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May 2, 2012

Phil Mickelson


MARK STEVENS:  We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson.  If you want to talk about your thoughts coming into this week.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I'm really excited to get back playing.  I've had three weeks of not playing, and this is one of our best regular TOUR events that we have.  What the club here at Quail Hollow and Wells Fargo has done, creating such a special tournament for the players is really cool.  We've got one of the best courses tee to green I think we play all year, and it's really a fun tournament for us.  I'm excited to get back playing here.

Q.  When you take an extended period of time off, what's the most challenging thing to get yourself back into competitive mode?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's not too challenging getting back into competitive mode because I miss it.  When I haven't played for a few weeks, I'm excited, I work hard, and I look forward to getting out on the course and working on my game.  It's when we've played repetitively for three, four, five weeks that I tend to get stale because I lose some of the focus and desire to go work hard.

Q.  When you were growing up in San Diego, it was such a competitive atmosphere with Harry Rudolph and then you mentioned Manny at a tournament recently being competitive with you.  Is there one way in which just having all that competition young shaped who you are as a golfer now?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Yes.¬† I think that having good competition, good players who practice hard and who enjoy competing really pushed me to work harder and pushed me to become the player that I ultimately did.¬† For me in junior golf, high school, Manny Zerman really pushed me, Harry Rudolph really pushed me, and then as I got to college, playing with Per‑Ulrik Johansson as a teammate at Arizona State was a bit motivating for me.¬† We would go out and practice and play a round for five bucks, and that $5 meant more than anything because you just didn't want to lose to each other.¬† But we would spend a lot of time together working on shots and practicing together, and having somebody there to motivate and push really is a good way to get better.

Q.  You've been a mainstay at this event, going back to the earlier days of the Wachovia Championship.  Besides the course itself, I was curious from your perspective how has this event changed over the past nine, ten years for you?
PHIL MICKELSON:  When this tournament came into existence, it was done right, right from the beginning, and so it didn't really need to evolve too much.  A lot of the members here are members at Augusta.  They know how the greatest tournament in the world is run.  They implemented a lot of those subtleties and nuances into this tournament right from day one.  So it wasn't necessary to make too many changes over the years.  And it's every bit as good from day one as it is today.  It's just one of the best events we have.

Q.  I know you probably haven't been on the golf course yet, but they made the decision to play 17 from the left side member tees.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I heard that from Bones, yeah.

Q.  And I know you've had an interesting history with 17.
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Well, I think it's a great decision just because the way the green is designed, it's designed to receive the shot from over there.¬† I think when the green gets firm like it's going to be this week, it's a much better hole from over there.¬† I think that there's more decision making, there's more risk‑reward as opposed to 100 percent defense.¬† I think it's a great hole from over there.

Q.  Rory was in here talking earlier about really relating with young kids and being good with fans and such.  I wonder if you as we'll just say a veteran can kind of talk about not losing that sort of fresh approach on the golf course and how you can get kind of maybe jaded a little bit and get away from being so friendly and being good with the fans.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I don't think that's ever an issue because I love what I do.  I love coming out to the golf course and playing some of the best courses in the world in perfect condition, competing for a living.  It's one of my favorite things to do, whether it's for a huge purse or just among friends.  And the way the people have treated me and my family over the years, it's very easy to get excited to see everyone because they've been wonderful.
If I do need a break, the great thing about golf is we're able to make our own schedule and take a break when we need it.

Q.¬† You have a great record with a 54‑hole lead.¬† What's your mindset going into a Sunday when you have a lead?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† My mindset going into Sunday is to just find a way.¬† Just find a way to get it done.¬† I don't worry about mechanics, I don't worry about ball‑striking, I don't really care where it goes because I figure I'm going to have to rely on my short game at some point, I just want to get it in the hole and find a way to get it done.
The first few days of a tournament I might be thinking about swing, I might be thinking about other things, but when it comes right down to Sunday and getting it done, that's all I'll focus on is just finding a way to get it done.

