An Interview With: PHIL MICKELSON
September 20, 2006
SCOTT CROCKETT: Phil, thanks as always for coming in to join us. Welcome to The K Club. On the verge of your sixth Ryder Cup, just give us your thoughts, excitement starting to build as Friday gets closer.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's been a lot of fun. We had a great time the first few days and the golf course is in just in terrific shape and we've had a lot of fun playing together. We're all looking forward to the Matches and we're excited to get them started on Friday.
SCOTT CROCKETT: You had some fun out there today; your captain was in earlier telling us about the slightly strange format you played but it seemed like a bit of a good laugh out there.
PHIL MICKELSON: We had a good time. We were able to not overdo it in this weather. Sometimes it can be a little tough when you get such strong winds and you fight your game a little bit.
Instead we went out and hit a lot of short shots, fun shots, skipped a shot over the water on 7. We had a good time; it was fun.
Q. You're obviously one of the most experienced American players. How has this Ryder Cup differed from any of the others that you have played in thus far?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're hoping to have a bit of a different outcome. But right now we're having a great time.
It certainly is awkward for some of us to not have the likes of Davis Love or Fred Couples and some of the mainstay names, Justin Leonard, and some of the great players on the U.S. side that didn't make it. It's awkward.
But we also have some great new guys. They are terrific assets to the team. We're having a lot of fun. It has been really a fun week.
Q. Regarding this format today, whose idea was it to have a short game tournament for money?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there was no money involved. Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, and it was just for funsies. It was a combination of what is the best way to see the course. Acclimate yourself and hit some shots that would be beneficial without over doing it. You get these strong crosswinds and the balls are blowing 60, 50 miles off line, so rather than fight it, we had fun with it.
Q. When you say awkward, what do you mean exactly?
PHIL MICKELSON: Do you mean awkward about the shots?
Q. No, talking about the composition of the team.
PHIL MICKELSON: Some of the mainstays are not here; we're used to having those guys. Instead we're having a lot of fun with everyone this year. It's really been a fun team.
Q. Were you aware of Tiger's situation what happened earlier when he addressed the situation with the media about the photographs involving his wife? What's the team's feeling about what transpired there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, I don't think it shows too much about your profession, but other than that, it was I didn't really know about it until just recently.
Q. Given there's been a lot of pressure on Tiger and a lot of questions asked of him about his leadership role or a greater leadership role, given the fact that you've played in more Ryder Cups, how much more are you taking on or have wanted to take on with these younger guys, and how much of a sense of that have you felt from Lehman?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Captain Lehman has done a great job of leading this team. He's let us know all where we stand; he's given us a great game plan. The guys are great players. It's not like we need to do anything different.
If there's some questions about what's going to happen or what's coming up or the schedule or anything like that, Tiger, myself, Jim Furyk, guys who have played on a number of teams are able to answer some questions.
But for the most part, these guys are really good players and they got here because they earned it and because they won. And because of that, you know, they don't need much help with their game, but maybe as far as schedule or what to expect or how the week wears on, we answered some of those questions. But these guys are really good players.
Q. Weather turned out okay toward the end of day, but if it was to continue nasty all day, how much of an obligation is it for both teams to be out there doing something in front of the ticket buying gallery? And secondly, even as you guys did your own thing today with the short game, obviously there's many people who were upset standing around the tee not getting to see you guys wail away.
PHIL MICKELSON: That's why we waited. We could have gone earlier, but the people were not allowed to get out until 10:00. We could have gone out at 10:00, but we wanted to give them a chance to get out here, because you're right, there is an obligation to perform in front of everybody. We thought as a team it would be better and more entertaining for the gallery to hit a bunch of short game shots and have fun with it rather than all of us struggling through a difficult day. So that's why we did what we did was because of that obligation.
Q. How do you feel about the general state of your game coming into this week, seeing that you have not really played a lot recently, and that probably the results haven't been what you would have expected since the U.S. Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the only thing that matters is the performance, the performance this week. The past weeks do not factor in, as long as I'm playing well and getting ready.
I've had a couple good practise sessions the last few weeks and I'm looking forward to the week, but again, I won't really know until Friday comes.
Q. Just following up on that, the hangover of Winged Foot, it was a tough thing for you, did it cut more deeply and did it affect you for weeks and months as far as your game goes?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I normally don't play too much during the summer. I usually play the three majors and maybe one other tournament in that span, and I didn't feel like I played poorly in the British Open, at least for me. It's not been my greatest event and I finished decent.
The PGA obviously I had higher expectations, but I didn't feel like it was poor play, I just felt like it just didn't click.
