Featured Golf News
Mickelson Returns to Action
Phil Mickelson is playing his first tournament since enjoying the "highlight of his career" two weeks ago in the British Open. At the famed Muirfield links in Scotland, the 43-year-old closed with a sterling 4-under 66 to win the Claret Jug for the first time and secure the fifth major title of his Hall of Fame career.
Mickelson hasn't gotten far away from that jug ever since he was handed it while being dubbed the "Champion Golfer of the Year" at Muirfield. He even brought it to Akron, Ohio, for this week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. The $8.75 million PGA Tour event starts Thursday at famed Firestone Golf Club.
"It's here with me," he told reporters Tuesday. "It's not like I'm going to leave it. And we'll have it - I'll have some of my friends and so forth throughout these next couple of weeks be able to drink out it. I think that's the coolest thing is to give friends of mine an opportunity to drink out of the Claret Jug and have a picture of it. That's a cool experience that not many people get to do."
Mickelson will be paired in the opening round of the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational with Justin Rose, a fellow 2013 major champion who won the U.S. Open at Merion in mid-June. Like the 33-year-old Englishman, Mickelson has sported a broad smile ever since winning the British Open.
The reason for Mickelson's joy is that he's had difficulties over the years controlling his swing, ball flight and emotions on the UK's windswept golf links that hole the British Open. "For me personally, the British Open is the greatest accomplishment I could ever get in my career because of the shots that I had to learn and the challenge that it created for me over the course of my career," he told reporters.
"It was so difficult for me to play my best golf in the British Open under those conditions than any other tournament that to win that is the greatest accomplishment for me in my career."
Here's what else "Lefty" had to say to the media Tuesday. Of his 42 career Tour victories, only two have come in WGC events: the WGC-CA Championship and the WGC-HSBC Champions, both in 2009. Maybe this week he'll make a quick return to the winner's circle at Firestone.
MODERATOR: Please welcome Open champion Phil Mickelson to the interview room. Phil, this is your first tournament since you won the Open Championship a few weeks back. Tell us about how it feels and if you're looking forward to this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it was only nine days ago, actually (laughter). It's been really a fun time. I just can't believe that - well, just excited every day that I've got the Claret Jug and I get to look at it every day. It's a great feeling, and there's been - it's been a hectic week last week. As you saw, we were traveling all around, and we have some big tournaments coming up. We've got the big event here, a World Golf Championship, we've got the PGA next week, and our FedEx Cup. So it's a lot of golf left.
And the way I see it is that as I've won a few majors, I look back on those years later, and I just reminisce and really enjoy that moment, and I'm looking forward to in the coming years looking back and remembering Muirfield, remembering the '13 Open and remembering all the things that happened on that back nine and shared with (his caddie Jim "Bones" Mackay). But right now I'm playing as well as I ever have and want to make sure I stay focused this week and next week because I think there's an opportunity to add to this year and make this year every bit as special as it can be. And I want to make sure I give myself every chance to play well because I've been playing some of my best golf the last few months, as you've seen and as the results have shown. And I'm excited about these upcoming events.
Q. Where is the Claret Jug and what is the coolest thing you've done with it since you took possession?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's here with me. It's not like I'm going to leave it. And we'll have it - I'll have some of my friends and so forth throughout these next couple of weeks be able to drink out it. I think that's the coolest thing is to give friends of mine an opportunity to drink out of the Claret Jug and have a picture of it. That's a cool experience that not many people get to do.
Q. How tough is it to focus and put Muirfield behind you with all these big tournaments coming up?
PHIL MICKELSON: Starting today it's good. Starting today it's a good opportunity for me to get focused on playing golf. But the last week I had a lot of other things going on that didn't allow me to practice until Saturday. I went up to Oak Hill and wasn't really able to work on my game yesterday as much as I was developing strategy and getting ready and prepared for next week's major, next week's PGA.
