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January 28, 2009

Phil Mickelson


MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson to the interview room. Phil is a two-time winner of the FBR Open, won two events last year in 2008 on the TOUR, and Phil, if you'd start out and give some general comments on this being your first event of the year and where you think your game is and what your thoughts are coming into this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm excited to get back out on the golf course and get playing and start the year. This is a great place to do it. We've got some nice weather, a fun golf course. Good to see some familiar faces back, and it's fun to get back to playing. I won't know the status of my game really until I get out and test it on a tournament course like the TPC Scottsdale.
But I've had good work the last eight, nine days, working with Butch and Pelz, and I feel like I'm as ready as I can be. But again, until I've been out playing, I won't know.

Q. Most years you've gotten in another tournament before coming here. What was kind of your game plan, this being your first event of the season, and what has your preparation been coming in?
PHIL MICKELSON: I've spent the last nine days practicing, and I had a good couple months off where I really didn't play much. But I've worked with Butch, went to Vegas to work with him at his place there last Sunday and spent a couple days with Pelz working on short game. It seems like it's coming.
As far as this being the first or whatnot tournament, I'm playing five in a row starting here. It's kind of an easy stretch. I usually only like to play three at the most, but because two of those weeks I'm at home, it makes it a little more feasible with one being in San Diego and the other commuting up to LA.

Q. You did some of your best putting towards the end of the year last year. Would it be fair to say that you weren't real happy with your putting up to that time but you putted well at the Ryder Cup and the TOUR Championship. Did you find something at that time, and how do you feel about your putting right now?
PHIL MICKELSON: That was a big issue for me last year was really putting. I just didn't feel comfortable on the greens and struggled and tried a lot of different things. I went to the putting studio of Callaway to get on the monitors and see what was going on. Pelz and I went there just before the Ryder Cup to try to get this thing ironed out.
I found that the stroke was actually how I had wanted it, but my face angle and alignment was off almost a full degree, so I've been spending the off-season, even though I haven't been playing, using devices that train my eyes to line up properly. I feel like if I can line up properly it will help my putting immensely.
It has felt better ever since. I putted good at the Ryder Cup, I putted the best week of the year at the TOUR Championship, and in the off-season it has felt just as good, so I feel confident this will be a good putting year because of that.

Q. You've never missed a cut in your season debut, and I think you've won four times in your season debut --
PHIL MICKELSON: And yet you want to bring that up. That couldn't wait until Saturday morning? Sorry, go ahead, just kidding.

Q. What is it about your first tournament? Do you have extra juices flowing or are you relaxed a little more after having some time off?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think I'm excited to get back and play golf. I've been working hard on my game, and because of that I'm fresh, physically, mentally ready to play, and just excited.

Q. Given your longtime history here of success and being the local favorite, what about playing here is the best thing for you, and what are some of the things that are difficult about playing here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the crowd is the best thing about playing here. This is an event that has four or five times as many people as we ever get in another PGA TOUR event, and it creates an atmosphere that is different than anything we have week in and week out.
As far as the challenges, I think the challenge is the golf course, because although we shoot a lot under par to win often times, it's a very difficult course to face because the penalty is so severe. If you play great, you can make a lot of birdies. But if you start hitting it crooked or get a little squirrelly on the greens, you're going to make a lot of bogeys and doubles. I know that's the case at a lot of courses, but here specifically there are a lot more birdie holes if you can hit it well; but if not, the water seems to pop up and there's a lot of bogeys and doubles.

Q. Is this the only place that you've ever played where you can be cheered fanatically one minute and booed fanatically 30 seconds later?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's possible. I think that the 16th hole, which gets a lot of attention, is unique to golf. We just don't have anything like that. And to have that type of environment that NBA players or football players experience and for us as golfers to be able to experience it is pretty cool.

Q. Colin Montgomerie was named the European Ryder Cup captain today, and I just wondered if you had any comment on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we have another two years to just kind of relish our victory. We've taken it on the chin for so long that who captains and players and all that stuff is pretty far removed. He's obviously going to be a great captain. They've had great captains. He knows what it takes to win. He's been on many winning teams and he's tough, but that's the last thing on our minds. We're holding the Ryder Cup and enjoying it right now.
But I understand the need to change the subject on who won and lost the last Ryder Cup. But forget it, we've been there. I've been there.

Q. Another announcement today came from the Ginn Companies that they are severing all their ties with pro golf. Is there concern and cause are for concern about what is going to happen within the TOUR regarding sponsorships and so on?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I just got back out here, and I haven't had extensive conversations with a lot of the people to really know the answer to that question or have a feel for it. So I don't know yet. I don't know how long the economy is going to be slow or how long it will take to recover. The relationships that we have are locked in for the next couple of years, so if we get a recovery before those deals are up, we might be fine, and if not, maybe not. I just don't know yet.

Q. We have to have a Super Bowl question. Once the Chargers were eliminated, which I'm sure was painful for you, did the Cardinals become your team of choice?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, obviously my second favorite team is the Cardinals having lived here for so long. It's been tough being a Cardinal fan I've got to tell you until this year, and this has been an exciting year. I think the exciting story line there is the fact that Ken Whisenhunt, Russ Grimm and some of the coaches came from Pittsburgh. They know the winning formula that works. And to turn the program around and so quickly get this team to the Super Bowl and have them win their division is remarkable and exciting for football fans here in the Valley.
I'm obviously pulling for the Cardinals, but it's going to be tough. It's going to be a tough game for Arizona to beat a tough Pittsburgh team who knows how to run the football and who knows how to stop the run. So we're going to have to probably beat them with the pass, so that's going to be challenging, when they're playing that cover-two zone defense, just hitting guys so hard. I look at Antonio Gates, some of the hits that they put on these guys because they're not playing man-to-man, they're waiting to deliver a hit, and they are, and it's vicious playing the Steelers.
MARK STEVENS: Thank you, Phil, for being here.

End of FastScripts

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