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February 3, 2010

Phil Mickelson


DOUG MILNE: We'd like to welcome the 2008-2009 Northern Trust Open Champion Phil Mickelson here to the interview room. Thanks for taking a few minutes to join us. You got your season under way last week in San Diego. Just a few comments. Obviously Riviera is a place near and dear to your heart for obvious reasons. Maybe some opening comments.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm looking forward to coming back and playing here at Riviera. I've had some success here these last couple of years and enjoy the golf course very much.

Q. Can you explain why the last couple of years you have played as well as you have here and why it was different from the past? You've had some great and not-so-great years here, but you've dominated.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well I don't know why. I don't have a good reason for it. I did not play well at Riviera early in my career. I ended up missing this event for a number of years because of it, and when I came back three years ago I started playing great, almost won three years ago, and the last two years I ended up winning. I don't have any good explanation for it. I have always loved the golf course, but I have never scored well or played well on it. But for whatever reason I seem to have gotten it figured out. I think some of it was attributed to spending some time with Amy Alcott on the greens a few years ago, having her walk around and explain to me how water runs off this way and how this putt does that. I think that has helped me understand and perform well on and around the greens.

Q. A couple housekeeping items. Is the wedge still in the bag for this week? And if so, what's your thought there? And are you satisfied with what Scott told you last night?
PHIL MICKELSON: So let me talk about those two issues there. There's kind of two issues. There's kind of the groove issue and there's Scott McCarron issue. You know, yesterday Scott came up to me and sincerely apologized. I think that we all make mistakes and we all say things we wish we could take back. I've done it a bunch in my career. And the fact that it's also not easy to come up and face that person, look them in the eye and apologize, and he did that and was very sincere and I accepted the apology. I appreciate him being a big enough man to do that.
In regards to the groove and playing the club and whatnot, I have been very upset over the way the entire groove rule has come about and its total lack of transparency. I'm very upset with the way the rule came about, the way one man essentially can approve or not approve a golf club based on his own personal decision regardless of what the rule says. This has got to change. To come out and change a rule like this that has a loophole has got to change. It's ridiculous. It hurts the game, and you cannot put the players in a position to interpret what the rule has meant. That's why we have a decisions book, to decide this stuff.
This should have been decided well before this came out. It put me and it put all players in a bad spot, and it needs to be changed. This rule-making process needs to be changed.
I respect these players out here. I like and respect these players. And last year when my wife and I were at one of our low points, these players came together and did one of the nicest things that could have ever been done to show support, and it meant tons for me. And out of respect for them, I do not want to have an advantage over anybody, whether it's perceived or actual.
So this week I won't be playing that wedge. My point has been made. I won't play it. But if these governing bodies cannot get together to fix this loophole, if players stop using this wedge, which would stop the pressing of the issue, then I will relook at it and put the wedge back in play. But I hope that players continue to play the wedge. I hope that the governing bodies get forced into changing their rule-making process. I hope there's more transparency amongst the governing body. We cannot have one man have arbitrary power over this. It's frustrating for players, and it's extremely frustrating for manufacturers, and I hope all this stuff gets changed.
If it doesn't, if there's no pressure amongst these organizations to make changes, I will immediately put the club back in play.

Q. Do you have a time frame on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'd need to give them a reasonable amount of time to get things done. They're not the fastest organizations. (Laughter.) But I'm hoping that that stuff gets accomplished.

Q. So you feel like you made your point and you called attention to this issue, and you don't want to go forward with the public perceiving that you've got an unfair advantage?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not that, it's that this issue needs to continue to be pressed by other players and other players using these clubs. It's inside the rules. There is no debate about that. The rule is black and white, it is legal and nobody is doing anything wrong. But out respect for my players and what they've done for me and my family, I don't want to have an advantage, again, perceived or actual.
Also, I'm playing too well to get sidetracked here. I've got a unique opportunity, and I want to take advantage of it without other distractions.

Q. Did you gain any encouragement at all from what was discussed at last night's players' meeting?
PHIL MICKELSON: I believe that the TOUR and the Commissioner is finally taking this seriously and will hopefully put pressure and get something done amongst the governing bodies to stop what's been going on for years.

Q. Just to be clear, what has changed from you using this last week to now? You mentioned it has to do with out of respect for your fellow players so you don't have any actual or perceived advantage. Is there anything else that would attribute to you taking the wedge out of your bag for this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought I covered all that.

