Mickelson Hopes for Turnaround at Firestone

Phil Mickelson was hoping for a better midpoint in his 2012 season on the PGA Tour. After getting off to a nice start with a win in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, a playoff loss to Bill Haas in the Northern Trust Open, a tie for third in the Masters Tournament, a share of fourth in the Shell Houston Open and a T7 in the Byron Nelson Championship - the latter coming in May, Mickelson's performance in his last four starts has been spotty.

After opening with a 79 in the Memorial he withdrew, citing "mental fatigue"; in the U.S. Open he finished T-65 after closing with a 78 at the Olympic Club; and he missed the cuts in his next two tournaments, the Greenbrier Classic and Open Championship at Royal Lytham.

At a press conference in advance of The Barclays, the first of the four FedEx Cup Playoffs that's set for August 23-26 at Bethpage Black in New York, Mickelson admitted his recent play has not been up to his lofty standards. He's hoping that changes in this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, which starts Thursday at Firestone Country Club in Akron.

"The last two months has not been what I want," he said Monday. "But this last week was a great week for me practice-wise. I feel like my game has really made a turn. I won't know for sure until I get to the first tee in Akron and try to post a number. The proof in golf is always in the score.

"But I feel much, much better about my game than I did just a week ago at the British Open and I can't wait to play these next seven of nine events, and I feel like things have really turned around. I'm really looking forward to posting a low score at Akron."

Here's what else Mickelson, who calls Bethpage "one of my favorite places in all of golf," had to say to the gathered reporters.

MODERATOR: At this time I would like to introduce the vice president of (Barclays) corporate communications, Seth Martin, to say a few words and introduce Phil.

SETH MARTIN: Thanks, everyone and thanks for coming today and on behalf of the 140,000 employees of Barclays, I would like to say welcome to the Barclays at Bethpage. We are really looking forward to a great tournament. We are excited to partner with the PGA Tour as the title sponsor of the Barclays. As you probably know this is the first PGA Tour event for the 2012 FedEx Cup Playoffs, so we are very excited about that. Golf really promotes some qualifies that we value highly at Barclays; competitive spirit and excellence and focus and merit. This event in particular, also, honors members of the military and that's really important to us at Barclays. We recently launched a military services network for our employees, which among other things, offers veteran oriented community work as part of the firm's overall citizenship agenda so we are excited that that is part of this tournament, as well.

And all of that, of course, is a great fit with our partner in golf, Phil Mickelson who, has done so much for the military, particularly through Birdies For the Brave. Phil is featured in an upcoming PGA Tour public service announcement that highlights this commitment, so right now, here is a sneak peak of that. Now joining from the phone before he heads to Akron before this week's World Golf Championships, please welcome Phil Mickelson.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys. I'm happy to be here today. I'm looking forward to some upcoming tournaments but none more than this year's Barclays because it's played at one of my favorite places in all of golf, Bethpage.

Q. What do you think the difference will be in the course when you played the U.S. Open versus what it is now? Do you think it will be similar or what are you expecting?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not really sure what to expect as far as how the course will be set up relative to when the USGA gets ahold of it in June. But Bethpage is such a difficult, straightforward challenge and test of good golf that regardless of the conditions, the design and the setup of the course will be a great challenge. But one of the best things about Bethpage is the people. The crowds that come out to support the game of golf at Bethpage are the best I've ever seen, and we are so lucky and excited to be coming back to such a great venue.

Q. How do the players view the FedEx Playoffs now after you've had it a few years, and particularly compared to the majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: There was a lot of skepticism at first when it first came out. We knew that it was a good thing in that it got the best players in the world to compete against each other four additional weeks. We were not sure how it was going to evolve but now it's really become a staple of the PGA Tour and something that the players really look forward to and strive for. They add move tournaments throughout the summer in an effort to increase their points standing heading into the FedEx Cup, and it's become really a solid staple on the PGA Tour.

Q. Your thoughts on the plans for the 17th hole here, they are planning to build a stadium like at the Phoenix Open. These events are close to your heart and I wanted to get your thoughts on what that will be like.

PHIL MICKELSON: The amphitheater effect of the 17th hole at Bethpage is unique to many par-3s and allows so many people to come and watch. One of the most memorable shots in my mind that I've ever hit was a putt that I made on Saturday at the Bethpage U.S. Open in 2002. And the reason it was so memorable was the volume of the roar. I'll never forget being down in that low area of the green and having people surround the green, applauding after a made shot or a made putt; that sound was so loud. It was louder than just about anything I've ever experienced on tour. It's such a great setting for golf that to have that type of stadium effect is going to be really special for the players, something that we'll remember.

