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An Interview with: PHIL MICKELSON
KELLY ELBIN: The veteran of the U.S. Ryder Cup Team for 2008, Phil Mickelson, joining us, ladies and gentlemen. This will be Phil's 7th Ryder Cup appearance. You've had some success here at Valhalla, tying for 9th in the 2000 PGA and tying for 8th in the 1996 PGA Championship, as well.
Welcome back to Valhalla, and talk about being the senior member of the U.S. Team.
PHIL MICKELSON: We are excited. We had a great day today and looking forward to getting the tournament started. Can't wait.
KELLY ELBIN: General comments about the golf course from what you remember eight years ago.
PHIL MICKELSON: There are a lot of different holes, different greens than what we've had in the past. But the course looks terrific and I think it's going to be a great venue, a great place to host this event.
Q. As the senior statesman, as it were, what onus do you feel to inspire the other team members this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: My only responsibility is to play well. That's something I've been working on, and all of the players have been working hard in this last week. Having it off has been nice to get our games ready, so we are all getting ready, and hopefully we'll be ready by Friday. Hopefully we'll be sharp and have our A Game, because we know that our competition is very strong.
Q. Haven't you felt any great responsibility to be slightly more of a leader with so many rookies on the team to change the way you might approach things off the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think Captain Azinger has been a wonderful leader for us. I think he's been a great captain and has given us great direction. One of the biggest challenges heading into a Ryder Cup is some of the uncertainty we'll face during the week. He's done a great job, I think, of letting everybody know what to expect.
I feel like the guys who have not played in this event are ready to play, so I think the leadership has really come from our captain.
Q. Following on that theme, with six rooks out of 12 guys, how do you see that playing out; does that make it a little less easy to predict since a lot of these guys have never been under this type of pressure or maybe allows them to free wheel it because they don't know any better? It seems like it's a little bit more difficult to handicap with six newbies in the mix.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think for the U.S. side, our new points system has helped get the players playing best this year because it's been a one year process. Just because some guys have not played in this particular event doesn't mean that they are not ready and equipped and have their games ready to play.
Also, not being a part of the last few U.S. teams is not necessarily a bad thing. So the guys who haven't played, they have never lost this event.
Q. Do you feel that USA are underdogs on home soil, and if so, how do you feel about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel there's a question about that. Given our play, given the fact that we've lost our top player, that's the case.
But it doesn't mean that we can't come out and play well, and with the help of the crowd and with a golf course that's very well suited for many of our players, have a great week and possibly come out on top. So it will be a great challenge that we have to face, but it's no question, the favorite is the European Team given that they have won quite handily the last few times.
Q. You've just said that you feel the golf course is one that will suit the U.S. With so many Europeans now playing in the U.S., do you think it's possible for one team to have an advantage in terms of the golf course over the other now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't. I don't feel that it's an advantage.
I feel like there's a lot of areas here that are very well suited for the strength of the European players. For instance, some of the best short game and bump and run players are on The European Team that I've ever seen. And all of the shaved areas around the greens and so forth lead them to play those shots, which is a strength of their game.
But, on the other hand, there are areas that we're well equipped for, too. I feel, though, like you say, that we all play the same tour now for the most part, and that everybody is used to the same style of golf course, the same type of course conditions, pin placements, rough conditions, that it's very equal as far as that's concerned. I just don't see how you can set a course up for one team or the other right now.
Q. Following up on your comments about not being on the past Ryder Cup Teams would not necessarily be a disadvantage; is there a lot of emotional baggage or scars for a guy like you or other players to overcome with such struggles in the last six or seven years?
PHIL MICKELSON: Had it not been for The Presidents Cup, I might agree with that premise. But I feel like The Presidents Cup has given us team competitions, team experiences that we've done very well in and succeeded in. And the key for us will be doing it in a Ryder Cup.
I don't know why we haven't been able to play at the same level in The Ryder Cup as we have in the Presidents Cup. I don't know why that is. I don't feel as though there are those scars you're talking about, given that we've had success in the alternate years.
Q. I don't know if you've had a chance to partner with any of these guys before any previous matches, but from your own perspective and your own game, what do you look for, what do you want a partner to bring to the table for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It varies. What I'm looking for might be the exact opposite of what somebody else is looking for. For example, for alternate shot, I like somebody that plays a similar game that I do. I like being able to attack the par 5s and being able to reach those in two, attack pins and be okay with a flop shot around the greens if you get short sided, play aggressively on the greens; where a lot of times, guys are looking for an opposite effect. We want the shorter, greater hitters to put the ball in play and the longer guys to hit iron shots in or vice versa, what have you.
But what I'm looking for is a very similar game to what I have in both, alternate shot and best ball. Best ball really isn't as big of a factor. You play your own game and your partner plays their own game and you try to shoot a low score, but in alternate shot, I like somebody similar.
