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February 2, 2011

Phil Mickelson


DOUG MILNE: Phil, thanks for joining us for a few minutes, two-time winner of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Obviously off to a great start. Came very, very close last week to getting your first win of the season in your debut. Just a few comments on last week and how you're feeling as we head into this chilly week here in Scottsdale.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it might be cold today but it's supposed to be beautiful on Sunday and the weekend and hopefully we'll get a great turnout this weekend.
I love coming back to this tournament. It's one of my favorite places as always to play here in Phoenix where I spent so many years of my life, and my time at Arizona State has been so much fun, and I'm excited to be back here because I also feel like I'm playing some good golf and would like to try to improve on last week's close call.

Q. If you could go back 20 years and remember, we talked to Rickie, Hunter and Dustin about this, how did you handle potential when you were a young player on TOUR, all the expectations and everything that everybody had thinking that you were going to just ride your game?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think my situation was a little different when I was coming up at age 20 or so because I had -- although I won the Tucson Open when I was 20, I stayed in school for another year and a half to graduate, and I was able to be in a bit of an isolated environment, where the expectations weren't as -- weren't week to week, and I wasn't on display at PGA TOUR events every week.
I think now that guys are coming out of school early and they're playing such great golf at such a young age, I think it's difficult at such a young age to handle expectations and potential because over -- you have to look at it over a long-term career, and sometimes you get focused in on just day to day or week to week, and you go through these highs and lows. But if you look at it over the course of a career, it just helps ease some of the pressure.
But again, I was able to do it in a much more closed-off environment than these guys today that are being exposed on such a worldwide scale with the internet and with the media exposure of golf today that it's a lot more difficult than what I went through.

Q. How much more difficult is it now with 24-hour news cycle, 24-hour cable at Golf Channel that wasn't there, Twitter, Facebook, all that stuff? Do you think it's more difficult for kids today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, without question. Without question a lot has changed in the last 20 years since I've been out here regarding exposure. I think it's a very difficult thing to be in front of the public 24/7 at any age, really, but any little thing that you say or do wrong will be exposed through YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and all these social media centers that we didn't have when I came out. You could make a mistake and get away with it, where nowadays you just can't.

Q. You still look pretty young to me, but how do you like the marketing ploy by the TOUR of Phil and the 40-somethings?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't heard that one. I know that -- I haven't heard that one yet.
But what I have seen is some different tee times, you know, pairing certain guys together each week. I love that as a marketing ploy for the TOUR. I think it's terrific to be able to allow tournaments to market marquee pairings throughout the week. I think that's great. To put me and Bubba together after last week's duel that we had in essence, and again with Bill Haas who I played with in the final round, I think that's great. To put Rocco Mediate and Tiger together last week at Torrey Pines, that's great, that's fun, and I think fans like it and I think it's good for television, and I hope think continue it.

Q. You seem to be more at peace, just having more fun. When you look at last week at Torrey Pines, Bones holding the pin, is it just what you've been through the last year or so? You seem to be having more fun out there.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're in a lot better place. The last three, four, five months have been really good, and so we're excited. Amy and I are excited are where we've come to and excited about 2011.
I feel like my game is pretty sharp. I mean, last week I played well, wasn't quite enough, but I played well, and I feel like it's going to get better as these weeks come on, and I'm excited about my opportunity here in Phoenix.

Q. I was looking at the numbers. If you win this week, you jump to 9th on the all-time win list with Middlecoff and Watson, pretty strong names. You've done a lot in your career. It's Hall-of-Fame stuff. What else do you want to accomplish in the next decade in the game?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't really like to share goals too publicly, but one goal that I will share is I think there's a magic number about 50 wins. I'm 12 away. I really think that's an attainable goal and maybe in a short period of time. That's something that I would like to do. I just think it has a magic ring to it, and to be able to do it in this day and age would be a great accomplishment. That's one of my goals as well as to play well in the major championships.
The Masters is a tournament that I just love. I'd love to keep trying to add to the three victories I've had there, and also it would be something if I could somehow get a win in the U.S. and British Open and get a career slam, although that's going to be very challenging for me. I think the U.S. Open I'll have a number of opportunities. The British will be a big challenge for me.

Q. Are you as jazzed about the game of golf today as you were when you were coming out here at 20, 21 years old?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I actually am, and I'll tell you why. In the last year and a half I realized how much I love golf and how much I have used it throughout my life as a way of dealing with things on and off the golf course. It's a place where I'm at peace and it's a place that I am constantly wanting to be. And so even though it's been my job in theory for many years, I've never felt like it's a job. I just -- I love the game of golf. I love the opportunity to compete, and the last year and a half as we've gone through kind of an interesting or difficult time, if you will, that's become even more aware -- I've become even more aware of how much I love it.

Q. It seemed like last week that a lot of people thought you might go for it at 18 there at Torrey Pines at the end. CBS kind of talked throughout the weekend about how you were taking a more conservative route during the tournament. Has some of the thrill gone out of Phil, or are you kind of -- are you still capable of that kind of old go-for-it type mentality?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's one thing to go for it, but it's another if the shot's impossible. If I had a 1 percent chance of knocking it on the green, I'd have gone for it, but I didn't. I had a tree in my way, I had left-to-right wind, which meant I had to slice it back a lot and back into the wind off a lie that was going to come out jumping. It was an impossible shot. It was either to go right in the right bunker, over or in the water. I didn't have a chance to get it on the surface. So I felt like if I were to get it in the fairway, I could actually have a chance of holing it by using that bank, using that little bowl that the pin was in if I needed to.
The shot came close. Obviously you need luck to hole it, but the shot came close. But that was my best chance there.

