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Tuesday, June 10, 2008Phil Mickelson
Phil Mickelson

Player Bio

RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Phil Mickelson to the interview room this afternoon. Phil is playing in his 18th United States Open Championship at Torrey Pines. He's a past USGA Champion, having won the U.S. Amateur in 1990.

You've certainly had some success on this golf course, three victories. How is this playing differently than the Buick?

PHIL MICKELSON: This course is a lot tougher this week than what we see year in and year out in February. But I am so excited about the way the golf course is being presented. I just think it's a fabulous place. It's just lush and beautifully green.

I think the course is going to give the players a difficult test, but I think that it's a fair test. I think it's the best setup I've ever seen for a U.S. Open. And for me personally, this tournament means a lot to me growing up here. And to see it set up like this and so beautiful, it's exciting.

RAND JERRIS: Talk about playing in the U.S. Open in your backyard, what it means to play in front of San Diego fans.

PHIL MICKELSON: As a kid we dreamed and hoped that a Major championship would come to Southern California, and the ideal spot would be Torrey Pines. And the redesign six or seven years ago, that dream became a reality.

I can't believe this is the U.S. Open Championship here at Torrey Pines, it's something we've dreamed about. I'm excited to be a participant and hopefully play well.

Q. You know a little bit about playing with injury. Tiger told us earlier that his knee was still a little sore. When you tee off together on Thursday, do you think you'll have something of a psychological advantage because of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I think that he has come back from injury and won the first week back in the past. He has had huge layoffs and come back and won. He takes a bunch of time off before his tournament in LA there and he comes out and he wins.

I just don't see how it's going to have a negative effect on him. I think that players in any sport, but golf as well, have to deal with sometimes injuries or what have you. And I just can't see a better player make adjustments easier than Tiger. I just don't think it will be a problem.

Q. Your thoughts about playing with Tiger, that pairing. What's the toughest part about it? Would it be the distractions of it all for both of you or what?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it's awesome. I wish that we had it more. I haven't in the past liked the way the PGA TOUR puts us on opposite ends every week. I think it's great that a Major championship has us paired together, because usually one end of the tee times has an advantage over the other. I've certainly been on the good end a number of times and I'm not complaining, but there are times when you're not on the good end, and for us to be on the same end I think makes it a fair championship and I like the fact that we're at least on the same wave, early/late, late/early, at least we're paired together. And to be paired together is even better. I loved how to turned out the last time we were paired together and hope to have a similar result.

Q. I was going to ask you that, Phil, about the last time at Medinah, how did that work out? Did you enjoy the two days and were you looking forward to them going into that tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I was referring to Deutsche Bank, that was actually the last time. Medinah didn't work out as great as I would have liked it to. I was referring to Deutsche Bank.

I like the opportunity to play with the best players in the world. Whether at the time it's Tiger, Adam Scott, whoever it is, we all want to play with the best.

Q. Did you feel going into Medinah, were you looking forward to that pairing going into Medinah?

PHIL MICKELSON: I was. I was. I enjoyed it and played okay the first couple of days. Didn't play great on the weekend, but I enjoyed the challenge.

Q. Tiger was talking a little bit about this, too. He's won an Open, but what is it about an Open that makes it so difficult? It's one that's torn your heart out a few times. Is it something specific to this Major Championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I don't know specifically, I just think that it's a very penalizing test of golf, always has been. What I love about this week is that short game will be a factor. In the past the thick primary rough has gone right up to the edge of the green. Here there's a five yard layer, let's say, of rough that's tough, but skill ‑‑ a skillful player around the greens can get the ball close. And I think that having short game be a factor is advantageous to me, gives me a better opportunity to get in contention for the weekend.

I like this golf course tests not only your long game, certainly the longest golf course we play, but also your short game.

Q. On that note, Phil, your putting just seems to be a little dodgey here and there, and now it's come back. Was that something you picked out or did Dave help you find ‑‑ what was going on there and how did you fix it?

PHIL MICKELSON: It just takes a little analysis, if you will. I certainly have spent time with Dave Pelz and Butch Harmon working on that, but really where it turned around was when I spent time with the guys at Callaway. We went up to the tech center and we got on the monitors and looked at the stroke and the face angle and we saw everything. It just reaffirmed what I thought was the issue, but I had been trying to fix different things, not identifying the exact problem. As soon as I did that, I worked with them on a putter that would help. I've got a blade, the putter that helped me with my alignment. Also the way the putter closes and squares up. So I've been putting great ever since.