Starting today was really the first day that I was able to really work on my game and work on my touch, work on shot making and so forth, and it was not far off. I hit a lot of good shots today. I'm playing really well. Butch is here in case I need him, and we've got great practice facilities here. So starting this week it's just a perfect place. Amy and the kids will join me next week, and because they're not here I'll spend extra time practicing because they're not here to go hang with.
Q. Going back a little bit to the Open Championship, considering all the years of frustration and everything to get to that moment, which is more meaningful, that 72nd hole when you made the putt or back to the Masters when you got the monkey off the back and got the first major?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, they're two different emotions, and the emotion of winning my first major, winning a green jacket and being part of that history is something I'll always cherish and always have a place in my heart as being such a great achievement. I always feel that about the Masters, but I always knew that I was going to win the Masters because I had played well there for so many years. I don't know how many times in the previous 10 or 12 years leading up to that event I finished in the top 10, had opportunities to win and whatnot, so I knew when I showed up at Augusta I was going to have a chance to win.
But I didn't have that same feeling obviously at the British Open. I had very erratic performance. I had two times I finished in the top 3, coming close, finishing 2nd and 3rd in '11 and '04. I have not had that type of consistency there, and it's taken me a while over the course of my career to not just hit the golf ball low but to hit it low without spin. That's the challenge. Anybody can just move it back in their stance and drive it low. But when you do that you come in steep and create a lot more spin, and even though it's hovering above the ground it's still being greatly affected by the wind. So it's taken me years to really get the ball low and without spin so it tumbles on the ground.
Q. If there's an indelible image or moment or memory that you look back on from your career 20, 30 years from now, what do you think it'll be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it will always be '04 Masters and showing off my Olympic jumping ability. And then for me personally, the British Open is the greatest accomplishment I could ever get in my career because of the shots that I had to learn and the challenge that it created for me over the course of my career. It was so difficult for me to play my best golf in the British Open under those conditions than any other tournament that to win that is the greatest accomplishment for me in my career.
Q. Can you compare the 48 hour period after the U.S. Open to the 48 hour period after the British Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't want to, no. It was so enjoyable, shortly after. So enjoyable flying home with Bones and Amy and the kids. This last week I still have a hard time - I mean, I'm going to share something with you. I had something happen to me Sunday morning of the U.S. Open that was really weird. When I woke up, I had dreamt that I had already won the U.S. Open, and so I had the same feelings and excitement that I had won. I finally won the U.S. Open; it was such a great feeling. And it took me over a minute to realize that I haven't played the final round and that I've got to go out and still do it. Every day I wake up in the last nine days, I wonder if - honestly, I look at the trophy to make sure that I haven't just dreamt that, that I actually did win it and I already played the final round. It's just one of those little weird things that we all go through.
Q. Have you had dreams like that before where you've thought you won a tournament or you thought you played a round and you wake up and you realize you haven't?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, I mean, sometimes I'm sure, but that was one that - you don't remember a lot of your dreams, but that was one that I remember, and it was really weird how the feelings and thoughts that went through my head, having thought that I already won, and I was looking for the trophy. It was like, where is it? And then it dawned on me where I was; I was in a strange house and it kind of dawned on me where I was. And I hadn't played the final round and I hadn't won it yet, and I still haven't won it. So I do that now for the British, look at the trophy.
Q. What was that feeling like after you realized you didn't have it? Was it optimism that now I've felt that feeling, I can go out and win it, or was it pessimism because I'm disappointed now that I realize I just woke up and I don't have it?
PHIL MICKELSON: At the time I thought it was a premonition that I was going to win it, but obviously that didn't pan out.
Q. People pull for you not only because of the way you play but also because they consider you a role model. Is it a burden to you? Is it something you sought? How do you react when people say that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's flattering. I mean, it's flattering. Growing up and living in California, it's a very progressive state, and you are very accepting of all different lifestyles and the way people choose to live their life. I'm very non judgmental. I accept every lifestyle and everybody's right to live their life the way that they want to, and I live life the way I want to with putting Amy and the kids first and enjoying my career and having relationships with Bones and coach and people I really care about and Butch. You know, I don't mean to push anything on anybody, it's just I choose to live my life a certain way, and everybody is entitled to do that themselves.
