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MASTERS TOURNAMENT


April 9, 2013


Phil Mickelson


AUGUSTA, GEORGIA

MODERATOR:¬† Good afternoon, ladies and gentlemen.¬† Today we would like to welcome Phil Mickelson.¬† Thank you, Phil, for agreeing to spend some time with us.¬† As you know, Phil is a three‑time Masters winner.¬† He was also inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame last year, 41 career victories including this most recent one in Phoenix.¬† And this is Phil's 21st Masters appearance.
We'd like to ask you, Phil, if you might just discuss some of your preparations for this year's Masters.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I'm a little bit nervous heading in because I'm not competing the week before, as I have for many years in the past.  Having that open week, I'm a little bit nervous.  But I had some great days here.  I came out here and spent Friday, Saturday, Sunday here, got some good work done and got to spend a lot of time on the golf course.
The course is very close to tournament setup, and so I'm hopeful that I'll get off to a good start and take that preparation and shoot a low score.  But I am a little bit nervous.

Q.  When you come close, as you did last year, but can't quite win it, does it fire up the engine even more in your return?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I think that what makes the Masters so exciting is having an opportunity to win; playing the back nine with an opportunity.  That is what is so enjoyable, exciting as a player.  And I've been fortunate to come out on top a few years and I've been unfortunate to have a number of them come close but not quite good enough.
But either way, having that opportunity to be in the thick of it and to feel that excitement, to feel that pressure, to grace Amen Corner knowing that you need birdies and trying to win a green jacket, that is the greatest thrill a golfer can possibly experience.
And I don't want to say just that it was a failure not winning, because it still was one of the greatest weeks I could have experienced.  It certainly was disappointing.  And every year I'm revved up and wanting to improve, especially the year I came close, but also the year I wanted to defend.  The three times I've won, I've wanted to defend the next year.  I thought that would be really cool to do.  Only a few guys have ever done that.
So there's not one thing that's going to make me more excited for the upcoming Masters, whether it's close, won, or play poorly.

Q.  The last five of the last ten winners have been lefties; coincidence or something about the course?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I think we are certainly cooler (laughter).
There are certain holes when we play Augusta National that actually do favor one side of the ball standing on it over the other based on shot dispersion.¬† A hole like No. 12, based on shot dispersion for me, where as I stand up there as a left‑handed player, if I pull a shot and aim at the middle of the green, it's going to long right or short left which is exactly the way that green sits.¬† It's opposite of a right‑handed shot dispersion, which is why it's such a difficult hole in the past.¬† If you aim at in the middle of the green and you pull it, it goes long left for a right‑handed player, you know, in trouble, or short right in the water.¬† So you have to hit a perfect shot there.
But conversely, 16 plays the exact opposite.¬† It's probably the hardest shot for me on the golf course where the average, a right‑handed player can aim at the middle of the green, and if he pulls it, he'll still carry the water and take that out of play.¬† If he comes out of it right, a lot of times it'll be short right and catch that swale and still come down and you have a good chance for par.¬† Whereas, for me, short left is in the water and long right is up top.
So shot dispersion does make the golf course play differently what side of the ball you stand on; however, it seems to be a very equal test.  It seems to me that there are holes that favor one side, there seem to be an equal number of holes that favor the other.

Q.  To continue a conversation that was started last year, what will you say to your children about Augusta National now having two female members?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I really haven't thought about it.  I don't anticipate them asking me any questions about it.
But I had a great time with one of the new members on Sunday, and happens to be one of my favorite people to spend time with; fascinating, intelligent, and I just think the world of former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, big fan of hers and I'm fortunate to get to know her over the years.  She never disappoints.  She's just a really special person.

Q.  Not playing the week before, was that just because it was not Houston?  And what did you work on Friday, Saturday, and Sunday to try to supplant that?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I was worried watching San Antonio the last few years that it was windy and tight, which is the exact opposite of how I want to prepare for the Masters, which is not too wind and I want to hit it long and far and not worry about accuracy as much.  I want to flight the ball up in the air to get the ball soft as opposed to down to keep it out of the wind.
So I came out here and spent time on and around the greens because that's so important, and worked on some of the shots that I'll have to hit on a beautiful practice facility, as well as the golf course.

