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August 25, 2010

Phil Mickelson


THE MODERATOR: Okay. Phil Mickelson joins us here in the interview room at the Barclays. Currently No. 4 FedExCup standings. Back at Ridgewood for the first time in two years. Comment about the state of your game and your expectations for the week.
PHIL MICKELSON: The course itself is in great shape. It's really a wonderful test of golf. My game's coming around. I had a good final round at the PGA and had some good practice here this last week.
So I feel like my game's actually in pretty good shape. I'm excited about playing some golf and excited about the FedExCup and certainly to play here at the Barclays.

Q. A lot of big tournaments in a row, World Championship, PGA, now FedExCup, Ryder Cup; how much of a grind is it to keep constantly being on your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we know that there's a finish. We know where the end is. The end is going to be this year at the Ryder Cup, because after the TOUR Championship we have the Ryder Cup.
So I think everybody is not finding it difficult to get their games sharp and ready through the FedExCup. We're excited about it, because the season ends a lot earlier than it did before.
But more importantly, I think, that the FedExCup has really kept the top players' game sharp for our team events. And we've won the last three events, the Presidents Cup and the Ryder Cup that we've competed in. And I think a lot is due to having the FedExCup the last three years.

Q. You had an awkward Pro-Am situation three years ago in Houston, if I'm not mistaken; is that correct?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't remember -- in Dallas, yes.

Q. I'm sure you heard what happened to Jim Furyk today. What do you think about the rule? What do you think about how it's -- do you think it's the right thing to do? Do you feel bad for him? Any thoughts on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the rule itself applies to only half the field. So if you're going to have a rule that does not apply to everybody, because not everybody played the Pro-Am, you cannot have it affect the competition.
It's got to be a different penalty. It can't be disqualification if it only applies to half the field. So this rule -- it's not protecting the players. It's not protecting the sponsors. It applies to only half the field and yet it affects the integrity of the competition.
I cannot disagree with it more. I have no idea how the Commissioner let this rule go through. It's ridiculous. I made my viewpoint very clear to him, yes.

Q. How is the vegetarian thing going?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been surprisingly easy, Hank. I've been eating some good stuff. I feel good. And there's a lot of things that I'm able to eat. I feel much better. But again my goal, my hope is that right now I feel great health-wise because I've been taking some medicine, some treatment. And I should be -- it feels like it's gone away.
And after a while there will be a point where I'll stop taking medication and hopefully have it in remission. And I'm hoping that my diet will help keep it in remission then I won't have to take medicine after a while. So that's why I've kind of made that change.

Q. Our columnist is a 40-year vegetarian. He's in the room. If you wanted any advice he said he would be willing to share some recipes and stuff. --
PHIL MICKELSON: If I go to the football game on Friday, that's going to be a test.

Q. Tailgating?
PHIL MICKELSON: You have to have a few dogs at the game. That's inherent in my DNA. But that will be a struggle.

Q. Just on the Ryder Cup, are you more optimistic now since the PGA, since the way some of the younger guys on the team have been playing and some of the problems that maybe Europeans are now facing that they had anticipated, like Lee Westwood's injury and maybe some of the difficult picks that Monte has, captain's picks, more optimistic about your chances now heading in?
PHIL MICKELSON: The European team is extremely strong and is comprised with many major winners and many young talented players and high-ranked players in the world.
And so they're going to have -- their team is going to be favored. But with that being said, I think the U.S. is going to play very well. I think we've got some young, spirited, excited guys. I think they're playing some great golf and the FedExCup is going to keep their game very sharp. I think we'll go over and have a very good week.

Q. Sounds like you've taken Dustin Johnson under your wing a little bit. What is it about Dustin you like and can you talk about what he's been through the past 10 days or whatever?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like his game and I like being around him. He's a fun guy to be around. He's very easy going. He's very resilient. He doesn't let stuff bother him, and that's probably a good thing, given the last few months. Nobody drives the golf ball as long and as straight as he does.
He's been working with Butch and his iron play has gotten much sharper. His ability to fade and tuck pins has gotten better and a great short game. The wedge he hit on 18 at the PGA, putter is great, all around great game but more than that, he's fun to be around.

