more penalizing events, I'm looking forward to.

Q. Can you talk game plans? Does it ever change much as Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. You want to hit it as far as you can there and get as short irons as you can and know the greens.

Q. With Butch moving away from John Daly now, is that something that maybe you saw it coming or do you think maybe the PGA TOUR should get involved?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, as a player, that's not my role. I mean, it's just not my role to talk about it or get involved in it. I wish him well. I hope things get better. I think we all do. But that's not my area of voicing opinions.

Q. Have you been around Gary Player much? This will be his 51st Masters and will have one more than Arnold and played one more than Arnold. Wondering at the dinners, when the green jackets are hanging around -- or is he just a generation too far removed?
PHIL MICKELSON: Talking about Gary, I've spent time with Gary and run into him at certain spots at the British Open a number of times, as well as the Masters. I enjoy being around him. I think that he's a great storyteller. I like listening to the things he has to say, so I try to corner him in the locker room when I can.
We don't see him that often when he's playing the Champions Tour events and we don't see him on the regular tour, other than those two events, the Masters and the British. Having him as the captain of The Presidents Cup was great, but we really were so separated between teams that I didn't get a chance to spend much time with him those three times.

Q. Is it possible he's got short shrift a little bit in the United States because he's won the career Grand Slam; it seems like Jack and Arnold are way up here and Gary is way more over here --
PHIL MICKELSON: Are you talking about height? (Laughter)

Q. Jack and Arnold are shrinking; it's going to be close soon enough.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. I think they are all looked upon -- they have always been the big three in everybody's eyes.

Q. I've been wondering how much you still maybe talk to Rick, I know you're still friends with him. What's he doing? Have you talked to him?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have. Especially the last four or five weeks. He's had a bit of an issue at home and I'll let you go into that, but I think everything is going to be okay. So we've been in contact, and he's still heavily involved in Treetops and we still have that venture going together.
My wife and his wife just spent last weekend in San Francisco together, so we spend a lot of time with him, yeah.
LAURY LIVSEY: Thanks a lot, Phil. We appreciate you coming in.

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