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January 19, 2011
ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES
SCOTT CROCKETT: Welcome as always. It's a great pleasure to have you playing in a European Tour event and it's great to see you here. We spoke last year in China and Singapore, about your desire to play in different parts of the world, and this is obviously another sphere in that realm, isn't it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, this has been a great trip so far. We have been able to bring my wife, Amy, and our three kids, as well as Amy's parents to see a very special part of the world in an area we have never been to and to experience a different culture.
So it's been a fun time so far learning and seeing some different sides.
SCOTT CROCKETT: And the competitive side; you've had eight weeks away from competitive golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's correct. The last time I played was Singapore, middle of November, so I'm excited to get the year started. I started practising a little bit earlier than normal because I'm antsy and excited to start the year and the opportunity to play here on a wonderful golf course in great weather in a beautiful country. It's a great place to start the year.
SCOTT CROCKETT: How did the game feel in the Pro-Am today?
PHIL MICKELSON: It felt okay. We had a good time and hit some decent shots. You don't really know until the pressure is on on Thursday, but I'm sure I'll be a little bit nervous because I haven't been in competition in a few months, but I'm also excited.
Q. When you were in China awe saw the terra cotta war years, so have you been seeing camels or what have you been doing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the Emirates Palace actually has calm he will rides there, so the kids did go on a camel ride. Last month Amy and I took a trip to Egypt and experienced Cairo and Luxor. We tried to fly into Aqaba and drive into Petra, and we got -- we couldn't land because of a sandstorm that was 3,000 feet high.
So the family, my wife and kids, are going to try to go see that maybe tomorrow. They have already been to the mosque yesterday, and what an amazing feat that is. I don't know if anywhere in the world can have a months being as sensational as the one here in Abu Dhabi.
It's been a fun trip to experience some neat things, as well as fun things like the Ferrari World, the roller coaster there, Ferrari World, just an amazing place.
Q. Along that theme with all of the side seeing and travelling, how much of a better golfer do you feel as though you're becoming, travelling the world?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think I feel fortunate that golf has allowed me an opportunity to experience so many different cultures and countries throughout the world. I don't know if it makes me a better player or not. Hopefully it does.
Being able to play different courses in different conditions can only enhance me as an overall player I would think. When it comes right down to it, it's really major championships that we are all trying to win and three of those are in the U.S. and one is in the U.K.
But to see golf grow and have such great events like we have here, we have a World Championship in Shanghai, we have this event here in Abu Dhabi. We are getting some really world-class events throughout the world, and I just think that overall, it's great for me to see the game grow, and hopefully I'm a part of it.
Q. Would you consider yourself to be a world player now, as opposed to a PGA Tour player?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not yet, but I'm trying to get there. I mean, I have a ways to go to be -- I can't ever be considered a world player the way Gary Player was a world player, or even Ernie Els, the way he has become such an international player.
But certainly, it is something that I would like to improve. I don't know if I'll ever get to that degree, but I'd like to play more internationally, and it's really been great for us as a family to be able to experience so many different cultures and learn from them.
Q. You're not missing the Hope this week in Palm Desert?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I haven't played that event in a few years now.
Q. What's your take on sort of the state of the world game at the moment when you're here as the Masters Champion but the other three major winners that are here are essentially European Tour players, and this is obviously a European Tour event; this is obviously a big statement at the start of the year.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's great to see so many of the world's best players compete against each other. I think that can only be good for golf.
I also think that it makes me feel good to see the game of golf grow and to see the interest level in the game of golf increase in countries throughout the world. I mean, it was only five or six years ago that this tournament began. And to see the game, to see the number of golf courses grow throughout Abu Dhabi, other parts of the world, China and Asia, it makes me feel good, because golf has meant and has given me so much.
Q. So as you say, sort of five or six years ago, the world was a different place, and if you said that there was a tournament starting at the beginning of the year that had all four major winners within it, you would guess that the majority of those major winners would be American and the tournament would be in America; are we witnessing a sea change here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I would say that, given that Australia has always had a strong presence in the major championships, as has Europe. We can't overlook what Nick Faldo and Seve Ballesteros have brought to the game; Ian Woosnam winning major championships; Colin Montgomerie, even though he was not won a Major, he's won so much over here in Europe; OlazĂˇbal winning the Masters. There have been so many great European players, I would not go so far as to say it's a surprise, no.
Q. Away from the course you seem to be really not just ticking off places to go and see and trying to really embrace cultures. What drives that? Where does that come from?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just an overall interest and respect for different cultures. It's been fascinating to see. It's been fascinating to see the culture that is in China, the culture that's in Abu Dhabi, the culture that's in Egypt, the cultures in different parts of Europe. It's been a learning experience and it's been fun for me and my wife to be provided that opportunity to see these different areas with our children.
Q. You would have read or heard about JosĂ© Maria in The Ryder Cup. What does he stand for in your mind as far as golf is concerned?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have really liked JosĂ© Maria. I don't think you'll find a nicer person on Tour. He is so enjoyable to be around.
I've been fortunate to be able to spend some time with him throughout the years. Obviously he's a wonderful player, but in addition to that, you won't find a higher-quality individual, and I think everybody is excited that he is going to be The Ryder Cup captain. I know his players are excited, but the U.S. players are excited to see him as captain, too, because he's such a class act and a credit to the game.