Q. The Ryder Cup will be coming a month after the Barclays. Do you see this as being a tune up for that? And will you be talking with your probable American Team mates about the Ryder Cup, discussing strategy and using this tournament as background for that?

PHIL MICKELSON: We absolutely will. And if you look back at the U.S. record since the FedEx Cup has been in existence, our record in the team competitions from Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup has been extremely good with the only loss being the Ryder Cup two years ago. This has really helped the U.S. players be sharp mentally and have our game sharp. The FedEx Cup has forced us to really prepare and practice for the four events following the PGA Championship; where often times in the past, we have taken a bit of a break.

This has led us to being very sharp and performing well in the team events and I think that the four FedEx Cup events, starting with The Barclays - the Barclays is critical because it's one of the last two events that Captain Davis Love will have a chance to assess his players and decide who is going to be on the team. And also, the last two FedEx Cup events will give players momentum heading into the Ryder Cup.

Q. As regards a personal level, how are you feeling and how are you feeling with your struggles with the arthritis?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thanks for having, but right now, things could not be better from a personal standpoint. Amy and the kids are doing terrific. Physically, I've been able to do everything I need to do to start playing some better golf. And obviously, the last two months has not been what I want. But this last week was a great week for me practice wise. I feel like my game has really made a turn. I won't know for sure until I get to the first tee in Akron and try to post a number. The proof in golf is always in the score. But I feel much, much better about my game than I did just a week ago at the British Open and I can't wait to play these next seven of nine events, and I feel like things have really turned around. I'm really looking forward to posting a low score at Akron.

Q. With Bethpage Black being a very hilly course, does that challenge you a little bit more relative to like a seaside course that's a bit flatter?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly it does challenge you more in club selection. But we have had a bit of a breakthrough a few years ago in some of our laser range finders that has slope in there that dictates how many yards you can add or subtract for the elevation changes. And obviously it's illegal to use those during the course of play, but we use those in practice and note and dictate what yardage difference there is on each hole. So it has not been as big a factor in the last few years as it had been before because we have a much more tangible way of factoring it into our club selection.

Q. Just to follow up on your thoughts on the fans here, you seem to have a very special bond with them and they with you. Just wanted to get your thoughts on what you make of that, and what's the genesis of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what to say about that other than my wife and I love the New York area. We love spending time there. It's been a great educational city for us to bring our kids and share all of the many cultures that New York has to offer. But from a golf standpoint, New York has provided me some of the most memorable experiences of my golf career. Some of the most emotional experiences of my golf career. And I'm very appreciative to the way that the people have treated me and my family.

Q. What is your assessment that all of the majors are being won by different players each major where no one is repeating anymore? The last 15 majors have had 15 different winners.

PHIL MICKELSON: I probably don't have the best answer for you on that other to say the over all depth of the Tour and golf as a global sport has never been more evident.

Q. Curious if you've been watching the Olympics and thinking about golf and coming to The Games in 2016.

PHIL MICKELSON: I have been watching the Olympics, and I'm really excited about golf being an Olympic sport. It also gives me great motivation to continue work and practice and dedication in an effort to become an Olympic athlete; albeit an old Olympic athlete. It would really mean something that would mean a lot to me in my career to be a part of.

Q. Wanted to know what your preparation is in the days leading up to a major event like the Barclays.

PHIL MICKELSON: Typically I'll come into a tournament prior to - a major championship outside of the Masters where we play a new site like Kiawah Island that has never held a major other than the Ryder Cup 20 years ago; I'll come in a week or two early and do some preparation on the golf course. A course like Bethpage for the Barclays, I've actually played a number of times and know how I want to play each hole, each pin placement. It won't require me coming in early for that. What I'll do is I'll come in Monday night and play practice rounds on Tuesday and Wednesday to get a feel for the green speed; to get a feel for the distance hole; how far the ball is flying in that particular city; to see how the ball is reacting on the greens, things like that. But because I've played Bethpage a number of times it won't require an additional practice round a week or two prior.

Q. One of the changes they are making for the Barclays is the seventh hole. Instead of playing it as a 500 yard par-4 like the USGA did, it's going to go back to what it normally is, a 550 some odd yards par-5. What do you think of that change?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the - I've always been a fan of the original designer's interests in how a golf hole is designed to play from its inception, as opposed to somebody else who comes in and tries to alter it for their own benefit or ego. (Laughter).

PETER MELE: Thanks very much for being with us today. I know you have a busy week in Akron at the World Golf Championships and next week at the PGA. Wish you all the best and look forward to seeing you here in a few weeks at the Barclays.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited to get back to the New York area and to be a part of the Barclays at Bethpage. I can't wait to see you guys in a month.

The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.