Q.¬† You're used to us over the years asking so many questions about your career in context of Tiger's and the comparison.¬† When he's back at No. 1 and an odds‑on favorite coming in, is the perception of him different even among his peers, you guys that you're competing against?¬† Is it like the old Tiger back again, or is it us doing that?¬† Do you guys see it that way at all?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I think that even at times where he has not played his best, you know what he's capable of, and so you're always looking at his score.  You're always worried about him making that big run the way he's always done throughout his career.
And now that he's doing it and winning tournaments in such a dominating fashion, it does have the feel of what we expect to see from Tiger.

Q.¬† What's this that we're hearing about this Phranken Club that you're supposed to be playing this week; and where can it be effective here?¬† The second thing is you talked about the left‑handed deal, have you had an inkling to go down to 10 to do what Bubba did to win the tournament last year and hit that shot, left‑handed to left‑handed?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It's very unlikely I'll ever hit it that far, okay.

Q.  Just going down there while you're in a practice round playing around.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, really, I actually haven't, I haven't yet, but now that you've got me thinking about it...

Q.  Well, you're such a creative guy.
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† As far as this club, I drove it really well to win, when I won in Phoenix this year.¬† And the following week I put in our 3‑wood, our X Hot 3‑wood.¬† And I hit it as far as my driver.¬† I couldn't believe it, it like shot off the face.¬† It had, you know, the optimum spin that a driver would have, and I hit it as far as my driver.¬† And if you've noticed, as I've played Doral and I've played Houston and I've played these last few weeks, I hit it off almost every tee because it's so easy to hit, and it just bores through the air and I don't have to manipulate it and it just goes so far.
So I asked the engineers to take that technology in that club, in our 3‑wood, and just put it on steroids, which is probably not the best way to say it, okay (laughter) but I wanted to make it more like a driver.¬† So it looks like‑‑ it looks like a 3‑wood, but it's bigger than our 3‑wood.¬† And it's almost like a small driver, but it's the 3‑wood technology of our X Hot into a driver.¬† What it's done is taken a lot of spin off of it.¬† And if you watch, you'll see a lot of the shots off the tee that I hit have a lot more scoot on them.
Tee shots on 9 are getting down to the bottom of the hill, and I haven't been able to do that in years.
Tee shot on 10 is getting another 15 to 20 yards, giving me a club or two less than I've had in years.
The tee shot on 15 is getting down to where I have one or two clubs less, and because it comes off fast, as well as low spin, it's running, which is exactly what I wanted here.

Q.  Now that Augusta National has admitted female members, would you like to see the Royal and Ancient follow suit this year?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† I don't really‑‑ I love the game of golf, and I love playing professional golf.¬† I love playing different courses.¬† I love being part of different tournaments, organizations.
What I don't love is getting involved in the politics of it.  I tried that earlier in the year, regularly, it didn't go so well (laughter) so I'm good.  I'm good.

Q.  You mentioned that the course is closer to tournament conditions; do you think we'll see a little less of that kind of flip of the switch from Wednesday to Thursday?  And also, the fairways look like they are a little bit thicker, lusher; do you think that's going to have an impact on how things play out?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† So the grass is in incredible shape.¬† It's probably‑‑ I mean, every year we come out and talk about how pristine Augusta is, but the reason I believe this is the best I've ever seen it is the areas that over the years have historically given problems or been thin, like the fairway shot on 13, even around the green on 12, where you don't get as much sun exposure, these are perfect.¬† The areas that have historically had problems are not having a problem this year.¬† They are perfect.
But as far as that switch you talk about going from Wednesday or Thursday, there has not been a switch in five years.¬† We make bigger divots on these greens than we make on the regular PGA TOUR.¬† These greens are softer than what we play week‑in and week‑out.¬† They are slightly faster, but nothing scary like they used to be.¬† They are more undulated but they are maybe a foot faster than what we play on the TOUR.¬† And quite honestly, they have been softer the last five years than anything we play on TOUR other than Pebble or something like that.
So when we used to have to know the course and know how the ball was going to be running and feeding, the ball doesn't run.¬† We are hitting 6‑irons that are stopping within a foot.¬† It's historically, like I say, only been the last five years, there's been no switch on Thursday and the greens have been soft.¬† You can fire at a lot of these pins without any fear.¬† I mean, I'm backing it up on some of those holes that I've never backed it up on.
So that fear factor has not been there, and I don't anticipate them going back to the way we expect.  I think it's going to stay kind of soft.

