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July 12, 2011

Phil Mickelson


MARTIN PARK: Ladies and gentlemen, we'd like to welcome four-time major champion Phil Mickelson to the media room. Welcome to Royal St. George's. We understand you've been out there experiencing the wind. Give us your thoughts on the course so far.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm really enjoying the golf course. I am very excited about the way the course is playing and the way it's set up. I thought it was really fun today. I played terrible and couldn't reach that par-3, 11th, busted a driver short, and I just thought -- I mean, obviously it was really windy today, but I'm having a lot of fun here. I was here last week Monday and Tuesday and saw the course, and I think it's set up very fair and fun for this test of golf.
MARTIN PARK: I understand there was a little match going on between yourselves.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we had a fun game and Jeff Overton made a long putt on the last hole. He was my partner, so I'm very appreciative of him.

Q. Are you puzzled by your British Open record?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I'm entering this year kind of like a fresh start, if you will. I'm not going to worry about past performances, and I'm going to try to learn and enjoy the challenge of playing links golf. And I'm having fun doing that. I'm trying to pretend like it's my first time here and appreciate playing the ball on the ground on days like this and appreciate being able to play some through the air when the wind is a little bit calmer. I'm not going to dwell -- I'm trying not to dwell and don't want to look back on my past performances that haven't been what I expect. But I feel excited and kind of reinvigorated to come over here and try to learn this style of golf and play it effectively.

Q. Do you feel with so many different major winners over the last few years that each tournament is a more open field each time? And why do you think there have been so many different winners?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's probably a number of reasons that you could argue, but certainly the depth of talent is the first and foremost, the quality of play now that has come across the international circuit is some of the best I've seen. And so that probably explains it the easiest.
But to win any tournament, especially a major championship, you need to play well, obviously, and you also need to have a bit of luck on your side. Just a little thing here or there might make the difference, whatever that may be.
But I think the overall level of play throughout the world internationally is what has sparked that. And I wouldn't be surprised to see a first-time winner this week, but I expect that because now we have a number of players who have won majors, it would be likely that one of those guys would repeat. But historically that hasn't been the case recently as well as here at Royal St. George's.

Q. Did you play terribly because you played terribly, or because of the conditions?
PHIL MICKELSON: Probably a little bit of both. I had fun, though. Like I say, I had fun. I enjoyed playing in this kind of wind. It was interesting to see a drive on 17 go 380 yards and a drive on 11 go 210. It's just interesting, the air is so thick and the wind is so strong, to have such a varying degree and such an importance of trajectory and flight. I really enjoy playing here. I think it's a fun challenge, whether I play well or not.

Q. You were talking about the wind. A lot of people say without the wind these courses are sort of helpless, you can eat them up. Do you think you need bad weather for an Open, or if it's a day like yesterday where it's just gorgeous, is that still in your mind a British Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's in my mind still a British Open. The conditions are still firm. Drivers are still running quite a bit. You're still playing along the ground quite often. The one advantage that you have is that you can play the short irons through the air and get the ball stopped fairly quickly with the amount of spin and make some birdies.
I don't think the scores will be ridiculously low here at all. I think that making No. 4 calling it a par-4 now immediately knocks four shots off the score relative to par. So already we're going to have a tough time breaking par over four rounds.
And I think we will get some weather at some point throughout the four days. It's very rare for it to be perfect for 14 hours a day, four days a week.

Q. With regard to your approach, you were just talking to Hank about, before you won the first Masters, you talked about going into that and kind of enjoying the process. It seemed to be a little bit of a mental approach. Is this in line with that, a little bit, what you're doing here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It might be, in that I'm not trying to fix any past poor play. I'm trying to come here and play the way links golf should be played, along the ground, as effectively as I can, and really enjoy the challenge that it brings, because again, it's a different style of play. We can't play through the air. We have to accept what the ground gives us when we have conditions like we had today.

