What they said: Phil Mickelson

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January 25, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Farmers Insurance Open transcript archive

MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson. Phil, you'll be making your 23rd start here at the Farmers Insurance Open. Got three wins right here at your home. If you want to, kind of talk about playing here at home and then we'll have a few questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited. I'm excited. Last year I came close. Bubba made some key putts down the stretch on 17 and 18 to win. I really enjoyed last year, competing and getting in the thick of it. I'm excited to try to get in contention this week, too. I feel like after having one week under my belt last week and kind of hopefully ironing out some of the kinks, I think I'm ready to get myself back in it on the weekend. That is certainly the goal.

Q. I'm doing a story on the vagaries of putting especially as golfers maybe hit their 30s or so. I've talked to a couple of sports ophthalmologist who contend it's eyesight, strictly eyesight. No matter what kind of putter you choose, it's a loss of vision and focus and ability to focus. What have you noticed over the years about putting and vision and what you've tried to do? I know you were talking on Golf Channel last week about different putters.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think there's no easy shortcut in putting. No matter what method you use, you still have to see the line and match it up with the proper speed. I think that for me I was looking for a shortcut with the belly putter.

I found what was best was for me to go back to the way I putted growing up as a kid, with a blade style putter and an aggressiveness that I had at a younger age. But there is no shortcut. I certainly thought about what you're talking about. I had my vision checked, but my vision's better than 20/10, so it's not vision.

Q. You can focus long and then focus short and do the switching as easy as you could 15 years ago??

PHIL MICKELSON: I believe so, yes.

Q. I was looking at that video from last year, and when you pulled the pin and tried to hole out from the fairway there, were you surprised as close as you came? How much does it burn within you to win here because it's been so long since you last got your victory here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I loved playing here in San Diego because of what it's meant to me over the years. Because it reminds me of when I was a kid watching with my dad and just the memories that it brings back. So I'm excited to get back in contention.

Even though I didn't win last year, it was still fun having that chance. Having that opportunity to win, and I think that's what it's all about. I didn't play last year to the level I expect, and I think that after a good off?season, my game's getting back to where I want it to be, and I'm excited to get back into those opportunities on Sunday.

As far as that shot on 18, was I surprised? I think that I don't go over my practice routine and what have you because I try to do it off site and I don't like doing it at the golf course. I like doing it either in my yard at home are where a built a practice facility or some of the local clubs or when I'm on the road at a different club.

But I practice flying my wedges to a specific yardage three days a week. I hit over 1500 golf balls and try to fly it within a yard or hit a target, and, for the most part, I'm able to fly it within a yard 90% of the time.

So the fact that it landed close to the hole, it was supposed to. I mean, I work at that. That's what I practice. It's not an accident that my wedge game is what it is, because I sit there and work on it. I just don't do it out here for everybody to see.

About a dozen times a year, I hit the pin with a wedge, and I end up getting a worse result because of it. Pelz wants me to have the pin removed on every wedge shot, which I won't do because it just looks bad. But the fact is that I hit the pin a dozen times a year, and probably 11 out of those 12, the ball ends up in a worse spot because of it.

So two things. I wanted to give it two chances to get in. One, trying to fly it in, and two, trying to back it up back into the hole, and it came close. It didn't go in, so what does it matter, but it came close.

Q. Did you give consideration firing Bones? It looked like on the 14th hole, you had someone new on the bag today for one hole?

PHIL MICKELSON: We did, and I love the way the TOUR has embraced the Birdies for the Brave program. A number of players have been involved with military charities and Birdies for the Brave incorporates six of them under the same umbrella. I think as a citizen of the United States?? I never served in the military, my dad did. I never served in the military, but that doesn't mean I don't have a responsibility to this country and to those that do serve.

So to have them be part of the TOUR and come out to tournaments, it's really cool because they do a lot for our country.

Q. When you're deciding which tournaments to enter, what are the three most important considerations??

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if there are any three that outweigh the probably ten or 12 that I look at. Certainly setting forth a schedule that will optimize my performance in the majors is first and foremost. Proximity, obviously, I'm going to play here in San Diego because I live here.

Then as I get older, some other factors come into play. What are my kids' schedules? What's going on at home? What are some of my corporate responsibilities? What courses do I like? My favorite golf course out here is probably Hilton Head, and I don't ever play there anymore because it's the week after the Masters. Kids are out of school. We go on a family trip that week. I'm tired from the Masters, whatever. It just doesn't work out. So it's not always golf course.