Q. Obviously there has been and will be a lot of focus on the fact that you're from San Diego. I talked to your dad the other day, and he talked about the first time you played 18 holes, he remembers it was with you and him and your grandfather at Balboa Park, he said you were three and a half; is that true?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes.

Q. Do you have any memories of that at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I remember playing golf with my dad at Balboa a bunch. I remember when I gave him my bag, I'd hit the ball and run. That's what he was referring to. I don't remember standing on the 18th hole and asking him if we had to play it, because that was the last hole and we'd be done. My fondest memories of the game is when he'd pick me up from school and go to courses like Balboa and get the all day rate after 3:00 and play until dark. We'd get stranded at 13 or 14 and hike through the cavern or cliff and climb down it to get back to the car. Those are some of the fondest memories I have of my game.

Q. Do you remember how many holes you might have been able to get in on the max? You got the all you can play rate there ‑‑

PHIL MICKELSON: Until dark. We would get to 13 or 14 and it would be pitch black and you couldn't see. We'd have to get to our car and we'd have to walk down the hillside.

Q. Some of your best successes here came on the old Torrey Pines, before they made the changes, if you will, how hard is it when you're so familiar with the course growing up to adjust to all the changes they made to the course. Has it been as familiar, if you will, to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the ‑‑ I haven't putted the greens as well since the redesign. I spent a lot of time with Pelz now on these greens, getting them to where I feel as though I know the breaks to each hole location. I should have done it earlier. I should have done this five years ago when I knew the Open was going to be here. But I've been spending a lot of times on the greens where I feel like, not only this week, but future Buicks I'll know the breaks of the greens, and I'll have that local knowledge on the greens. But I felt like that was the biggest area that I lost when the course was redesigned.

Q. You've talked in the past about how significant the U.S. Open is to you, whether or not it's at Torrey. How important is it for you to win one of these at some point in your career? Obviously you had a great career no matter what. To win one of these, would it erase the memory of Winged Foot and also fill that gap in your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've come close to winning this championship four times, I've had four second places. This is a tournament I know and believe I can win. I think that this golf course gives me the best opportunity available to do that.

It's something that ‑‑ winning this tournament would be something that would help define my career.

Q. Just given that and the fact that like you said it gives you the best chance, do you prepare or guard against maybe putting a lot of pressure on yourself this week, the familiarity of it and the history and all that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't felt extra pressure, per se, but what I have done is I've tried to minimize my time constraints. I haven't done as many media interviews. I probably haven't signed as many autographs. I want to make sure my energy is up this week. This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for me to compete in the U.S. Open on the course I grew up on in the prime of my career.

And so I want to give myself every opportunity to play my best golf this week. So I've minimized some of my time commitments. In fact, I've eliminated them to give myself the best chance to prepare, get my game ready, to understand and know the golf course, and play my best.

Q. Has your health been good all week, for starters?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've had kind of a rough week, but I feel great now.

Q. I heard you had food poisoning, is that true or no?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if it was food poisoning, but I wasn't feeling the best this past week. So yesterday I took a little time off to get ready.

Q. Back to your golf for a minute. Should they move the tees up on 14, for whatever round, Sunday or what have you, how does the risk/reward on going for the green there compare with say 17 at Oakmont or other drivable par‑4s?

PHIL MICKELSON: The risk/reward on 14 here at Torrey I think will be dependent on where the pin placement is. Because certain pins there's not much reward for going at the green.

And I felt like at 17 at Oakmont no matter where the pin was you wanted to get up by the green and there was a spot around the green you could get up‑and‑down on.

You're limited by 14 because long is in the hazard. You're either front left bunker or front right bunker, and there's not an option to be short of the green, because of the way it's angled, you're not going to end up just short of the green there.

So it's just dependent upon if you can get up‑and‑down from the left bunker, right bunker, certain pin placements you can, and I think it's worth the rist of going for it and certain ones you can't.

Q. You commented that the course is at sea level. You mean it plays longer as a result?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely.

Q. How much longer is it going to be now? Is it a club difference in some cases with the length of the course now?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'll give you an example. San Diego at sea level we have this overcast and I hit a 9‑iron today 135. That was kind of my distance there.

In Phoenix where it's a hundred and it's 1500 feet my 9‑iron goes 175. So that's 40 yards on one club. I think that's kind of the extreme.