Q.  You said you were nervous.  Of what are you nervous?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Well, I want to play well.¬† I want to play well in this tournament.¬† I love this tournament so much and I'm nervous because I haven't been in competition since the Sunday of the Houston Open, and that's been‑‑ it will be 10, 11 days, I guess, as opposed to three, and that's what I'm nervous about is just those first opening five or six holes, being mentally tuned in.¬† That's what I care about.
Now, because I'm aware of it, I'm going to work hard on it to make sure that I am, but it's always a challenge those first five or six holes when you haven't been in competition to be really mentally focused and sharp.

Q.  You talk about being nervous, but you also for the last few years have seemed very comfortable here.  How much of that comes from how often you've played here, or does it come from being a multiple champion?
PHIL MICKELSON:  It comes from knowing I don't have to play perfectly to play well here.  I don't have to hit perfect shots to make pars.  There are a lot of holes here where I can make mistakes off the tee and my short game I know can recover.  If I get up by the green, I'll get it on close to the hole and make a putt for par.  And knowing that, I relax, because I don't have to be perfect.
It's not like the U.S. Open where if you make one little mistake, it's costing you one or two shots because you don't have the ability to recover.  I think that's what's exciting about Augusta National is the recovery shot.  That's the most exciting shot in golf; one of the most exciting shots I've ever hit in my career is a recovery shot on 13 a few years ago.  That's what Augusta National offers is that recovery shot, which means you don't have to be perfect from the tee, which I like.

Q.  What do you love most about Amen Corner?  From a golfer's standpoint, is part of it from a strategic standpoint that it's three so different holes that require just a broad spectrum of shots?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Over the years, every time you think about birdie, and I've got to make a move, it seems to bite you.  If you don't pay it the respect that it deserves, they will bite you with a double.  I think that's what's so interesting is that you look at it on the surface, you need to make birdies if you're going to win.  You expect to make birdies on 13 and so forth.
But, if you don't give those shots respect, it bites you with a double.¬† Especially 11.¬† 11 is the hardest hole on the golf course, because right is one of the toughest up‑and‑down anywhere.¬† With that green going away, water is always in play, and it's so difficult to chip over there, because you can't really fly the chip on the green, so you've got to bounce it up.¬† And yet, you can't miss it left because it's water.¬† You've got to hit great shots there.¬† And when you start thinking birdies and firing at flags and what‑have‑you, and you make a mistake, it just bites you and I think that's the thing about Amen Corner is the respect that it demands.

Q.  Where does 13 rank among your favorite holes at Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON:  My favorite, absolutely.

Q.  Why is that?
PHIL MICKELSON:¬† Risk/reward opportunities.¬† I've made eagles there to move up.¬† I've made mistakes there to move back.¬† I just think that the shot value that's required there, the lie that is challenging, takes creativity.¬† It's not a cookie cutter hole where you're standing on a flat lie.¬† It's hard to understand, especially on TV, but even in person, how much above your feet that ball is for a right‑handed player and how much below it is for a left‑handed player.¬† Looks simple enough, big greens, just knock it on; it's a tough shot.

Q.¬† Have there been changes on the course in the last few years that have helped left‑handers with the success you've had?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I haven't noticed because it's more shot dispersion into the greens that I'm referring to.  It's not as much of an issue off the tee.  But I haven't noticed anything like that, no.

Q.¬† Can you imagine yourself playing the Masters as a 14‑year‑old?¬† And what do you think of a 14‑year‑old who is in the field this year?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I think that when you think of Augusta National, you think of Bobby Jones as the greatest amateur of all time.  And so I think that the allure of this tournament and this club is the Amateur, and I love the fact that we have a number of amateur golfers and I wish we would have more in this field.
But to have the top amateur golfer in Asia, an area that is growing in popularity, is incredible.  And I think that it shows that when there's commitment from their culture, they work hard at a young age.  And at 14, Guan is an incredible player.  You can't believe how good he putts it.  And this can be a great golf course for him.  I think he's going to make a lot of putts out here, because he's got great touch and great vision.
At that age, I grew up loving the Masters.¬† I could never imagine at 14 playing it.¬† I mean, I couldn't even imagine playing in a PGA TOUR event, let alone the best event in the game.¬† To have that opportunity as a 14‑year‑old is pretty cool.

