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July 15, 2008

Phil Mickelson


MARTIN PARK: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson to the media centre. Phil, welcome to Royal Birkdale. I understand you've had a little recognizance around the course this week. Can you share some of your thoughts with us, please?
PHIL MICKELSON: I came in and spent last Sunday, Monday and Tuesday here, loved the way the golf course is shaping up for this championship. It's just a beautiful place, and I had an opportunity to spend a few rounds out here, get acclimated to the time before I went out and played last week's Scottish Open. I know we're all excited to be here. This is an exciting week for all the players.

Q. You said Sunday there was work to be done on the short game. How is it coming along?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's coming along. There are very good practise facilities here to get that done. I spent some time with Pelz. It's starting to feel pretty good. I felt much better with chipping and putting, and I'm excited to start on Thursday. But I've got another day tomorrow, as well as this afternoon, to keep fine-tuning.

Q. No Tiger; people are saying that the majors are being devalued. What's your thought on this? Do you think that is a slight on the rest of the profession, or is there an element of truth in it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am working hard to get my game ready for this week, and I've practised hard, I've developed a good game plan for this event, and I am excited to compete against whoever is in the field.

Q. I mean, you can't say anything in particular about Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I'm sure I could (laughter). But right now my focus is, again, this week, as I've got to get my game sharp. Last week I was able to identify some of the areas that needed improvement, and right now all I care about is getting those areas of strength.
Right now it's short game for me and getting my chipping and putting strong heading into this week. With it blowing as strong as it is today, short game is going to be a critical element in this tournament.

Q. It hasn't been devalued if you're losing on the U.S. exchange rate; I can tell you that. A lot of people have characterized --
PHIL MICKELSON: You have an expense account. What do you care?

Q. A lot of people have sort of characterized the situation now as an opportunity for guys to do some things in major without a certain guy kind of looming there waiting to pounce. For you personally, the rest of the year, individually there's, I suppose, a Player of the Year that's available, Money List is available for you. I guess if you went nuts you could make a big run at world No. 1, Player of the Year, all that stuff. Do these things matter to you at this point in your career?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think there is a tremendous opportunity for guys to finish the year strong. But again, for me, I'm trying to take it a little slower because over this next 11-, 12-week stretch I plan on playing a lot of golf. Starting with last week's Scottish Open, I've got this week's British, I've got some things going on next week back home before I play again the Akron World Golf Championship and the PGA. I've got some course prep work to do at Oakland Hills there, then we've got the FedEx and the Ryder Cup. So I've got a lot of golf coming about. Those factors are the last factors on my mind. I spent some time with Butch Harmon before I came over here for the Scottish Open. I've been working with Pelz, then over at the Callaway test centre making sure everything is dialed in right. I'm looking forward to having a good couple-month stretch, and I haven't thought about those other areas but I'm sure it's an exciting opportunity for a lot of guys.

Q. At what point in your career would you say you found comfort playing links golf? Was it '04? Was it before then? Is it still --
PHIL MICKELSON: It was '04, was the first time that I felt comfortable and confident playing golf over here. I had been working with Pelz on taking some spin off of my short irons, and it was that process that allowed me to control my trajectory, control my spin rate on the conditions over here. So even though we developed these shots let's say for Pebble Beach when the greens were wet and spongy and I'm trying to get to these back pins, those same shots are what I use over here, and that's when I started feeling comfortable.
Now, I had a great year that year. I missed the playoff by a shot, and I haven't played let's say at that level the last few years. But I do feel more and more comfortable as each year has gone on, and I certainly love Royal Birkdale because it's the site of my first Open Championship.

Q. Has it approached the comfort level you feel going into the other majors, or is it not quite the way you feel walking into Augusta or an Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think any major championship will feel the same for me as when I go to Augusta, because Augusta is a course that I feel probably most comfortable out of every course. I just love the way there's there's no rough. I like that no rough thing, especially around the greens, because you always have a shot. I'm a big fan of that.

Q. You've sort of touched on it just then when you talked about Birkdale. Several of the guys have been in and said they put Birkdale in their top three, if not their favourite Open course. What is it about it that gets everybody so excited?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's a very fair test where good shots get rewarded, primarily the 30 or 40 yards short of the green. You get much more consistent bounces, so the well-struck shots are rewarded and typically end up about where you would anticipate. I think that's the biggest thing. There's also a good mixture of holes that move both ways. The bunkers are perfectly placed for strategy, and it just seems to use every club in your bag.

Q. It's visually exciting, as well, isn't it?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is. Very few blind shots, a lot of straightforward golf, even though it's very difficult.

Q. Just as you embarked on the three majors, you kind of got yourself into a rhythm with your prep, coming out early and doing those kind of things before Rick and then obviously Pelz and whatnot. I'm just wondering, the results have not been the same since you stopped winning them in '06 there. Have you analyzed at all why? Are you comfortable with that routine? You seem to be staying with that.
PHIL MICKELSON: We've changed. We've made little changes here and there, trying to find the right balance, because those days of developing a plan of attack and knowing all the idiosyncrasies of the golf course and everything like that, it also takes energy, and you have to have a balance between that and performance and execution of shots. We've been working on trying to create more of a balance so that my game is sharp heading into the Thursday start.

