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April 8, 2008
RONALD TOWNSEND: Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen. Pleasure to welcome Phil Mickelson, 2004, 2006 Masters Champion back to Augusta National.
Phil finished in the Top-10 in the Masters ten times in his last 15 appearance, and including third four times and winner of the 2005 PGA Championship and Phil has won 33 times on the PGA TOUR.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thank you, Mr. Townsend, and as always the case, this is the tournament that I think we all look forward to the most and are so excited that it's finally here. It's such a special place for us as players and to have won this tournament in the past means so much to me as a player to have the chance to come back here every year. We just look forward to it so much and it kicks off our season with all of the majors, and I can't think of a better players to do it.
Q. Augusta National has become such a driving course and you made news a few years ago carrying two drivers; what are your plans this career?
PHIL MICKELSON: This year, I am experimenting, I did have two drivers in the bag today. The nice thing about that is I have been able to interchange shafts and put a longer shaft in if I want to get more distance.
I'm hoping I only need one driver because I want to put an extra wedge in. But if I feel like distance is going to be a bigger factor, I'll stick a second driver in -- I don't know, it will be day-to-day. I have two or three different game plans.
Q. In the history of the Masters Tournament in 71 playings, a player has birdied the 72nd hole to win only four times.
PHIL MICKELSON: Only four times? What were the three others? I know one of them.
Q. Mark O'Meara, Sandy Lyle and Arnold Palmer; what are your thoughts on how special that is?
PHIL MICKELSON: Jennifer, it was awesome to see that putt go in on 18. And for me, especially, you know, having had so many chances in major championships, having come close here so many times to finally break through and win; I saw a highlight of that putt the other night, and that ball running around the cup before it finally went in, and when that ball dropped, it was the greatest feeling.
Q. Was last year just an accident because of the weather and just the perfect storm, or are the scores going to be lower here because of what has happened to the course and what they have done to the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: They won't be lower. I think the scores may get a little bit higher, yeah, and the length is the biggest factor. Also all of the trees and the tightening of the golf course.
I think what has changed the golf course immeasurably is one hole, and it's No. 7. Because the whole thought process of playing the golf course used to be get through the first six holes around par, and you can birdie 7, 8 and 9 and you have three birdie holes and try to get one or two there, you turn at under par and then you shoot under par on the back side and you have a great round.
But now, 7 has become -- I think it's the first or second hardest par on the golf course. I think between 7 and 11, I think it's the two toughest pars that this course has; and because of that, it changes when you can be aggressive and how many birdie holes you have now and the whole complexion and mind-set of how to play the first six or seven holes. Now you feel like you have to be under par through the first six because you want to be around par when you get through 7. 7 is one of the toughest holes now.
Q. Why is it so hard, just the 230 yards or whatever it is on the card?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's long, it's tight and it's a green that was designed for a wedge and we are hitting mid-irons into it. It's just very difficult.
There's not much area around the green where you're able to get up-and-down with all of the contours, and anything less than a perfect drive and you're going to have to get up-and-down for par and probably from 50 yards.
Q. Do you think it's going to change at all with the new pin on the back left of 7, making it a little bit more accessible at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I just think it's going to be a new pin. It will be cool and it will be a great pin, and I don't think it's going to make the hole any easier, no. It is really a tough golf hole.
Q. The second time you won, wondering what thoughts, if any, you had about the Grand Slam, and in your mind, is it a possibility, and how would you characterize the difficulty of the calendar Grand Slam?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's only been -- it's been done once or twice. I guess you could argue with Bobby Jones doing it in 1930 maybe and Tiger having the slam together, just not in the same year.
I don't know. I think that's probably the most difficult feat in golf. I think that it would be pretty cool to see it done. The last tournament or two, there would be some incredible pressure. I know that Jack came close a couple of events winning the first two events and I think Palmer won the first two majors in 60 and they both had a good chance at it; I remember reading something that Jack said the pressure at the British Open was so great and he made a good run at it on Sunday when he finally freed up a little bit but fell a couple of shots shy.
Q. How much do you think about it?
PHIL MICKELSON: How much do I think about it? I didn't a chance and had I won the Open that year, I probably would have thought about it a little bit.
Q. Tiger earlier in the year was quoted as saying when somebody asked him about winning the Slam, he used the words, "Easily within reason." Have you heard or read those statements and what's your reaction to that; is it confidence in his game?
PHIL MICKELSON: I always felt it was possible, too. I don't think it's an impossible feat, I just think it's going to be a tough one.