Q. Several courses around here have hosted this tournament recently, Westchester, next year Plainfield, here, Liberty National and others have been considered going forward. What is your favorite and which ones would you like to be in the next --
PHIL MICKELSON: I like the rotation. I like that we're able to go to different parts of the New York/New Jersey area. I think it adds something to it. When you play a course like Ridgewood, Tillinghast design, it's hard not to love it. It's just a great golf course. It's straightforward. It's got the great character of Tillinghast instilled in his courses and playing field is another historically great golf course.
I really enjoyed Liberty National and I think it would be really a fun golf course to play. I would like to see it without some rough, because the greens are so severe. I'd like to see it like Augusta National's setup. I think that would be fun. I think we'll be back there in a few years hopefully. I think it's the rotation that makes it enjoyable. We play great golf courses here.

Q. Dustin Johnson mentioned you contacted him after the bunker thing. Obviously you lost a few before you won a few. I'm wondering what the content of what you said to him was?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just said that I know what he's going through and it sucks. There's really nothing I could say. But it's not fun. And that was too bad the way it all played out.
You know, a group on Tuesday, we actually had discussed how all the sand was considered bunkers, but I don't know if he was part of that. I may have been talking with Jeff Overton and Eric Larson, it was a topic. I don't know if he overheard it because we were discussing how it was an awkward rule, because it's like making up rules as we go. A bunker's got to have a definitive edge because it's a hazard.
If he wanted to take a drop, he had to drop inside the hazard on that particular spot. If you don't have a definitive edge of where the hazard line is, you can't drop inside that. You just can't make that a bunker. It's got to be a waste area. So to kind of make up rules as we go puts everybody in an awkward spot.

Q. In sort of a weird way, he's gotten a lot of attention for the way that all happened, maybe more so than almost winning it in some ways. I wonder, as a guy who has sort of become popular with people partly because of the way you've lost a couple tournaments, I would think, do you sort of understand that mindset of people sort of rallying around a guy the way they might end up rallying around him?
PHIL MICKELSON: You have to weigh attention or trophy. And so it's really not much comparison. We would all prefer the trophy.

Q. Phil, you've been pretty close to the No. 1 World Ranking, a few months now. Is that something that you'll be thinking about the next three, four weeks, what would it mean if you get that ranking?
PHIL MICKELSON: It would be pretty cool. I've been trying real hard to accomplish that. I just haven't played well enough yet. But hopefully I'll be able to put it together this week. I feel like I'm playing much better golf. I've been working on my driver again trying to get that thing in play, and I think I've kind of come on to something there, adding a little bit more loft and just getting the ball in play. So I expect to drive the ball well and hopefully have a good week.

Q. I'm wondering, do you remember a time when the player of the year and all was this much up for grabs this late in the year? I would assume the guy that hits the gas in the FedEx wins it, moves to the front of the line, the parity?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's probably been -- gotta date back to '95, '96 time frame, I would guess. Before it's been locked up, yeah.

Q. Phil, how has the FedExCup changed in players' minds from four years ago to now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's actually continued to build. I think the players are more excited about it. They're starting to understand it a little bit more. They look forward to it. We understand what it is, how the playoffs are going to work.
I think after a few years of tinkering, I think we have a good point system that accomplishes all that it's meant to. And I think the players are really enjoying it. I also think that fans are starting to get it, too, and it seems to be more exciting.

Q. Any improvement you see in the formula?
PHIL MICKELSON: It seems like it's starting to, after a few years, after three years, it's starting to click. So it's on the right track.

Q. Back to world No. 1, has it been in the back of your mind or affected anything while you're trying to get your game together?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't thought about it too much. I'm trying to win. I'm trying to compete in tournaments and I haven't played that well the last couple of months. But, again, I feel like my game's been coming around. I've been able to practice and work hard. I feel great. I'm looking forward to the next five weeks.

Q. Does it become more urgent as the weeks pass?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. No.

Q. Better heat up before the other guy does?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't thought about that too much, no.