Akron, I don't really have a good reason, excuse. But I think the biggest reason for me is I'm fresh and excited to play, whether it's the start of the year or the Ryder Cup or whatever it is, because after playing for a long time, mentally I'll get stale and I won't be as sharp. That's why I took some time off and started practising for the Ryder Cup.
Q. You mentioned Tom Lehman has been doing a great job as captain, and you know him as well as anybody on the team. What's it like for you to see him in this role as captain versus as a player on the Tour?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's consistent with the way the players look at Tom Lehman. He is a leader on the PGA TOUR, he's always been one of the best players on the PGA TOUR, and he's always been a guy who we've looked up to as to what true professional golfers should be and act like and the way that he treats people.
Because of that, he's a perfect captain for us, because of those exact reasons. We look at him as a role model and as a leader, whether he's a Ryder Cup leader or just a leader on the PGA TOUR. So it's a very consistent fit for where he should be.
Q. In view of the difference in the buildup to this match, can I ask you to go back to the first day at Oakland Hills, and especially the first night at Oakland Hills and how difficult that was for you personally and how you managed to overcome it and come out, especially being told, for example by Hal Sutton that you're going to be a cheerleader the next morning? And I ask that in all sincerity.
PHIL MICKELSON: Throughout anybody's profession in sport, you're going to have highs and lows. You're going to have great streaks and you're going to have some tough streaks. That's by far not the only tough day or tough round of golf that I've played, the opening day of the Ryder Cup at Oakland Hills. I've had other tough days in golf, and it's just part of dealing with life as a professional golfer. You have success and you have failure. Most golfers, because it's an individual sport and it's not a team sport where half the two teams win and half the two teams lose, you're failing a lot more often than not. So it's just part of dealing with life as a professional golfer.
Q. Was there any sense that you were a fall guy or a victim of something beyond your control, and I'm looking at that in terms of the preparation this week and the preparations for that week?
PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean, the preparations?
Q. Preparations, I mean, for example, the way you were put in with Tiger Woods. It seemed for a long way back, players didn't know who they were playing with in the last Ryder Cup, and you didn't have a chance to practise in alternate shot
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, that's not true. We had wanted to play together. We wanted to try it. We knew well in advance, and again, we just didn't play well. Again, you know, you learn by trial and error and we thought it was going to be we thought it was going to come out very positive. We thought we were going to come out and get some points and lead us on, and it didn't obviously turn out that way. You learn by trial and error, and if you don't take risks, you have to be willing to take risks and be willing to fail at times and learn how to succeed.
Q. The reason I ask
PHIL MICKELSON: No, keep going, by all means.
Q. It's actually building up to this one. Tom Lehman seems to have engendered a totally different atmosphere, and that is the organization within the American team. Is that something you would
PHIL MICKELSON: I think he's a terrific captain, he's a terrific leader and we've also had some terrific captains and leaders in the past. We played well for one in Ben Crenshaw in '99 but we haven't played our best and come close for some other captains. We are hoping to put forward our best performance for Captain Lehman, because he deserves it. We are trying to play well, not just for Captain Lehman but for ourselves and our fellow team members and the people we respect back in the United States.
Q. Thanks, you can have the rest of the day off. (Laughter).
PHIL MICKELSON: Is that it? I will see you when we get done. (Laughter).
Q. Players come in here and they talk about the distinct feeling on the first tee on Friday at the Ryder Cup. They say it's kind of like the feeling at the end of a regular tournament. What is it like for you and how would you compare the feeling being on the first tee on Friday?
PHIL MICKELSON: It is a very interesting nervousness. I don't know if I have great words for it. It's just an experience that we don't have very often in golf.
I even feel it in the Presidents Cup, but maybe not to the same degree as the Ryder Cup. When you are representing your country, when you're playing for other team members we're used to golf being an individual sport and if we have success, we have ourselves to thank for it, and if we have failure, we have only ourselves to blame. And here, you feel this obligation towards teammates, toward your captain, and as well as all the citizens of the United States that we represent.
Q. With the Ryder Cup having been so prominent in the last 20 years, how do you think it should affect a player's legacy, what he does in the Matches? In other words, Monty has got a tremendous record in the Ryder Cup, no major. Your record is even right now and Tiger's is poor; if you don't pick that up by the end of your career, does that have any kind of a negative impact on the legacy you leave as a player?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. I think it's a little different in that for the U.S., we play a team event every year, so you have to factor in the Presidents Cup performances as well, which Tiger's and mine are I think a lot better. Although mine in 2003 wasn't that great, but his is very good.
The Rest of the World for the Presidents Cup and Europe for the Ryder Cup have just that one week every two years. So I think that we gear up for this every year; we don't have the same two year buildup that the other squads do. So I think that you have to look at both performances, not just the Ryder Cups.
SCOTT CROCKETT: Phil, as always, thank you very much for your time.
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