Q. Bones' reaction after, he was so emotional. I'm just wondering is it possible for you guys to get a stronger bond? He was just blundering all over from what I could tell on television. Is your bond able to be stronger than it already is?
PHIL MICKELSON: Bones is just a very good man. I'm very lucky to have him because he's not just what I think is the best caddie out on Tour, but he's also just a quality individual, somebody I look to with respect. And I think that that's important to have when you're going to have a relationship as long as we have, to have that mutual respect. Sharing this moment was very emotional for us because of what it meant. We knew that this was the biggest challenge for us. We knew how difficult it was going to be to win this championship, and to be able to do it and share it together was really cool.
Q. You played Oak Hill yesterday; thoughts on the course? And do you have any memories from the '03 PGA Championship? Compare and contrast the course from then until now.
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't remember too much from '03 PGA, but I do remember quite a bit from the '95 Ryder Cup which was the first time I played Oak Hill. And I had a very emotional week that week with incredible highs and incredible lows. I'll always have a special place in my heart for Oak Hill because it was my first Ryder Cup and it's such a great classic Donald Ross golf course. We were there yesterday, and it's in immaculate shape. It's really pristine. It's difficult, as you can imagine, like any major championship. It's as thick a rough as I've seen in a long time, long, dense, thick, heavy rough. And it will have a premium - it's very much like a U.S. Open, it will have a premium on getting the ball in play off the tee and so forth.
Q. You won the Scottish Open the week before winning the Open Championship. It's another event before a major. How much do you believe in that momentum carrying over from one week into the next?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when I won the Scottish Open, some people view it, well, the odds of you winning two weeks in a row aren't great. The way I saw it was having success on links golf greatly enhanced my opportunity to win the British Open because not only was I playing well but I had success in links style golf and had built confidence. So it was very instrumental. I think had I not won the Scottish I probably or very likely would not have won the British, but who knows now. I think playing the week before for me personally helps me play my best and get my best golf out the following week in a major as opposed to taking the week off. But that's a personal thing, and every player has got to decide and figure out what allows them to play their best golf and really peaking at the right time of a major championship, and sometimes it's playing the week before for guys like me, and a lot of guys it's not. You can't fault them for that. They just need to figure out what works best for them.
Q. You said you're playing your best golf, I assume of your career, in your 40s. Is it hard won wisdom? Is it the equipment? I think of Watson competing at 59 and going into a playoff at the British. And is the arthritis completely under control? Is that not even anything that matters now?
PHIL MICKELSON: So let's try one question at a time.
Q. Hard won wisdom versus equipment.
PHIL MICKELSON: Okay, so throughout my career, the mainstay or the staple of my game has always been my iron play. It's always been the strength of my game and what's allowed me to have the career that I've had. The two areas that have given me problems especially in the last four years, let's say, have been putting and driving off the tee. And we've seen what has happened with the X Hot 3 wood. It's changed my driving altogether. We saw it at the U.S. Open and we saw it at the Scottish and British when I was able to get the ball in play and reach 17 in two shots and just hit a lot of fairways.
So off the tee, it's totally different, and the reason is because of the spin rate. The spin rate has dropped down and it allows me to make my normal swing at the irons and hit the right flight, the optimum flight off the tee without having to make an adjustment. That's been monumental for me. The second is my putting. I have really keyed in and figured out what allows me to putt my best. Having a green in my yard and being able to putt there at night every night after dinner, before dinner. When I have an extra 10 or 15 minutes or a couple hours, I'm able to just walk outside and putt, and that has really helped me over the last couple of years or the last year or so getting a great feel and a great understanding of putting.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Phil.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.