Q. You mentioned the spin, working with Pelz on the spin before '04. Why do you think you've done so much better, so much better in the other three majors than here? Is that the main cause as you've analyzed it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Most likely, yeah.

Q. What other factors do you think that you do well that maybe suits the other majors and doesn't suit here as well?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I think you hit on it first. I think it's more the spin. I've always been a high spin player, so it's taken me a while to get the spin off.

Q. Two questions, Phil: 2-iron in the bag this week instead of a 5-wood?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I have a hybrid and a 2-iron, and one or the other will be in the bag. Today it would have been the 2-iron because it just goes lower so the wind and the crosswinds would have less of an effect than the hybrid that gets up easier. But if there's no wind I'll probably have the hybrid.

Q. And secondly, on the course itself there's been a lot of talk about the 17th. I'd be curious on your thoughts, especially on the green. And secondly, with the -- and the spider, and secondly, the new tee box on 16 and how that hole plays, especially today, with the wind coming in like it did. You did get to 16 today, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played it last week a few times. I didn't know that that was a new tee box. I didn't remember it that well. It was ten years ago. Into the strong wind you know it's a good drive and about a 3- or 4-iron. So it's going to be a hard par. It's probably just as hard a 4 on 16 as a 4 on 17.
I know that the 17th green may not look consistent with the other greens on the golf course, but I think that it's still -- I think it's a wonderful hole, and it's a very strategic green for your second shot. It seems like it's set up for strategy coming in on your second shot as opposed to a third-shot approach, because there are places that you can hit it around that green that are pretty easy up-and-downs to certain pins and there are other places that are almost impossible. It's much more dramatic than the other greens.

Q. You have experimented with your bag several times, putting in two drivers and extra wedges. Anything different this week that you're planning to do?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not overly exciting, no. I mean, it's just between kind of a 2-iron and a hybrid, and that will depend on the conditions for the day.

Q. You mentioned the short game and players have talked about how they like the fact that creativity comes into play a lot in this style of golf. Any examples from your British Open career of some shots where creativity was required and you really enjoyed playing a unique shot?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the best example that I see when I play links golf is the 18th at St. Andrews with the Valley of Sin. I see a lot of guys play it a lot of different ways. And I think that that's what links golf offers, is a lot of options.
You can go through the air. A lot of guys get down in that valley and chip it out on top so they don't have to putt up the slope. I see some guys bump it into that hillside with spin, with like a high lofted club. I see a lot of guys putt it and I see a lot of bump-and-run shots. I think it's that variety that makes links golf so exciting, the need for creativity, because there's so many different ways to play the shot.

Q. Even if your record is not great, you like that creativity I would imagine?
PHIL MICKELSON: I do, I really do, as well as the strategy required. Angles are important. We talk about angles, but in America a lot of our courses it doesn't matter. In a lot of the majors it does because the greens are firm and it will bounce a lot. But a lot of the courses we play, it doesn't matter where you come in from, you're going to fly it by the hole anyways and the ball just sticks. Here you've got to plan for 20 to 50 yards of roll, so angles are critical, left side of the fairway, right side of the fairway and so forth.

Q. This kind of follows on from that. Do you view golf more as a science than an art? Listening to you talk about it, it's a very sort of scientific approach. But then watching you execute the shots, there's a fair amount of artistry involved.
PHIL MICKELSON: I appreciate you saying that. I think there is a balance to the two, I really do. I think you want to have good decision-making, you want to have the technique and so forth to hit a variety of shots, hit certain shots. But you also have to have -- you have to let your body naturally do it as opposed to going through positions in the golf swing. You have to be creative and let the feel of the shot come out.

Q. So therefore when you come to a links course, I mean, I know you've touched on it, but does that give you an added sense of relish in a sense because of the way that you approach your golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: You got me on relish. I'm thinking of pickles (laughter).

Q. That's fair enough. Something you particularly enjoy, that makes it extra special? Not the pickle.
PHIL MICKELSON: The fact that it's different from what we play day in and day out in the States makes it something that I relish (laughter).

Q. Sergio was in here earlier talking about last year and coming so close and how he won't know how it would have changed his life. For somebody who has gone through that for quite a while before breaking through, could you shed some light on that, just being in Sergio's shoes, having gone through what he went through last year and coming into this year?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that Sergio is one of the best ball strikers in the game today, and I have seen a noticeable change in his short game. He's become much stronger in short game in this last year since he's been working with Stan Utley. I've noticed a big change. I think a major championship is very close in his realm, and the fact that he came to close last year in the Open Championship and didn't win, I don't think it's something to really worry too much about. I think that his major championship is coming very soon.

Q. You addressed your thoughts regarding Tiger earlier. Just so your global sense of the field's perspective coming into the tournament, do you have any sense that maybe some of the other players who aren't as experienced and accomplished as you feel like they have more of a chance? Do you feel there's a different aura around some of the players?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't had a sense either way, no.
MARTIN PARK: Phil, thank you very much. Good luck this week.

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