Q.  Phrankenwood, did you indicate that you're going to take your driver out of your bag and carry this club?
PHIL MICKELSON: ¬†No, this is my driver.¬† It just looks like a 3‑wood.¬† It's a 3‑wood technology.¬† It's a larger 3‑wood, but it's got a driver shaft in it, and it's hot like our 3‑wood.¬† We had to put hot in the name, it's so hot (laughter).

Q.  How long is it?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You mean in length or off the tee?

Q.  In length?
PHIL MICKELSON:  45 inches.

Q.  Is it 12 degrees?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Eight and a half.

Q.  Eight and a half?  Wow.
PHIL MICKELSON:  You heard me say it's my driver, right?  I mean, I don't know if I'm getting this clear.
It's a driver, but it just looks like a 3‑wood, because our drivers are so big now.¬† But this one is smaller, because it's an enhanced 3‑wood.

Q.  In all of your short game work this week that you did, have you noticed anything different about the fringe being more sticky this year and if not, perhaps differences generally?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You know, when the ryegrass is wet, you can chip through the ryegrass because it will skid.  But late in the day when it gets dry, it gets sticky and you can't.  I haven't seen the grain work as predominant away from the green yet, but that usually comes later in the week.
But it is very difficult to chip when it's dry and it's very difficult to putt when it's wet.  So you've got to be prepared to do both.

Q.  You said about the nervousness; a, how much does your knowledge of this golf course kind defer to that in nervous situations, and b, you also talked about the fact that the first six or seven holes you're going to have work really hard to try to deal with that; how do you work with that now before you get on the tee on Thursday?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Visualization techniques, I'll work on that now.  And what was the first part of the question?

Q.  About your knowledge.
PHIL MICKELSON:  Okay, so knowing the golf course over the years and taking scrupulous notes like I have, there are pins on every hole that when you stand on the tee, you're thinking birdie, and there are pins on every hole when you stand on the tee and you're par including the par 5s.
Knowing where I can go and knowing where I can't go, to get up‑and‑down and be around the greens, gives me a great comfort because off the tee, I know where if I get in trouble, where I have to go to have a realistic chance to get up‑and‑down.¬† And if I am able to get in that area, I can rely on my short game.¬† And every hole to every pin has a spot where you can get up‑and‑down a reasonably high percentage of the time; well, not you specifically, Alex, but maybe some of the other guys out here.

Q.  I'm taking that personally.
PHIL MICKELSON:  I've seen you chip.

Q.  Bubba will try to repeat; what makes it so tough to repeat as champion?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I don't know if it's repeating.  It's just winning the Masters.  It's a tough tournament to win because as players we want it so bad.  It's such a penalizing golf course if you're not executing well that week.  Even though I say you don't have to play perfectly to win, you've got to make birdies, and there's going to be times where you're going to have to take on some risks and you've got to pull it off.  If you don't, it will take you out of the tournament.  We have seen it time and time again, guys are in the tournament, put one or two in the water on 12 and they're out.  Next thing you know, you don't mention their name again.
So every shot has the potential to cost you the event, which is why it's tough to win, yet alone back‑to‑back.

Q.  When was the last time you didn't play the week before the Masters?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I guess it wasn't that long ago.  I usually played every week for the last 15, 20 years, except once.  I think when they first moved to Houston, I tried taking a few off, I think I was a few over through six and ended up playing Houston.

Q.  Given how much you want to win this tournament, how long did it take you to get over last year's final round disappointment?  Is it comparable to Winged Foot?
PHIL MICKELSON:  No, I don't think it was, because I had a triple on the first hole and I was fighting to get back in it.  I lost by a couple, and I was fighting to get back in it.  I actually played pretty flawless golf but just didn't get anything happening from 4 on or 5 on and wasn't able to get that charge that's needed to move up the board.  It's a different feeling than Winged Foot where it was so close.
MODERATOR:  Thank you, all.  Thank you, Phil.  Have a good week.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports




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