Q. Some of the odds makers have put outrageous odds 9:2 --
PHIL MICKELSON: And you know this, because? (Laughter).
Q. If you were a betting man, what would you put the odds on anyone winning the Grand Slam?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. It's going to be a tough feat. It's certainly a possibility. And he has already won four majors in a row, so it's not an impossible feat. It's been done by Bobby Jones arguably a long time ago, certainly not with the professional majors. But I think it's doable. I just don't know what the odds will be.
Q. And the other question, I just wanted to ask you about your own season to date, how you would measure it considering your great win at Riviera and kind of some spotty performances between; where are you right now and how has your year gone?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know I've had some 20th place finishes the last few weeks, and I actually feel really good about my game because my ball-striking has been good to this point. I feel good about the way I'm hitting it and the area I need to spend some time is chipping and putting and that's an area I've never really been concerned with. I am excited heading into this tournament where I feel comfortable on and around the greens.
Q. You always seem to have fun at the Par 3 contest when you're there. How do you put that into perspective in the course of your preparation for this week? No other major has anything like that.
PHIL MICKELSON: You're right, it's a great way to relieve of some of the stress or pressure you feel heading into a major. Guys really have fun on the nine holes and someone like myself who has little children who caddie, we as parents look back on those pictures and those memories and sharing that time together is some of the greatest time we have had together in the game. I think that's such a great element to this tournament, and I think that it helps guys get ready for their starting time on Thursday because it relaxes them a little bit, and the Par 3 course is so similar to the regulation course.
Q. Speaking of the Par 3, Poulter told us if he had the lead on the ninth tee, he would put it in the middle of the green and let his son putt out. Do you believe in the jinx?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I'd love to be the first to win them both, but I just have not ever had a chance to win the Par 3. My caddie gave me some terrible reads last year. Of course, she was only five. (Laughter) But still.
I would love to be the first. I don't buy into that.
Q. You played with Trip Kuehne today, and your thoughts, No. 1, how did he hit the golf ball, and his decision to take the path that he has taken from a businessman, as opposed to a professional golfer.
PHIL MICKELSON: Trip Kuehne and I used to be college roommates at Arizona State his freshman year before he transferred over to Oklahoma State. He's a fun guy to be around and I enjoy getting caught up a little bit with him and he a wonderful ball-striker and is going to have a good week. I respect the fact that he has put his family life and his business life; and didn't want to travel, wants to be in one place and be able to raise his son and be with his wife. I have a tremendous amount of respect for that.
Q. You know, Tiger has gotten a lot of discussion simply because of the result he's had since late last year, but you beat him head-to-head in Boston last year and you played well and won twice; do you feel like when you come here that you should be just as much a favorite in your mind when you're on this golf course as he is?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it really matters if you're favored or not or what people expect. I think that nobody expected, let's say, last year's winner, but yet we as players knew what a good player Zach Johnson was and he was going to contend and continue contending in majors.
I think how you're perceived heading into the tournament really doesn't matter.
I love this golf course; I love this tournament and I love when I get here, how you don't have to be perfect. You don't have to hit everything perfect to be able to score well. You have to be able to miss it in the proper sides of the greens, and you have to have a great short game. You have to get up-and-down a lot from on and around the greens, and I think that those have always been the areas of my game that I feel the most comfortable with which is probably why I always believed before I had won a major that this would be my best opportunity to win one.
Q. Coming back to the Trip question, what do you remember about your time here when you played as an amateur, and what was it like, the Crow's Nest and the whole deal?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was awesome staying in the Crow's Nest right above the champion's locker room. I remember creeping down at night and peeking and seeing what was in there and now sitting in there is pretty cool.
As an amateur, as a golfer, but when you're an amateur and you're young, you're dreaming about playing in the Masters and to have the chance to stay here and live those dreams, compete in this tournament. It's such an amazing experience.
And I can't think of a better way to end your amateur career competitively than to be playing in the Masters as Trip is doing. I think that's a pretty cool thing to do.
Q. You might have heard this week for the first time they are going to allow kids between 8 through 16 with a badge-holding adult, which this place with it's exclusionary policies, it seems to be an open-arms thing and wonder if you think that's something that regular TOUR events might be considering since we probably need to grow the game a little bit. It's been flat a good, long while.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think Augusta has always taken a leadership role in the game of golf. Their leadership here in bringing kids more into the game and getting them exposed to the Masters Tournament which is so inspirational to kids to get them involved if the game and give them dreams and things to look toward to will help grow the game, especially if other tournaments take that lead.