But when we go somewhere else and it's hot and the ball is going a long ways it plays a lot shorter. Then you factor on the distance, actually this is the longest yardage course we've ever played, we're going to be hitting 3, 4, 5‑irons into almost every par‑4.

Q. It's going to make it a real Open then?

A. It will, and I think that's why the course doesn't demand the same penalizing punishment if you hit a shot and yet par will still be almost unattainable.

Q. What do you think about teeing off at 4:30 on Friday. It's kind of late, isn't it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought it was a 7:00 finish here. I thought it was going to be 10:00 east coast. It is? So we would tee off ‑‑ we'd probably tee off about 3. So if we teed off at 3 I think that's very similar to what it feels like at the Masters and so forth.

Q. I know you just said that par would be a good score. But it looks, from outside the ropes out there right now, that it looks fairly forgiving from the width of the fairway and the length of the rough, the most immediate rough. The greens seem a little bit soft. How would you think it's going to play once we get to Thursday as far as real difficulty? If you guys are keeping it in the fairway can you guys go pretty low here, relative to an Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, there's no way to go low here. And the reason is the greens are not soft. They're firm. And the pins, when they're tucked, the balls get pulled away from the holes. There's no hole that you can hit a shot up the middle of the green and the ball kick off towards the pin. You can't attack pins from the center of the green. You have to attack them straight on. And coming in with mid irons or long irons there's no way to get the ball stopped close. So because of that making birdies on a lot of these par‑4s is going to be not possible for the most part without making a 50, 60 footer.

Q. Are you already seeing that out there now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. And although it looks like the most playable rough that we've ever had in an Open, it still ‑‑ what's the word? It's hard to gauge, I guess, some comes out hot, some comes out dead. You just don't know how, out of that first primary cut, the ball is going to come out. And so it's very difficult to be confident going at a green or at a pin.

Q. Do you think that's a good factor, Phil?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do. And the reason is, the reason why I like the way the primary cut is, you can get at it and around the greens there's a little bit of area where you can hit a decent chip shot and get it close. I feel like the better players have a better chance to separate themselves through skill, as opposed to the same penalty if you hit it in the rough and hack it out in the fairway no matter who you are.

This gives guys a chance, who can play, to hit creative shots, hooks and slices, and maybe get it on the greens, gives those guys a chance to separate themselves and shoot lower scores.

Q. A little bit ago you said it's a once in a lifetime chance. Earlier you said when I knew the Open was going to be here five years ago. Given those descriptions how do you manage what might seem like a burden within the challenge, the pressure within the opportunity? How do you manage that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoy it. I think that ‑‑ I've always enjoyed the challenge of winning a Major, even though I hadn't won one until 2004. I enjoy the challenge of trying to win The Masters, which is a whole different setup than a U.S. Open. But I enjoy the challenge of trying to win an Open. And having that opportunity in San Diego is exciting.

So again I've tried to do everything I can preparation‑wise, as well as during this week, to make sure that I'm playing my best.

Q. Just as a follow‑up, you go through it and we only watch it. How would you describe your relationship to this championship with your history?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love it. I just haven't gotten the love back. (Laughter).

Q. This being a course you played hundreds of times as a kid growing up and in high school, could you ever have imagined this tournament coming here? Obviously it wasn't a reality back then. And can you take us back to '01, '02, to your reaction to knowing that it was going to be redesigned and that it was going to come here?

PHIL MICKELSON: We knew as kids that in our dream of having the U.S. Open come to Torrey Pines a redesign was going to be necessary. The course in its current state would never accommodate a championship of this magnitude. And to see that it was ‑‑ the golf course was done and renovated without any promise of a U.S. Open, but to see that it was completed in a way that could handle and tackle our national championship and to be given the national championship was exciting for everybody who put the time and effort in to try to achieve this dream.

Q. The galleries that are going to follow you and Tiger on Thursday and Friday are probably going to be huge. What do you think it means to the fans to have you guys paired together? Talking about your childhood, if you were at a tournament and whether it was Nicklaus and Watson or whoever was one and two at that time, if they were paired, wouldn't you go and follow them, too?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would certainly like to, yeah. It's not the easiest thing getting a ticket, but, yeah, if I had the opportunity and was there I'd love to be able to see that. And I hope that we do this more on Tour. We've done it with the FedExCup, pairing 1, 2; 1, 2, 3 together on the FedExCup points system. I hope we do it more through the year. It's more exciting. I think people like coming out and seeing it. I think it's better for television and I think that it's better for us as players. I think we enjoy playing with each other. I think we also enjoy being in the same wave. I think we like not having one player having an advantage over the tee time than the other.