Q. In that long list of considerations, where do appearance fees rank? Like if people are willing to throw money at you, how important is that to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we don't have appearance fees in the U.S.

Q. In Europe.

PHIL MICKELSON: In Europe, I certainly will consider it, absolutely. I think that it's great for players like Tiger to go to Abu Dhabi and start to bring awareness to the game in the Middle East.

If you're trying to knock appearance fees, then I think you're being illogical for the simple sense that we're playing for $6 million here, they're playing for $2.7. Why would you fly 6,000 miles to play for a third of the money or half of the money. Of course you're going to have to do that. So it's going to be part of the game if we want to increase the awareness throughout the world and grow it globally.

Q. These fairways are pretty hard to hit. I think on the North course they were the hardest to hit last year on TOUR. How are you feeling about your relationship with your driver??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's actually great for me. I mean, if everybody misses the fairway, the odds are in my favor. I mean, Seve used to say it too. He'd love to play with zero fairways. I think that would probably be the same for me, because if we all had to play out of the rough, I've got a distinct advantage. I've been there enough.

Q. The U.S. Amateur returns to Cherry Hills this year. I just want to get a couple of thoughts from you just on what you remember most about winning there in 1990 and the experience of getting a U.S. Amateur??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I haven't been back in pretty much?? I don't know if I've been back but one time since. I loved the golf course. I thought it was spectacular. I think that there is so much history there from Palmer driving the green on 1, to Hogan backing up his wedge on 17. There's been so much history that took place there that you can't help but feel it.

I'm glad that they're having a big tournament there. I think it's great for the Amateur to return there. I'm glad that this historic golf course that is so great is holding a big event again. The knock has always been it plays too short. I don't know if that's the case or not, nowadays. It's been a long time since I've been back.

Q. What do you remember about the state of your game then and going through the match play? It's a tough grind for those days.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I remember over 18 holes and playing six matches, you're going to require a bit of luck to end upcoming out on top. And I remember, I received some much that Luck. I won three matches 1?up that went to the 18th hole.

I also remember a match against Jeff Thomas where I gave him a 35?, 40?footer for par on the first hole, and I'll never forget the look that he gave me. It was just funny. I ended up making a three? or four?foot birdie putt to win the hole.

But I just remember some of those things that looking back on it, in my amateur days, some of the things that took place that week. It was a special week.

I mean, winning the Amateur as an amateur, I mean, to win the U.S. Amateur in amateur golf is such a great feeling and feat because it's really the epitome. It's the one major that you shoot for.

Q. Why did you do that??

PHIL MICKELSON: Why did I do that? Well, I don't know, Doug. I mean, looking back on it. But he took like two minutes to hit the chip shot and he hit it 40 feet by the hole. Then he started the process again, and I just thought, just pick it up. So he did, and I made it, and we went on. I won the first five holes. So it got to him, I think. And I ended up winning the match.

But I won a couple of matches 1?up going to the last hole, and you need that kind of luck. There were a few rounds I didn't necessarily have my best, and my opponent didn't either, and I was able to win those matches barely. I think you just need a little bit of luck to win the amateur.

Q. That wasn't my actual question. I wanted to ask you mostly, are you a better player than you were two years ago??

PHIL MICKELSON: I believe by quite a bit. But you haven't seen the scores yet. The only thing that matters here is the score. The reason you haven't seen it is pretty clear to me. I think I've got that turned around?? I'm excited?? which is putting. I think these last eight weeks I'm so excited. I enjoy putting and I think I've got it dialed in.

Q. What would be your definition of a successful West Coast Swing??

PHIL MICKELSON: In the past I've had some success here, so certainly I expect to win. If not, I don't want to say that it's a failure, but it certainly wouldn't be what I'm looking for or expect.

Q. What were your two or three favorite courses in San Diego as a kid, as a junior playing? Can you name a couple of two or three people that you?? kids, that you most enjoy playing with as a kid or competing against?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think one of the biggest things for me in high school was playing with Manny Zerman. He was on the same golf team as I was. We played in all of our matches together, and we played competitively in our practice rounds together. Having somebody like that who was so good push me the way he did, was important.

So that's why I enjoyed playing with him. I also had that in college with Per Johansson he played on the Ryder Cup team in 1995. Having somebody like that that you really get along with, and you love to compete with as well, that pushes you to get better, and you're helping each other you're helping each other hit different shots, learn different shots, practice harder. So that was a big key to being successful.