I remember there were golf courses in my area, municipal courses where you could play for free after 3:30 if you were a child under a certain age. I think that would be a great policy to instill throughout the country and get fathers or mothers with their children out playing golf and I think it's a great way to spend time with each other. And this is a great starting point. Again, Augusta has always taken the lead in that area.
Q. If golf were made an Olympic sport, would you play, and also, what would be the most ideal schedule or format that would encourage the players to play?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what the most ideal format has been. I do think that having golf become an Olympic sport is a very important thing for the game of golf, and I would definitely play if given the opportunity to represent my country.
I think that the game of golf has to grow on an international level, and as soon as it becomes an Olympic sport, a lot of those Olympic Foundation revenue dollars will be going to get kids from other countries involved in the game of golf so that they are competitive at the Olympics. I think that would be the biggest step we could make in helping growing the game. We seem to be stagnant in the growth; we lose as many golfers as we gain each year in the United States. If we could make this an Olympic sport on the international sport, I think golf could really grow as a sport.
Q. Did you change the length of your putter?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, but I've grown a little bit, so it just looks shorter.
No, I haven't changed. It's always been a short putter. (Laughter).
Q. Just in following you at Doral a couple of weeks ago, as you mentioned your ball-striking seemed to be really good and you just weren't taking advantage of anything with the putter and you talked a little bit after Houston that you just never really got it going there; is that a concern of yours right now or do you feel like the familiarity here will maybe bring you back a little bit on the greens?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not really a concern. It's always been an area of my game I felt confident with is putting and chipping.
I spent a little time on a track -- I had not used a putting track, to make sure my stroke was right, and I started to roll the ball a lot better. And also, knowing the reads which I do for the most part here after playing here so many years will give me more confidence in my reads of the greens because I have not been reading them the greatest the last few weeks.
Q. Can you tell us what you've done physically since last year's Masters? You look a little bit leaner. Can you tell us about your conditioning program?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've worked out, yeah. Worked out a little bit. (Laughter).
You know, there's no shortcut. I just set out to try to create a little bit more strength to not have to sacrifice distance with some of the swing changes I've made with Butch. Swing is a little shorter and so forth, so I have to off-set that with speed elsewhere, so I tried to get a little more explosive in some of my rotational speed, things like that. So this off-season, I spent a lot of time doing that.
Q. Does the leaderboard that we saw at Doral give any indications as to what we might expect this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hope not. I wasn't on it. (Laughter).
Q. But as far as a lot of people made something about a lot of the names that rose up and it was a bit of a dogfight down to the final day; is Doral any indication of what people might expect this week, or is it just two different golf courses?
PHIL MICKELSON: It may be because, you know, so many good players were in contention at Doral, but the golf courses itself are so different. The greens are so different, the style of play is so different that it's hard to say that that would be a precursor to playing well here.
Q. The U.S. Open has always been called the toughest test in golf; can this take that description, as well? And secondly, how do you describe the differences between the tests?
PHIL MICKELSON: This is the most complete test of golf, I believe, because it tests all areas of your game. It's important to drive the ball well because if you don't, you're in the trees and you don't have a chance. It's important to be creative and hit shots when you are in rough. You have to have perfect distance control to get the ball to fly to the right sections of the greens and not run through into the trouble, and your short game has to be impeccable because these are the most demanding greens that we'll ever face.
The U.S. Open is just brutal. It just a brutal test. It's not as complete a game. It doesn't test all areas of your game, but it's a very penalizing test. I think that's probably the way I would describe the two.
Q. Just out of curiosity, I don't know if you can answer this, but what they have done to 16 with the hillside, have you noticed that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, for viewing?
Q. Yeah. What difference does that make -- none for you I guess, but what kind of theater does it make on the weekend, and for you, assuming you are still here on the weekend?
PHIL MICKELSON: Wow. I guess that's getting me back for a previous comment. (Laughter).
Rather you do it here than in print, so that's great. (Laughter).
I think that it will -- what's been done with the stairs, especially, will prevent a few injuries. I remember when it gets wet a lot of people slip, and I've heard of a couple broken ankles and so forth.
I would think it will create more theater and exciting effects; and 16 has always been one of the more exciting holes to play, because you already have that amphitheater effect and the sound resonates up to the 18th green, and you can hear on 18 what happens on 16, so maybe it will be even more so.
RONALD TOWNSEND: Thank you all, and thank you Phil for being here and good luck this weekend.
End of FastScripts