Phil Mickelson (pre-championship)
BETH MAJOR: We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson to the Olympic Club at the 2012 U.S. Open.
Very pleased to have with us this afternoon Phil Mickelson who is playing in his 22nd U.S. Open. In his 21 previous appearances he has nine top 10 finishes, including 998 here at Olympic, where he tied for 10th. Phil, can you talk a little bit, realizing that it's 14 years, talk a little bit about playing in 1998 and coming back this year.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's fun to be back at Olympic. It's great to be on the West Coast and great to be at a golf course here in the San Francisco area that is such a wonderful test of golf and has had so many great things happen over the years here.
It's a different course that we played in '98, in the sense that the greens have been redone. They're no longer a poa annua, they're an A‑1 bent. That affects the putting and it makes it a little bit easier to make the putts. The pitch has been softened on the greens. And I think we'll see guys be able to be a little more aggressive on the greens and make some putts.
Q. What do you think would be a good score after you've played the first six holes here, which everybody thinks are about as brutal an opening six pack that you can have at a Major.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think even is a good score, 1‑over is acceptable. I think it's over rated a little bit in the difficulty. It's certainly challenging. But the way it's set up gives you an opportunity to play them. They're not unplayable, by any means.
The first hole, it's wide open in front, if you can just find the fairway, you really don't have to hit it far, it will chase on to the green, you should be able to make 4 there.
Two, if you hit a decent shot in the fairway, you're going to have a realistic chance of birdie. Certainly 3 is the difficult hole. The critical thing about 3 is picking the right club. If you can pick the right club on 3, you're going to use the same club on 8 and the same club on 13. So it's really a big first pull of the club.
Q. Do you think you are a favorite this week or an underdog?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see myself as a favorite, but I think that for me personally I feel like I've developed a good game plan as to how I want to play the golf course.
I feel that I should be able to play to that game plan and post a number that I feel will be competitive. I don't know if it will win. You just don't know what the other guys are going to shoot or how they're going to play. But I think I found a way for me to play it the most effective way.
I don't think that makes me the favorite. I think you have to look at the guys that are higher up in the World Rankings.
Q. One of your best rounds of the year and one of your best rounds in a long time was the 64 the final day at Pebble. We have the glamour pairing tomorrow, you and Tiger and Bubba. It's great for the fans. Is it good for you guys?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's fabulous.
Q. You love it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Fabulous. I'll tell you why. First of all, I get excited to play with Tiger, I love it. I think we all do. He gets the best out of me. I think when it's time to tee off on Thursday I'll be ready to play. One of the issues I've had this year I've been a little mentally lethargic on Thursday and Friday. I won't be this week.
Second is, the one player I'm most concerned about if I play my best golf that may have a chance to beat me is Tiger. And the fact that we are on the same wavelength, I'm always am in favor of. Sometimes we'll get a huge advantage in tee times, based on weather conditions or whatnot, if we're in the same wavelength, neither of us will have a distinct advantage.
Q. Kind of a natural follow‑up, I guess. What do you remember about the first time you played with Tiger at the '97 PGA Championship. And how is that vibe different when you play with him now? Obviously you've done a lot better the last ten times playing with him, why do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: So I really have no recollection of the '97 PGA playing with him. (Laughter). I'm trying to even think where it was at, was it at Winged Foot?
PHIL MICKELSON: Maybe that's why I don't remember it. (Laughter).
When we first started playing together, I don't know what it was exactly, but I didn't play my best when we were paired together. And the last five years or so I've been able to focus clearly when we play. I've been able to enjoy the challenge of playing with him and I've always enjoyed his company. I've played some of my better golf these last five years with him.
Q. What do you think of 18 as a finishing hole? Has the Olympic Club finally got that green right?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think 18 is one of the best holes on the course. It's certainly one of my favorites. The pitch of the greens here have been softened enough to where they can have the Stimpmeter readings be 14, 14 and a half and be fine.
I think when this course gets firm and fast, when the greens get firm and fast the subtleties and nuances come out and it shows the greatness of the course. And I think that's probably the case now with 18.
Whereas in '98 it was over pitched a little bit. Where when they made it firm and fast, it made it over the edge a little, certainly over the edge.
Q. They've been touting all week this tournament is golf's toughest test. If that's the case, how is this the toughest of all the major tournaments?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's the most penalizing for a missed hit ‑‑ for a mis‑hit, for a mis‑struck shot. It's the most penalizing, usually, year in and year out, of all the tournaments we play. The rough is thicker, the greens are firmer and faster and so forth.
You know, I really don't ‑‑ after being here now four days I don't know how it's going to play. When I played last week, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, the course was so firm and the rough was so long that it was extremely difficult. I didn't think it was possible to shoot under par.
And yet to go out today and the greens are soft and the rough has been cut. And you're looking at it thinking, wow, this is pretty playable. And now 6, 8‑under par may win. I just don't know how it's going to be set up. You have to be prepared as a player for both scenarios.
Q. Looks like we're finishing wedge, wedge, wedge here, or you are. Does that fit into your game plan, with your skill in that part of the game, and some say even if you move back farther.
PHIL MICKELSON: That's not an accurate statement by any means. First of all it's a 4‑iron into 17. I don't know where the wedge came into play (laughter).