Q.  All those players that were so competitive with you growing up, none of them are at this level now.  What was it about you that allowed you to separate yourself?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† You know, Per‑Ulrik has had some success.¬† He played on the Ryder Cup in 1995.¬† He's had some success, and unfortunately he's had some injuries that have held him back.¬† But he's had a successful professional career.
I don't really have a great answer for you as to what the difference was because I look at Harry, I look at Manny, I look at the guys on the college team I grew up playing with, and they all seemed like they had the ability to get it done.
I don't know what that little extra is.

Q.  I wonder if I can get your thoughts on Monday.  Did you write a speech or are you going to wing it?  And going into the Hall at 41, whether you've wrapped your head around that yet?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I'll work on it.  I haven't really finalized it yet, but I'll work on it.  I just feel very appreciative for what the game has meant to me throughout my life, not just as a career but what it's meant to me from a year and a half old when I started playing and the people I've met and the opportunities it's given me.  It'll probably be along those lines.

Q.  One of the strongest parts of your appeal, I think, from a distance has always been that you seem never to play not to lose.  Where does that come from?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You know, that's a good point because you've got to play without fear.  You're going to make mistakes.  It's going to happen.  You have to deal with losing.  It's part of the TOUR.  Out of 156 guys each week, one person is going to win, so 155 lose.  But you can't worry about that.  You've got to let it brush off when things don't go your way.  But rather than play tentatively or with concern or fear or let somebody else hand it to you, I've always like to try to get the tournament in my control where if I execute the shots I'm able to pull off the victory as opposed to letting somebody else hand it to me.  I think it's more that desire of trying to control my own destiny than let somebody else handle it, which has forced me to play aggressive.

Q.  Have you ever in all your years been guilty of playing not to lose?  Have you ever fallen into that trap?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I mean, not that I can think of.  If anything I might go a little bit overboard the other way, which we can all attest.

Q.  I know how important the majors are to you, and maybe some disappointments that you had earlier in your career were tough to overcome.  Is it easier to move on when a tournament like your last tournament doesn't go exactly the way you want because of some of your successes that you've had now?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You know, the Masters for me personally was a great Masters, and Bubba won, and it was awesome for him.  He's meant a lot to the game, and it's perfect.  For me personally, I look at that tournament a lot different than I look at a couple of others.
On the weekend I felt I played about as well as I have ever.¬† I didn't make a single bogey other than the mishap on 4.¬† And when I say mishap, when I play that course with some other players, Keegan, Brendan, we talk about that hole.¬† I say, you've got to be left of the pin no matter where it is, especially when it's in the front.¬† I said, don't even try to hit it in this 15‑foot sliver because if you go in the right bunker you can't make par, if you go long right you can't make par.¬† You've got to be left, go in the bunker.¬† And the 4‑iron I hit from 215 went over the left edge of the bunker, just went a little too far and went into the grandstands.¬† If it was a yard short or a yard long, I'm going to probably make par, because what shot do I practice there?¬† I practice the chip from the drop area.¬† I practice the chip from over there in the people because it's straight uphill.
So when I look back on that Masters, I don't look at it as a mistake where ‑‑ say the '06 U.S. Open where I hit a tree with my second shot, most people look at that and think the drive was what cost that tournament.¬† I drove it like that the whole week.¬† That wasn't the problem.¬† The problem was the 3‑iron off of a nice lie that I cut into the tree as opposed to getting around the tree, right.¬† So when I look back on that, I think, how could I not start that thing far enough right to slice it around, get it up by the green where my short game was‑‑ the best week short game wise in my career was the week of the U.S. Open at Winged Foot.¬† Why couldn't I just get it up by the green because I'll probably get it up‑and‑down.¬† That's where I look back on that.
At the Masters I don't have a shot like that because quite honestly it's in my miss area, and unfortunately it hit the metal rail and went 30 yards left into the trees and it happens.  But I take a lot of positives away from the Masters because of the way I played thereafter, before and on Saturday.