Q. The golf course got a pretty bad rap in 2003, and this time around, speaking to a lot of the guys, they love it. Can you explain why that is? And second, the relative absence of rough, can you explain how that adds to the fun element of the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I wouldn't say there's an absence of rough, but it's certainly not the wedge-out thick rough that we had in '03, and to me the subtleties of this golf course come through now that we're able to keep playing and not have to wedge back to the fairway. The 1st hole is a great example of what I see throughout the rest of the golf course. There are three bunkers in front of the green that you have to clear, and the front of the green is pitched away pretty severely, so you have to be in the fairway to get the ball stopped.
If you're coming out of the rough and it doesn't have any spin, there's no way you'll stop the ball on the green. You have to carry the bunkers, and then when it lands on that downslope will go all the way over.
In 2003 the rough was so thick that you didn't have a shot if you missed the fairway. You had to wedge back into the fairway, so everybody was hitting a shot from the fairway essentially, even though only a third of the field managed to hit that fairway. Because of that, the subtleties and the nuances and what really makes this course strategic and great, they didn't come through the way they are this week, and now it's starting to really shine. And the angles at which you have to approach greens, landing them 40, 50 yards short of the green, the way the bunkers are staggered, working around left of one bunker, right of the other, that is starting to come through on almost every hole, and I know the guys are really starting to enjoy it. I know I am. I'm starting to appreciate the golf course now.

Q. How much can you take from today's round, judging by the fact that the wind was in exactly the opposite direction that it normally is and is likely to be for the championship?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think as a player you can ever expect and plan for a particular wind here in the Open, and I think any round and any experience that you can have on this course or any course that we play in competition is going to be a good thing, and you'll learn something and it very well may be at some point in the four days we'll get this wind. So it may be very helpful. And if not, it's certainly helpful being able to hit a variety of shots into the greens and practice short game around these greens, too.
But I was here a week ago, and it was a similar wind. It wasn't the exact same, but it was similar, just not quite as strong.

Q. You're rightly well known for your short game. Would you tell us, please, what it is that strikes you about Luke Donald's short game, and why or how is he so good in that department of the game?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's a very talented player. I haven't played with him much lately. If you've noticed, he's typically in the last groups lately, and I haven't seen him (laughter.) I've seen him in the car park occasionally. But he's just an overall solid player, and it's good to see him playing so well.

Q. But the short game? You're the best person to assess it.
PHIL MICKELSON: He has a great touch, and he putts very well. He rolls it well and reads greens well and he just makes a lot of putts and doesn't make very many mistakes. If he has an overly challenging shot, he won't compound it by making another mistake. He doesn't follow one mistake with another. So he has good control around the greens.

Q. Last week the family went away hunting the Loch Ness monster. What are your plans for this week away from the golf course?
PHIL MICKELSON: Amy and the kids went to Paris today. My kids have never been there, and they're going to head into the city and see some of the sights, some of the things that the kids have studied in school the last couple of years, and they'll spend most of the time at the Louvre. They'll spend some time at the Eiffel Tower. That's kind of a big tourist thing for Americans. We see and read about a lot. So they'll spend some time over there. They've never been there. Amy has been there. It's only less than an hour flight, so they're excited about that. They'll be back, I think, Thursday night.

Q. You've mentioned a few times already, you're enjoying the challenge and appreciating the golf course. Do you like links golf, or are you trying to talk yourself into liking links golf?
PHIL MICKELSON: I actually really enjoy it, but I also enjoy golf in the States and I enjoy being rewarded for hitting a precise shot and having the ball end up close to the hole if you hit it really well, and land it where you want to land it. So I enjoy both elements. But I'm really coming to enjoy and appreciate the challenge that links golf provides, and I've always enjoyed it. I haven't necessarily done it very well. I haven't performed very well.
But I feel much better on the greens. Like, the one area that I've felt has held me back over the years is my putting on some of the fescue-type greens, and I had a good week last week in that I started to putt better on these greens. I feel very confident heading into this Open Championship on the way I'm going to read and putt the greens. So I'm hoping that that goes well and ultimately gives me an opportunity on the weekend to compete and contend.

Q. How confident are you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, like I say, I'm trying to go in here as though it's a first time. I'm trying to pretend I've never played here before and I'm just trying to learn it all from the start, from scratch.
So I don't think I can say I'm going in confidently; I'm going in with an open mind on some of the new ideas to play the course and hopefully play it effectively.

Q. You talked about playing the ball on the ground and enjoying links golf and its challenges it's going to present. Any new clubs going into the bag this week to help you to do that, 2-iron in, 5-wood out?
PHIL MICKELSON: There isn't, no, pretty much the same set makeup. I brought a lot of other clubs just in case, but no, nothing different.