Q. So as far as making a point, you said you think you made your point with putting the club in last week; you said it was because it was an advantage that was under the rules. Was there any reason that you put in your bag last week to make a point that it was a ridiculous rule?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't catch all that jarble (sic), but I thought my point was pretty clear amongst most everybody else.

Q. In a perfect world would you have preferred the rule was left alone so that the new grooves out there in 1990 were the ones instituted, or would you have liked a roll-back?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it was a ridiculous rule change and even worse timing. It's cost manufacturers millions of dollars. It continues to cost them money as we now have to hire people to scan, document and store data of every club of every groove on every single club. It was unnecessary. It was an attempt to show power. And the arbitrary judgment of one man can take a conforming club and rule it non-conforming based on his emotion, this type of lack of transparency has got to change. It's killing the sport. It's killing the manufacturers, the players. We don't understand the rule, and it needs to be changed.
I'm hoping and believing now that the pressure has been put on by the Commissioner, by the PGA TOUR, by the manufacturers that this won't be tolerated anymore.

Q. So even if it had been a really efficiently-run rule change, you still don't think it was necessary, that there was no need to go back to V-grooves so to speak?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not only was it not necessary, the timing of it was terrible.

Q. Do you understand the USGA's position that they're trying to put an emphasis back on skill in doing that through this groove rule change or perhaps some other modification? Are you opposed to any kind of effort on their part to protect skill?
PHIL MICKELSON: This rule change is great for me. It's great for me. But that doesn't mean it's right. You have to remove yourself as a player and decide is this good for the game, not is this good for me.

Q. How so? Elaborate. How is it good for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Because first of all, I grew up with V-grooves, I have played V-grooves these last however many years. My clubs from last year are legal. It's no change for me, other than a wedge, but even that's nominal. It's no change. Guys who have never played them have a big adjustment to make. Reading lies, deciding how the ball is going to come out could take a long time to learn that, and being an older player and growing up with those clubs and not having to change those clubs in my bag, I have a huge advantage. But it doesn't mean it's right.

Q. All those things you listed, though, add interesting elements to the game and are all skill related, emphasize experience, a lot of different elements. So in a sense you are being rewarded for your skill, so can't you see why the USGA was trying to do what they were doing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just because it was good for me doesn't mean it was good or it's right.

Q. You said you did not want any distractions anymore. Talk about how much this has affected you, and do you feel like it's caused you an undue amount of stress?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not at all. Not at all. I was prepared for controversy and debate. I wasn't prepared to be singled out. I wasn't prepared to be accused of violating the rules. But that stuff has been apologized for. We all make mistakes, and I'm ready to put that behind us. But I'm not ready to put the issue. This needs to be addressed, not just the rule, to implement a rule, the loophole, to not have -- I use this word transparency a lot, but to not be up front over why a club is legal or not and have that in one man's hand, all that has got to be changed.

Q. The Commissioner was just in here and he was talking about the reasons why they think they need to move on with this process and try to get rid of this club, and one of the reasons is because it's not readily available, and the second reason is because other people have contracts that preclude them from using other clubs. What do you say to those reasons?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I agree that the loophole needs to be taken out. I believe that this rule is ridiculous. And I think it's terrible that the players are put in this position.
But as far as the specifics of that, I don't know if it's readily available or not, or I don't know if players really can't use it because of their contracts. I don't know. I just know what the rule says, it says everybody can use it and it's not a violation of the rule, and I hope guys continue to use it.

Q. Commissioner Finchem was in here talking about how the cleanest solution might be for John Solheim to basically waive his right to this rule, but that might not bring about the change and the transparency you're talking about. Would you like to see the process go a different direction that might result in that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that -- and I can't speak for Mr. Solheim, but I think that every manufacturer agrees that there needs to be more transparency, and for him to give on an issue, hopefully he'll get a better understanding of what clubs are legal and not and why without having an arbitrary process.

Q. Tim indicated that he told you guys last night that they kind of dropped the ball on this by not getting in front of it beforehand and it sort of blew up last week. Do you think if they had been a little more proactive about telling you guys, look, this is the letter of the law, we discourage you from using these clubs but we can't tell you not to, that there might not have been as many people --
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't heard anybody say that they discouraged that. I haven't heard anybody from the TOUR say that.

Q. I'm saying had they said we'd like to discourage you for the sake of fair play --
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't heard that, either.

Q. I know, but if they had said that, what do you think the reaction of the players would have been? Would the Ping wedges have been used?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure, but that didn't happen.
DOUG MILNE: Phil, we know you've got to get going. We appreciate your time as always. Best of luck this week.

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