Q. Have you been a partner with any of these guys in a match in either Presidents Cup or Ryder Cup before, because I know some of your more common partners are not on this team.
PHIL MICKELSON: Jim Furyk and I played together in the '99 Ryder Cup. I know that in that match
KELLY ELBIN: Furyk is the only member on this team.
PHIL MICKELSON: Justin is the only other member I've been on this team with. We have not been paired together in the past, I don't believe.
Q. Paul said this morning that he envisions pairing possibly the two Kentucky boys and sending them off in the first match Friday morning to turn this into an AC/DC concert, presumably. I wonder whether you see that as a gamble at all. Westwood said he thought it might be somewhat analogous to you and Tiger and putting a lot of emotional eggs into one basket, and if it doesn't pan out, it doesn't pan out.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't get the question. I mean, I understand I get what you're saying, but I didn't get what were you are you just wanting me to comment on that?
Q. Yeah, how it could go either way.
PHIL MICKELSON: It could go either way, yeah, I guess so. (Laughter) Sorry. (Chuckling)
Q. A lot of players talk about their very first time that he walked to the first tee to have to play that first shot. Can you talk about what it was like for you, and did you feel sick in your stomach, because there are six guys that are going to be doing that this week on your team.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that was 13 years ago, and it was the first hole at Oak Hill, and I played with Corey Pavin, and what I remembered, I remembered more vividly that Corey on the first hole made a 50 foot putt to get us a 1 up lead, and after that putt went in, we just kind of settled down and played great and ended up winning our match.
I think it takes something like that, whether it's a good drive down the middle or whether it's a good up and down and whether it's a good putt, you need something good to happen for you to just kind of calm down and settle in, because everybody is pretty nervous starting out.
KELLY ELBIN: Mickelson and Pavin won that match over Per Ulrik Johansson and Langer 6 & 5.
PHIL MICKELSON: Where is Alex Miceli? You're trying to take over his job with all these stats.
KELLY ELBIN: How am I doing? (Laughter).
Q. What excites you most about playing in The Ryder Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the week becomes a week where friendships are formed that last a career and memories occur that last a lifetime. These are the events that we recall and look back fondly upon over our as we reflect on our career.
When you're playing in them, you don't realize that's the case, but now that I have played in six, this is my seventh Ryder Cup, I look back on all of my previous ones. Even though we've lost, we've had so many great memories from those weeks; that's what I look forward to the most, getting to know the guys and hanging out with the guys and have a fun week where we are all together as a team.
Q. For this week, the two most crucial holes for you on this golf course will be? And then, you're a football fan, who is the quarterback of this American side, and what role do you see yourself playing if you could equate it to a golf/football analogy?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, Zinger is our captain, but he can't throw. So he won't be QB ing. He'll be leading us, though. He's fairly quick and he can run and he's good at foosball. He loves to talk up his foosball game. Nobody is taking him up on that.
As far as the two holes, I don't know. The course has changed a lot since 1996 and 2000. The greens and tee boxes have changed and holes that were birdie holes are a lot longer and tough pars. I just don't know if I can pull out one or two holes as being critical. I think 13 is going to be an exciting hole, if the tee is up. If it's back, it's going to be just a bunch of wedges in. But if the tee is up, I think it can be one of the most exciting holes, although I don't see it being a really turning hole. Both sides in best ball will decide whether they will lay up or go for it, and it won't have the effect that some other holes might.
Q. An American perspective on the chemistry that the European Team has without, as Lee Westwood said, a player like a Bernhard Langer, also without Colin Montgomerie and Darren Clarke, what's the American view of this new look to the European Team?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it's interesting, Kelly. We've been so wrapped up in who our four picks are going to be and who is going to make the top eight the last couple of weeks; the last thing we have been really looking at is The European Team.
I didn't even know who was on the team really until just a week or two ago, even though it had already been decided. I'm not sure. They have some great players there, and obviously with Padraig Harrington being a two time major champion, and Sergio who has always been a leader essentially, Padraig is such a strong player, they have such great strength there, they are obviously in good shape. We have a lot of work to do to hang on and compete.
Q. If I'm not mistaken you are the only player on the U.S. Team playing with a Callaway ball. As you practice with some of the guys, how do you go about encouraging them to try what you use, or do you drop a couple? What's going to be the decision process of being the only guy that uses that particular one?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, what we do in alternate shot is we just I tee off with their ball and they tee off with my ball, because we can switch balls each hole. So it really doesn't become much of a factor, because off the tee it's not going to make too much of a difference. It's the distance control and how it comes off the irons and the trajectory and so forth. And we will be hitting our own balls with our iron approach shots. I just don't think it will be a factor.
KELLY ELBIN: Phil Mickelson, thank you for joining us.
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