I would love to hit wedge there.
Second, I've yet to have less than 200 yards on 16. I don't know where we're hitting wedge on that hole.
I believe that you play 15 holes of really tough, tough golf. And you finally get your first par‑5 and it's the toughest hole on the course. I think 16 will play more over par stroke average than any hole on the course. That would be my prediction.
Q. Since that was a stupid question before ‑‑
PHIL MICKELSON: The question was fine. The basis for it was a little off.
Q. Point taken. So then what is your toughest shot on this course, you mentioned some earlier, what is your toughest shot on this course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that 13 provides the most challenging shot, because it's a long, narrow green with wind blowing right‑to‑left. It's pushing the ball left.
If you miss it right, you've got a chip that's downhill, downwind, you're not going to get it up and down. And if you miss it left, it's off to Hartford. You may as well pack your bags, and we'll see you next week at Hartford (laughter) because that ball is going to go down the creek, in the rough, under the trees, and you may still be there on Monday.
I think that provides the most difficult, penalizing challenge to where a lot of people are going to get knocked right out of the tournament the first two days because of that one hole.
Q. What do you think of 17, 18 as a closing, just together? Do you have to score on those two holes as much as you have to protect playing kind of even par on the front six?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think they're some of the best holes that are on the golf course, because 17 now provides an opportunity for an eagle coming down, making a two shot swing. I've seen guys make sixes and sevens there.
If you miss it right now and the ball is rolling back, you get the sticky ryegrass, it's hard to get it all the way up the hill. You can't fly it up there, because the overhanging trees force you to play the ball on the ground. And the ball just rolls right back at your feet. You could still be down there hitting it a few times.
It's a hole that provides an eagle opportunity, but can easily lead to a bogey or double. I think there could be a big swing on 17.
Eighteen, look what happened to Hogan. You think it's a nothing hole, but you hook it in the rough and you make double and you lose The Open. It's really a great finish, I believe.
Q. The lethargy that you talked about earlier in the round, what's that a function of this year? And also, because of that, is it not really indicative of how you'll play in a Major because I know you're always highly motivated for a Major.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's possible, but I'm not sure how to answer that. I don't know why it's been like that, but it's something I need to fix, as far as being ready to play on Thursday, Friday.
The feeling and the excitement I got when I found out I was paired with Tiger the final round at Pebble got me excited and focused. And I felt a similar feeling when I found out we were paired together here. And I'm looking forward to the pairing.
Q. Just to follow up, nothing to do with the previous question, but any update on the Padres bid or sale or anything that you can update us on?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not currently, but I know we're making progress. I know that we're moving forward and trying to do all we can. But I don't know really ‑‑ I don't really have anything that I'm able to or can report publically, no.
Q. You've obviously had a lot of close calls in this tournament, in particular. I'm just wondering how that affects your approach to the event. What it makes you feel of the tournament. Does it give you anymore motivation or ‑‑ does it help you at all going forward?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it helps me because this is a tournament where, if you look at my game from 20,000 feet, you'd say, ‘Well, that's probably not the best setup for the way he likes to play.’ And yet five times I've had opportunities, I've come close. Could have, should have won a few of those. And it gives me the belief that I can compete and be in contention on Sunday in this tournament.
Q. Did any of those linger, as much as a loss might affect you?
PHIL MICKELSON: The only one would be Winged Foot where I felt like I really should have won this one. And even then the only shot ‑‑ the shot that lingers is not the drive off 18 as much as the 3‑iron cutting around that tree. Because if I had not hit the tree, if I had made sure I got it around the tree, I would have been up by the green with an opportunity to salvage par with my short game, which was the best it's ever been in my career that week.
Q. You said a couple of times how excited you are to play with Tiger. Early in your career what was your reaction when you saw a pairing with Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: Gosh, you know, I've been out here 20 years, so you're asking me to look back, dig into the archives.
I always enjoyed the challenge. I don't know why I didn't play my best. I don't have a great answer as to why I didn't play my best back then. But I always enjoyed the challenge of playing with him.
Q. Quick follow‑up, Pebble, and what happened that Sunday and how much ‑‑ what kind of feeling did you leave Pebble with after playing so well?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know the feeling that I had when I left, but I certainly had a nice crystal trophy, that was nice (laughter).
Q. When you talk about the game plan you feel good about, is it generally maybe taking driver out of your hand for most of the tee shots? What are you thinking generally with that game plan?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not going to take the driver out of my bag entirely like I tried at one Open.
There are a couple of holes that you can hit driver, but very few.
Q. Speaking of that one Open, was that the only other time that you can remember being paired with Tiger on Thursday and Friday at a Major like that? Can you explain what's made you lethargic this year on Thursdays and Fridays?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I don't have a great answer as to why that's been the case Thursday and Friday.
I don't remember when Tiger and I have been paired together in a Major, other than the '08 U.S. Open.
Q. PGA Medinah.
PHIL MICKELSON: First two rounds there? '99?
Q. The next one, one after that. '06. One of those. But it's PGA Medinah.
PHIL MICKELSON: OK. So ‑‑ (laughter).
BETH MAJOR: Phil, thank you so much for joining us. Always a pleasure for having you with us. We wish you well this week.