Q. I don't think many people have seen Bones tending the pin for you from 80 yards out. That was kind of a unique television moment. Can you talk about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's actually a Pelz-ism. I call it a Pelz-ism. Pelz wants me to have him tend the pin, which is crazy. It frustrates me throughout the year because I do hit the pin about ten times with a wedge throughout the year and it usually does not help me. In fact, I don't know if it ever does. It usually ricochets all over.
That particular shot I wanted to give it two chances to go in. I'm trying to fly it in, and then if it doesn't fly in, it's going to skip and I wanted to try to bring it back in. And the pin would have interfered with that. If I had hit it, it wouldn't have allowed it to go past.
We're dealing with small percentages, I get it, the chances of it going in. But still, I wanted to give myself every opportunity if I could.

Q. Going back to the fun and attitude of the game, I was told three or four years ago maybe you were in a much different place to where you considered walking away from the game of golf. It's a dramatic transition over the last couple years. Can you talk about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I was ever at that point. I've always enjoyed playing and competing, and I don't know if I've ever been at that point. But I had a greater awareness how much I love it here in the last year and a half, especially as I've used it as a way for me to cope and I've used it as a way for me to get a lot of enjoyment, and I think the Masters last year was an incredible high during a difficult time.

Q. You said you want to win here this week obviously. That's why you play. And we know that you're aiming at Augusta. So can you talk a little bit about the process that you go through of sustaining where you are, capable of being winning and building towards Augusta, how you keep that momentum going between here and there.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the best way to get ready for Augusta is to play well this particular week, whatever week that is. I think it's advantageous to get in contention because the more opportunities you have to win, the more opportunities you have dealing with pressure on Sunday, the better your chances are of doing well in the Masters because the pressure you feel as you make the turn and tee off on 10 at Augusta on Sunday afternoon, it's like no other, because you want it so bad that it's very difficult to deal with at times.
And it was difficult early in my career. I didn't play the well the final round, the back nine on Sunday when I had chances to win because I wanted it so bad. And to be able to learn how to deal with that over the years, it's helpful to play well, to be in contention and hopefully win earlier in the year.

Q. With frost and the short days this time of year, is a 132-man field a little bit ambitious for Phoenix the first week of February?

Q. There's been some dialogue in the game that we're seeing a transition now, we're undergoing a transition from a period where Tiger and you kind of had a hold on the game and the public's fascination and now there are all these new faces. Do you think we've sort of entered a new era?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you mentioned a transition and then you said you've already entered the era, so you're either in transition or you've entered it. I would say the transition is going to be quite a few years.

Q. Why do you say that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Because I feel like I've got a lot of really good golf in me. In fact I feel like I have some of my best golf coming up. I feel like I've learned a lot, I feel like my swing has evolved and I feel like from this point forward my game is more about refinement and touch and creativity and shot-making as opposed to golf swing and basic fundamentals.
I also feel that from what I have seen with Tiger, even though he struggled last week, his swing speed is back, and I think his golf game will be back shortly, despite a lot of doubts.

Q. You don't think it'll be a situation where you guys are kind of sharing? I don't mean to put you out to pasture by any stretch, but a situation where we see Bubba last week or Rory McIlroy or whoever it is kind of sharing the stage?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, we'll definitely have that, and we've had that over all the years, too. There is a lot of talent out here, and we see it in Europe, we see it with some young players in Europe, and there's a lot of talent here in American golf, as well, and we're going to constantly see that.
I mean, the level of play has increased. I know that the level of my play had to increase over the last few years because Tiger pushed me and he's pushed a lot of players, and nowadays the overall level of play is at an all-time high, as well as all-time depth.

Q. Creativity is the hallmark of your short game as everybody knows. How do you manage that talent that you have with the technical things that Dave Pelz brings in? How do you balance those two things so you're still playing creatively rather than technical?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Pelz doesn't -- we don't work with technique, we work on how to practice. When we work we're building a foundation that carries over to the golf course. For instance, I do a towel drill where I try to fly my irons a specific yardage, and I hit 1,500 balls a month to those specific yardages and have for the last seven years. So when I get a wedge shot like No. 18 that's 72 yards and my towel drill number is 75, I only have to alter it three yards to get it to fly to my number.
And over seven years of doing this I can usually fly it within a yard 95 percent of the time.

Q. The ball mark was very close.
PHIL MICKELSON: I knew it was going to fly a certain yardage. But that's what he's helped me with is building a foundation that carries over to the golf course if I can build on. He doesn't help me with technique, do this, that or the other, he helps me with developing my feel and touch, foundation for my feel and touch I guess is the best way of saying it.

Q. How do you think the weather is going to affect your game this week? How do you respond in cold weather?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, one of the things I've done this year is that I've been switching golf balls in cold weather. I've been going to a much softer, much lower compression golf ball. I've been using the Tour i(s), which is Callaway's version of a very high spin golf ball. It helped me last week at Torrey where it was fairly cold. It wasn't as warm. And it's going to help me this week, as well.
When it gets cold the ball doesn't compress as well and when it hits the face the face actually moves, and the misses get exaggerated, and this golf ball doesn't do that. This golf ball compresses very easily so I hit it a lot straighter in cold conditions.
DOUG MILNE: We appreciate your time, and best of luck this week.

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