Q.  This is a follow on never playing not to lose.  Someone who knew you way back in junior golf said that the thing that distinguished you is you were never afraid to take a chance on a shot, and I think a lot of people, young and old, are afraid of outcomes.  They don't want to fail, and that keeps them from succeeding.  What do you think it was about you?  Was it your upbringing, your parents, something that you weren't worried about the consequences of failing?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I don't know at what age I started to act that way.  I know that when I was a psychology major in college and high school, one of the ways to face a fear or to get over a fear was to tackle it head on.  There was a few different ways, but the one that I felt was the best was if you don't like snakes, go hang out with snakes a bunch and eventually you're going to get over the fear.  I never felt comfortable flying so I went and got my pilot's license.  I never felt comfortable with being in an awkward situation, so I took up martial arts.  I just always want to take on my fears head on.
That's kind of the way I approach golf.  If there's a shot that I don't feel comfortable with, I'll go on the range and work on it until I do, until I turn that weakness into a strength, and where I see a lot of mistakes being made out here is people practice their strengths, and they don't take their weaknesses and turn them into strengths.  It feels better to practice things you're good at, not the things you struggle at, and I've always tried to do the opposite.

Q.  What was your fear of flying?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Just never understood it, so I wanted to understand it.  My dad was a pilot so it's not irrational, but I just didn't understand what's going on on landing and the noises and so forth.

Q.¬† Along the lines of what you were answering a minute ago, other than that shot at Winged Foot, you don't seem to second‑guess a lot of your decisions very often.¬† Did you think about after the Masters how you handled trying to go for the shot, the right‑handed attempt out of that trouble on No.4 and whether or not to go back to the tee or something?¬† Did you at all second‑guess that?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† So I just kind of quickly‑‑ I'm very mathematically oriented, statistics oriented in my head.¬† It's why Pelz and I work so well together, because we can relate to numbers.¬† And from the tee, my goal would have been to get in the bunker, and I felt like I could get in the bunker with two right‑handed shots every bit as I could with one from the tee.¬† So mathematically I felt like I'd get to the same spot.¬† Unfortunately it didn't work out that way, but once I got in the bunker I was able to get up‑and‑down, it just took me four to get there.

Q.  Following up on the Hall of Fame stuff, you touched on this at Augusta when you were asked about it.  It just seems like it's a little awkward for you at this point, like you don't really want to dwell on the accomplishment.  I just wondered how you feel about the idea of the Hall of Fame at this point.  Your résumé could be changing quite a bit after you go in.
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Well, I'm very appreciative of being inducted this year.¬† I wouldn't be opposed to moving the age to 50 because I think now with fitness being a bigger part of the TOUR, guys' careers going longer, I think that would probably be a better point to reflect on your career as opposed to being inducted while you're right in the middle of it.¬† I feel like at this age right now with things I've learned from Butch and things I've learned from Pelz and the way my golf swing is where it's been very injury‑free, I use leverage to create speed as opposed to violent force or brute force, so I have no injuries or discomforts in my body that I feel like these next five years could be the best of my career.¬† So I'm still looking forward to what these next five years bring, if not further.
What I am looking at, as opposed to reflecting on accomplishments, I reflect on what the game has meant to me, and I think that's probably where I'll go with my speech, because it's meant so much to me in my personal life, not just what it's done as an occupation but the people I've met throughout the game, the places it's taken me, just the opportunities the game has provided me, not to mention how big a part golf is in my life on handling personal issues; when Amy got sick, how big it was for me to be able to play golf and kind of deal with my own thoughts or just chip or practice or have an hour or two alone on the course to kind of gather my thoughts.  It was just a big part of my life.
MARK STEVENS:  Thank you for your time, Phil.  Good luck this week.

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