Q. You mentioned earlier that one of the things you like most about this event is that short game is going to play such an important advantage here. You had five wedges in the bag at Colonial. Are you going with that combo again, what club would you pull out to play the 5th wedge?

PHIL MICKELSON: I can't use five wedges here, it's too long. I could drive it as much as I want and I'd never have wedge on any of those par‑4s. I had to take out at least one wedge. I'm debating on a second, but my sand wedge won't be in the bag. That will leave a bit of an interesting predicament if I have ‑‑ if I get to No. 18 and I have to layup, I'm either going to get really close to the lake or I'm going to have to play back a little more to get to my gap wedge.

There won't be a problem on 13, because the layup area goes to where a gap or pitching wedge would be. There will be a little issue on 9, but I don't foresee that as a problem. Those are the three areas of concern with my wedges because I can't get wedge into any of the par‑4s, other than 2, and even that I can't get more than a pitching or a gap.

Q. Did you have any advice for Kevin today on what he might see over the course of this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, his dad is Bob Tway, right? So I'm sure dad's been able to help him a little more than I have. I thought he was talented and hit the ball a long ways and had control over the golf ball. I think as a freshman in college, it's amazing to see the talent and potential, especially with the knowledge as a Tour player as Bob Tway, his dad, can give him and help his game develop over the next three years and we'll see him out here shortly.

Q. You talk a little bit about No. 14, can you talk a little bit about No. 3, the possible change at the tee box, and 13, too, and their impact on the tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: I love playing up on 3 to that left pin. You're not going to go at that pin from the other tee. But the angle that the short tee on No. 3 gives, it now allows you to go at the pin, if you miss it long it's not in the hazard it's just longer into the green. Guys will go at that left pin. I think it will be exciting. Because you're going to see some birdies, but you're also going to see some 4s and 5s.

13, the par‑5, that new tee box is terrible. It's the biggest waste of money that I've ever seen. But it doesn't matter what I think, we're going to end up playing it and I've got to be ready for it. But it's terrible.

Q. Talk about just the balance of family and golf and how that's evolved for you, married with the kids and so forth and just how that balances your life with family and coming to championships like this?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think playing the Tour is difficult on any family because of the travel. There's no right or wrong way to do it. Everybody has their own way that makes it work. My wife, Amy, is the one who makes it work for us. She's the one that's getting the schoolwork. She's the one that's taking the kids to educational places throughout the country and using our travel as an advantage and a life experience, rather than a hindrance.

Because of that, because of her and her efforts we've been able to have a lot of fun on the road and have the Tour life be a real asset for me and for the kids as opposed to a challenge that we don't embrace.

Q. The last time a municipal course staged the U.S. Open was Bethpage and you were the fan favorite there. How excited are you about the crowd support you're expected to get this week in your own backyard?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited to play in front of my hometown and be able to have so many family and friends come out and follow and be together and enjoy the week together. But I also know that Tiger is very well loved here. And his success has been incredible, with six wins. And I know that it's going to be very mixed. It should make for a very interesting week.

Q. I can't remember the last time I saw you talk so passionately about a golf course‑related thing. What is it about that particular tee is it that struck you as being a waste of money?

PHIL MICKELSON: On 13?

Q. Yes. You usually don't say it quite so unequivocally.

PHIL MICKELSON: Because there's no other way to look at it. It's just terrible. The reason it's so terrible is that before there was great risk/reward. There was great reward if you hit the fairway from the tee where you could go for it. Because it's such a tough shot from the bottom of that hill for birdie. But from the back tee nobody can reach it. Everybody's going to be laying up to the same spot, some with a 6‑iron, some with a 3‑iron, and everybody is going to have the same pitch, it's like a par‑3 from the bottom of the hill. So there's no opportunity for a longer player to take advantage of his length. There's no opportunity for a guy who strikes it straighter to take advantage of his skill. And there's no opportunity for a guy who wants to take a little bit of risk and try to get it by the green and be rewarded. So it's just a terrible tee box.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you very much for your time this afternoon. Wish you luck this week.

FastScripts by ASAP Sports.

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