Q. You talked about this being a Tillinghast design. Could you talk about the 15th hole, the 17th hole, specifically how the green's protected on 15 and the length of 17?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, 15's a fun little par 3. I think short par 3s are some of the most fun holes we play. That and short par 4s. And 15 is a great little hole. It's a 155-yard shot and most guys will be hitting 8 or 9 irons and it provides a birdie opportunity.
When you have tough holes before and following, it's nice to have a little hole like that break it up. And I just think the way that Tillinghast had the golf course flow from tough holes to short holes to birdie holes to tough pars, I thought that he did a great job. It's just really a fun golf course.
So 17 being a long par 5, at times it can be reached if the fairways get a little bit firmer. Under wet conditions like this, it wasn't reachable. But those holes are very scorable. You can make some birdies. And then you get a hole like 18 where it's a very difficult drive. Very long par four and it's very challenging just to make your par. So I like the mixture of birdie and bogey holes.

Q. Couple stretches where you attended every week both majors and five on you played really well. In terms of doing it over the length of the season, never seems to have been something you've been able to stay at a completely high level all year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Best year was '04.

Q. Why is that part of it, do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I don't know. You're trying to keep your game sharp over a six-month period of time. That can be challenging. But the differences in golf courses can be challenging. I don't have a great answer for you. '04 was by far the best year for that I contended in all four and had opportunities to win with one or two holes to go in every one of them and that was probably the best year.

Q. (Inaudible)?
PHIL MICKELSON: It was different. I mean, it was different because the year just lingered for months. There was no like finish point like we have now. So it's hard to say.

Q. Just wondering if you support the concept being discussed of designated tournaments?
PHIL MICKELSON: Do I support it? I don't know. I mean, we'll see what happens. It will be kind of interesting to see how it plays out. But I'm not really a part of the discussion.

Q. You're pretty adamant about Jim Furyk, not quite as much to say on this one?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I have lot to say, but just not publicly yet. I've made sure that he knows my feelings on some of that stuff, yeah. I don't know if it matters, but I know that he knows at least how I feel.

Q. Have you gotten anything back -- some years --
PHIL MICKELSON: I went 1-for-22 recently with what I thought was the Pro-Am modification this year where we're able to opt out of one or two Pro-Ams, but change it with a dinner or a stop by the hospitality tent.
I thought that that also included if you missed your tee time you were able to make it up by going to the hospitality tent Thursday or Friday, which is why I was so shocked that he ended up being DQed because I thought that was included in that rule change. That was my one.

Q. What do you think of the five-and-dime holes as far as short par 4s go?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's awesome. Terrific. It's such a narrow green that you've got to drive the ball extremely straight and the green is challenging. If you're hitting a wedge, it's not easy to get it close. I think those holes are some of the most fun holes we play. And I love the fact that we get to have one here.

Q. What did you hit?
PHIL MICKELSON: Today I laid up because it was raining and I couldn't get there. So I hit a hybrid and wedge and made birdie. I can make birdie laying up, but it's probably not the way I'm going to play it. I'm going to try to drive it up there by the green if I can.

Q. In '07, when you got stuck in Arkansas, I think that's where you got stuck, if I remember, did you have to negotiate your way to stay in the field?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, because the rule was such where if you have an issue like that, you can get an excuse. The airport's closed, what are you going to do? You can't take off. The roads were flooded. I couldn't drive. I didn't have an option. They had actually made -- the rules had already made for that accommodation, if a player wasn't able to get there for an unforeseen occurrence.

Q. Do you think it would have been fair to run Jim out there for the second hole today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. Yeah. But either way, the penalty, whether it's fine him or what have you, it cannot affect the competition. This is not a competitive round. It's the Pro-Am and only half the players are playing it. So whatever penalty you have, it cannot affect the tournament when it only applies to half the field. That's just wrong.
And again how the Commissioner let that slide or get through is ridiculous. I don't know.

Q. Backing up to what you were saying about the Cup competition, the way the schedule is set up now allowing you to kind of be on top of your game in the Ryder Cup, President's Cup rolls around, what's the line of not enough/too much, you and Tiger were undefeated San Francisco last time around, seemed to be working for you two guys who had the best results in these things in the past; is there a balance there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, because we're accommodated with the week off with the FedExCup events, I think it's feasible realistic schedule. If we had four FedExCup events straight on and Ryder Cup made it five in a row traveling overseas I think that would be more challenging. But the fact that they take into consideration that we need a week off in between, guys are pretty fresh and ready to play.

Q. (Inaudible)?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. I think a lot of the U.S. Tour has become such a global tour we have a lot of players internationally. I think a lot of them are playing.

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