Q. How about the courses??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoyed Torrey. I really enjoyed that one growing up. I always liked Rancho Santa Fe, San Diego Country Club, La Jolla Country Club, those were always the premier ones here in sand & and they still are.

Q. So how are you hitting the driver? I really want to know. Because you said you had a new driver, I think.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I'm using our new Razr Fit driver. I didn't the first round last week, and it was a mistake. I don't know what I was thinking. I had worked with it, I felt good with it, but I didn't want to make any changes from the previous season. So I hit a couple out, and that made the change pretty easy.

I drove it much better throughout the week and putted pretty good too.

Q. Phil, there's been kind of the usual, maybe a little bit more, slow play talk this year. Do you think it's a legitimate issue that can be addressed or is it just an inevitable part of the mod he were game??

PHIL MICKELSON: It's an inevitable part of the game. It's been a conversation since I first came out on TOUR. I don't think there is an immediate solution. I don't think it's a problem on the weekends. I think we have a lot of play on Thursday, Friday, that won't change because of the option to cut field size is not going to be considered. I'm not saying it should be, but it won't be considered.

So I don't think that it will ever be addressed. I think we should just drop it. It is what it is.

Q. You spoke about your putting a few moments ago. I believe last week you were talking about getting back to the natural feel of your swing. What is the most significant change you've made in your approach to the game for this year, do you think??

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not making any changes. My swing is what it is. My chipping is what it is, and so is my putting. I'm done making changes to strokes. I'm done trying different putters. I have two putters that I'll use. It's one or the other. I don't make changes with my swing. I work with Butch to make sure that it's the same. So there really isn't any change.

Q. You've played this tournament a long time. I've seen it for about eight or nine years. It seems like this year is more fan friendly, the Farmers Insurance Open, than I have in recent years in terms of the access the casual fan has in terms of being able to sit near the 18th green and so forth. Do you notice that it's as fan friendly as it's ever been??

PHIL MICKELSON: When I come out and play the course, usually I'm looking at the greens and how they're rolling and where I'm going to drive the ball and not necessarily where the spectators are going to be standing. So it's not something I've paid much attention to, no.

Q. You mentioned you feel like this is a tournament you could win. If not you, who else should we be watching that you think is playing well that could contend here this weekend??

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly wouldn't call them out like that and put the spotlight on them. I think there are a lot of players that are playing well, a lot of good, young players.

Historically, this golf course has favored a little bit more length. But I don't know if that's really going to be a factor this week. I think it just depends how the course is set up. If the tee boxes are all the way back, the par?5s, three of the four par?5s aren't reachable, so it's going to be a wedge play anyways.

If the TOUR moves some of the tee boxes up to length where you can't reach some of the holes, it might be a factor.

Q. How up to speed are you on the Q?school Nationwide thing and what would your thoughts be on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I really have an opinion either way. I don't really see that as being the issue. I didn't know anything. I went to the meeting last night just to hear and listen to what's going on.

But I see something different. I don't see that being the issue. What I see being the issue is trying to start the new season in October. I think the only way to do that is to have Q?school not be part of the TOUR. You can't have Q?school in that one wee if you end the TOUR Championship and start the following year in that one week.

So it looks like to me they're wanting to have a non?calendar year, which means you've got to change the Q?school. You want to make the Asian tournaments FedExCup events, and I believe they're going to add another couple in the short term to try to have four or five in Asia.

I think all of that to make those events the Fall Series and the Asian events FedExCup tournaments, they have to alter the Q?school, so that's what I see.

Q. Do you like the idea of starting the season in the fall??

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't have an opinion. I'm just telling you what I see. I think you always have to have change to have growth. So I'm sure there are some good things to it. I just don't know. I just listen to what I heard last night, and I see them talking about the Q?school thing. My mind keeps going that it looks to me like they're trying to set it up to have an Asian swing, to have the Fall Series be bigger events.

The only way to do that is that Q?school?? you couldn't have Q?school after the season's already started for a couple of months.

Q. Could you at least lobby to have HSBC be retroactive if they do that??

PHIL MICKELSON: No, even though I won it, honestly, I don't have an opinion on that stuff. You can't look at a player?? you can't look at the TOUR and say what's in the best interest of yourself as being in the best interest of the TOUR. That's just not fair.

So I believe that the guys that are running the TOUR have a pretty good concept and idea of what needs to happen for the betterment of the TOUR over the next however many years. And you have to as a player take yourself out of the equation if you really want to make the decisions that are in the best interest of the TOUR and the game of golf.

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