Q. Can you explain a little bit further, what does class act mean? What are the individual qualifies? Is there one example of something that you can give us that really demonstrates that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I remember we played the tournament in Atlanta and it was the week before the Masters. It was 2005, and he missed a 4-foot putt on the last hole in regulation that would have won it out right; instead, it went to a five-man playoff.
On the first hole, he again had a 4-foot putt, and if you remember, JosĂ© Maria throughout his career is one of the best putters the game has ever seen. So to see him miss a second one was shocking. But he ended up missing the second one, and a couple of holes later, I ended up winning the tournament.
We went to the Masters dinner Tuesday night, two days later, and I had an elaborate desert of vanilla ice cream with a bunch of his favourite toppings. As he was scooping up the last bite, he kind of looked at me and said, "Thank you."
I said, "Are we even?"
He says, "No, no, you still owe me one. I gave you two." (Laughter).
I think it's his ability to have a sense of humour about some of the tough times, as well as be able to take the joy of his success that has made JosĂ© Maria a class act and a guy that you enjoy being around.
Q. It's not a badly-kept secret that Davis is going to be announced tomorrow as the U.S. captain. Can you just talk about his qualities?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he has a lot of experience playing Ryder Cups, and I think over the years, he's able to take some of the things that he has liked from captains and The Ryder Cup experience and things that he has not liked and eliminate those and make for a great experience for all of his players. I think he will be a great captain, too.
JosĂ© Maria and Davis Love, you have two of the nicest guys that both sides could offer and I think it's going to be a very friendly and fun match.
Q. How difficult will it be to fulfill your desire to become a more international player, given the demands of the PGA Tour membership?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't understand. What do you mean?
Q. Well, you have to play 15 tournaments, don't you, in the States, to be a PGA Tour member. Is it difficult then to play an international schedule, given trying to get releases?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's not difficult to get releases to play select events throughout the world, not at all. It is challenging for players to such tort two tours. So when you're from Europe and have an obligation to support The European Tour, it can be very difficult to play the required 15 events in the U.S.
My situation is reversed. I play roughly 20 events in the U.S., so to be able to add four to five international events is not difficult, no.
Q. Can we regard you as a contender this week, or is there too much rustiness in view of your winter layoff for you to figure prominently in a field of this quality?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a good question that I possible won't be able to answer until we start play.
But I have been working hard on my game, and I'm excited about the year. I'm excited not just about this tournament but the whole year. And so I don't want to look forward to Saturday or Sunday, but I feel confident I'm going to put together a good round on Thursday and Friday.
Q. Just to put a cap on all of the talk on international players, are we heading towards a world tour, and what sort of time scale would you put on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, because that's going to be more of a longer-term.
I think that the Olympics is going to bring an excitement level and a support for the game of golf from a number of different countries. And I think that it's not overly difficult for a country to have two or three star players rise up and perform at the highest level. If that can happen and you can see guys from many different countries continue to excel, I think it will promote golf in many different countries and create what you're talking about as far as a world tour, if you will. But that's many years away. I don't think anybody today can really answer how it's going to play out.
Q. With the world No. 1 and three fellow major winners from 2010, how does a player of your stature look at such an opening match of the season, or do you take it as it comes?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's great, because it gives you a real idea of where your game stands. You're playing against the best players here.
I think it's going to be exciting for people to watch but it's going to be exciting from a player's point of view to have an opportunity to really see where your game is today on day one. We know we are not going to be as sharp as Thursday at Augusta, but we want to have our game ready and get rid of the rust and be sharp and the only way you know where you stand is to play against the best.
Q. The arthritis thing you had last year, is that completely gone and how are you feeling with that? And how is your vegetarianism, how is that going?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was a strict vegetarian for five months. That went okay. But ultimately, it was doomed to fail. (Laughter).
I learned a lot from that as far as eating habits and diet and so I've implemented a lot of the things from that. I continue to eat a lot more vegetables than I have in the past and I'm trying to have a better balance now than instead of all protein. I'm trying to get a better balance of vegetables as well as protein.
As far as the arthritis, that's something that will never go away but I was fortunate. I was fortunate because I got on it right away. When I started to feel symptoms, I went to a rheumatologist and had a quick diagnosis, and that's why I've responded so well to treatment and have been able to perform every activity that I was able to do before.
So the key for me was getting on it right away before there was any permanent damage to any joints or whatnot.
Q. So you're 100 per cent now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I can't really say it like that, but right now I feel like I'm not being inhibited in my ability to practise, to work out or perform.
Q. Can you describe the day that you gave up on being vegetarian, was it some fantastic dish your wife had prepared?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it was just I was having -- I wasn't having the ability to get my strength back from -- I had lost a lot of strength over the summer from some medications I took before I was really getting treatment. I was having difficulty getting that strength back, and so I add some protein into my diet, and since I've been able to get back lifting weights and so forth to what I was lifting before.
Q. Are you still desperate to get to world No. 1, or with all of last year's near misses, is that out of the way for you? Is it a desire still?
PHIL MICKELSON: My goal this year is 2011 to have the year I expected 2010 to be. With the exception of the Masters, it wasn't the year I had hoped for. And so I've been working hard in the off-season to make 2011 the year I believe I can have and the one I had hoped for last year.
Thank you, happy new year everyone.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Thank you and good luck this week.
End of FastScripts