Q. I think Rory's win at the Open might have been the most well received by public, press, the whole Golf World, since maybe that first time you won at the Masters in terms of the wave of goodwill and all that it's generated. Why do you suppose it's such a popular victory for him? Is it maybe the sense that finally after years of hyping the younger guys that he might be the guy that lives up to it, or do you have any theories on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I would say that. I think the thing about Rory is that he plays golf with a real flair and a real charisma, and I think fans are drawn to that. He plays it with this youthful exuberance, and it's fun to watch and see somebody play golf like that and really enjoyed it. He played beautifully obviously and ended up winning, but it's not just how he won with his great play but also the way he interacts with people, the way he -- again, the way he draws people to him.

Q. Some of the marshals have told me that they issued hardhats, that you were spraying it all over the shop.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't think you need to reiterate that. I thought we had that mapped out, in case anybody didn't get that earlier. (Laughter.)

Q. What's happened to your driving?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that that's a presumptuous statement. I'm actually driving it pretty well. I don't have any complaints.

Q. One of the themes going on now is that the Americans have been absent in the majors and stuff. I wonder if you have any theory on that for starters. And I guess this week Rory will be playing with Rickie Fowler, who's his same age and is one of these up-and-coming guys who did really well in the Ryder Cup. Would you be interested in watching as a fan that three-ball?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think there's going to be a lot of young men and women enjoying that pairing. It will be fun to watch. You know, I think it'll be soon when Rickie breaks through. He's playing some very good golf, and he's got a lot of talent. But yet he's only 22, and you don't want to rush it, but it's tough when you've got a guy like Rory the same age who comes out and wins a major. But I think that'll be a fun group to follow.

Q. To follow on your comments about the new approach this year to links golf, does that suggest that you had the wrong approach before or that maybe you were stubborn about it, or could those difficulties have just been from playing poorly and have had nothing to do with the way you went at it?
PHIL MICKELSON: It could have been a little bit of everything. I'm not really sure. I know that the last few years my putting on the greens has been a big issue, but I think that also there were other factors, too. Shot selection around the greens, shot selection into the greens. And so I'm trying to -- like when I play this course, I'm trying to find out if there are some greens that it's better to come in on the ground, if the ground will bring the ball towards the pin or towards the centre of the green, or if it gets repelled away, and if there's some holes I want to try to fly it on the green because the ground is short, isn't helpful.
So learning some of those nuances of the course is like the first thing I'm trying to do a little bit more effectively now, so that I can make better decisions while I'm out playing.

Q. You've played a lot of The Open courses now. Can you put this one into perspective for us? Where is it in your list of favourites, and what is it about St. George's that makes St. George's the way it is in your view?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'd rather -- before I rate them and rate St. George's, I really need to play it this week because I've got to wipe out the way 2003 was because the setup did this course no justice. It received a lot of complaints, and rightfully so.
But this week I think there will be a lot of praise for the golf course, and I'd rather reserve judgment until after I see the way this course plays the way it was meant to be.

Q. Just to follow up a little bit on the question about Rickie, what's your thoughts on why Americans have now gone five majors without winning?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously we haven't shot the lowest score. That's the biggest thing. But I'm not worried about American golf. I think I'm more happy to see how strong international golf is. We've got players from all over the world winning the biggest events, and I think that this only helps promote and grow the game of golf on an international level, so I think it's been a good thing. I'm not worried as though we don't have good young players coming up to represent America because I think we do.

Q. Just along that subject on the lack of American golf success, the same could also be said of tennis, the world boxing champions are no longer Americans, certainly heavyweight. Do you have any overall theory on why American sport has taken a slight dip in recent years?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really want to lump all sports together. I know a little bit about golf and what's going on on a worldwide basis, and it seems like the level of play and the growth of the game has been quite positive globally, and I just think it's a good thing. But I don't know enough to comment on other sports.

Q. Is it then the new reality that American golf will never dominate to the extent it once did?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've learned over the years to never say never. You just don't know what's going to happen. I remember when I first came out on Tour it was said that there will never be another player that dominates the way Jack Nicklaus did, and we all know that to no longer be the case. So I won't ever put anything past -- you just don't know what will happen. I mean, certainly we all expect that in the next couple of decades Asia is going to have a very strong presence in the game of golf. We're already seeing Europe continue to have strong presence, but other parts of the world like Australia and Southa Africa are continually having a great presence in the world of golf.
But that doesn't mean that things couldn't change over time. You just never want to rule anything out.
MARTIN PARK: Phil, thank you very much.

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