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Mickelson Savors Result in Pebble Beach
Phil Mickelson finally got some reinforcement for all of his recent hard work on and off the golf course. The 41-year-old closed with an 8-under 64 to rally from six shots back of 54-hole leader Charlie Wi and win the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am for the fourth time in his illustrious Hall of Fame career.
Mickelson also earned his 40th victory, placing him ninth on the PGA Tour's all-time win list. Perhaps most rewarding was outperforming his playing partner in the next-to-last group, Tiger Woods, who posted a 3-over 75.
Mickelson and Woods have played in the same group in 30 official Tour events; each player had the lower score 13 times in those "matches" with four ties.
While Mickelson shined on Sunday, Woods struggled. Lefty admitted later that Woods brings the best out of him. "I'm just very appreciative of what he's meant to the game of golf over the years and as I've said over the years, I don't believe anybody has benefited more from what he's done for the game than myself, so I'm appreciative," Mickelson said.
"I also am inspired playing with him. I think most people are but he seems to bring out the best in me and the last four or five years, I've played some of my best golf playing with him and I really enjoy it."
Mickelson is especially excited about what the victory bodes for the rest of the year. "I felt like my game was so close heading into the season, and yet my scores didn't reflect how I felt I was playing," he said.
"And to put it together this week and especially the final round with this round just feels terrific, and it gives me a lot of confidence but also inspires me because I believe now more so that what I'm doing is correct and that I'm able to play some of my best golf."
Here's what else Mickelson, who will be inducted in the World Golf Hall of Fame later this year, told reporters on Sunday evening from California's Monterey Peninsula.
MODERATOR: We welcome 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro Am Champion to the media center, Phil, congratulations. Your 40th win on Tour, you are now ninth all time. Give us some thoughts on what that means to you and talk about the day.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, regardless of what number it is, it just feels great to win this tournament. It feels great, because it's a special place for me, Pebble Beach. My grandfather having caddied here, such a national treasure, it means a lot to me because I haven't played the last year the way I would like to. I felt like my game was so close heading into the season, and yet my scores didn't reflect how I felt I was playing. And to put it together this week and especially the final round with this round just feels terrific, and it gives me a lot of confidence but also inspires me because I believe now more so that what I'm doing is correct and that I'm able to play some of my best golf.
Q. You played the par 5s much better today than you did yesterday. What was the difference in those holes for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: They are not the easiest birdies, but if you play them well, you should make 4. And the second hole, I hit a great 5 wood, a shot that yesterday went a little bit left and I made bogey. Today went right at the green and I ended up making birdie. 6th hole was a very difficult hole for me off the tee, because if I get it turning over at all, it runs off over into the ocean so I have to lay back quite a ways hitting 5 wood off the tee. I had a 5 wood into the green and was able to hit it 25, 30 feet and make the putt. It didn't feel different but the scores were a lot different. You've got to capitalize on the par 5s here, and it's just not the easiest thing to do always here.
Q. You've always talked about how Tiger is bringing out the best in your golf game and swing; if you could talk about what that did for you today, and secondly, if you were surprised that you beat him by 11 shots today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm just very appreciative of what he's meant to the game of golf over the years and as I've said over the years, I don't believe anybody has benefited more from what he's done for the game than myself, so I'm appreciative. I also am inspired playing with him. I think most people are but he seems to bring out the best in me and the last four or five years, I've played some of my best golf playing with him and I really enjoy it.
I thought watching him play, it looked so different than it has the last few years. It looked different because it just never looked like he was going to hit a hook the way he had for a while. He was hitting it so solid, you could tell his game was really close. I'm appreciative of the way the round went for me today. I got off to a quick start; it wasn't just me and Tiger, regardless of how many shots may have been the difference. Charlie Wi was leading the tournament by six shots over me, so I had needed to go out and shoot a low round to catch him, as well.
Q. Last four times you've played with Tiger in the final round, you've beaten him, do you take anything out of that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't look into that. I feel like - I just feel very inspired when I play with him. I love playing with him, and he brings out some of my best golf. I hope that he continues to play better and better, and I hope that he and I have a chance to play together more in final rounds.
Q. Why do you think he brings out your best?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I just seem more focused. I just know that I can't - I know that his level of play is so much greater when he's playing his best than anybody else's, that it just forces me to focus on my game more intently, and hit more precise shots.
Q. Excluding your four major championships, where does this rank amongst your most satisfying victories?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's one of the more emotional victories for me than I've had, and the reason is, I've had some doubt these last couple of weeks, given the scores that I've shot, yet on the practice range, playing and practicing, having these great practice sessions, I started to wonder if I'm going to be able to bring it to the golf course. So this gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt. And second, to be here, an emotional place for me, given my family history and to share this weekend with Amy, she flew up and spent a few days here on a little weekend trip, that's awesome. I mean, it is so fun, and we have had such a great time, that it's an emotional win to share that with her; also, with Bones. Bones and I have been through a lot the last couple of years, and we are working at our best.
After 20 years now, we are working at our best. And he was able to so many times get my mind refocused. The 14th hole, even with wedge, you make a lot of bogeys there, and he erased all doubt and said, let's get a grip and make the bird, we need one more here. It just got me aggressive and into a positive frame of mind. He and I are working well together. To share it with those two people that I love so much at a place that I care about so much makes it a very emotional win.
Q. Can you talk about your putting on the back nine? I think from 12 you had four one-putts, and particularly on the 12th, Tiger holes that shot from the sand, and then you get up there and make one from 30 feet I think.
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, my putter, as I've been saying, just feels really good. The great thing is that as each day passes, I seem to make more and more putts. I still miss them, I still miss putts, but from the last couple of years where I wasn't making hardly any, now I feel like I'm making a bunch. And all mechanics are out the window. I feel like it's where I've wanted fundamentally and mechanically to be to the point where I don't worry about stroke and have not now for the last six weeks. So I am really excited about this, and I think it was most evident today on the putts that I needed to make, that because I didn't have any mechanical thoughts, because I had confidence in my ability to roll it, I was trying to make, and believed I was going to make these 30- and 40 footers.
Q. Amy seemed pretty stoked by your 64 today; was she pretty excited when she hugged you at the end there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, and it's just cool for us to share something like this. It's just so fun for us to be together. It's almost like when we were newlyweds where we had kids, here we are together with a bunch of time on our hands that we just haven't had with three kids. This has really been a fun weekend.
Q. You mentioned that Tiger brings out the best in you, and obviously by playing in the same generation, he's overshadowed you and almost everybody in some ways. If you allow yourself to start thinking about a 40th win, it puts you past Tom Watson and -
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't, but I do need to premise that although I feel like he brings out the best in me, it's only been the past five years. Before, I got spanked pretty good. Let's not forget the big picture here, I've been beat up. But the last five years, I've been able to get some of my best golf out when we play together.
Q. Is that basically because Butch taught you the tricks of the trade and you know what to look for and he can't use the subtle coercion?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly. (Laughter).
Q. Especially around this golf course, can you think of the last time you thought this well around the golf course in a round?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's been a while, because, Alex, one of the reasons why I have struggled with my scoring is that on the course, I've been a little bit lazy mentally. So today, you know, it was a real effort for me to stay focused on every single shot and to not let my mind slip or wander or be lazy. And I felt like it slipped on one shot today. I hit a couple shots bad, but the one shot where I slipped was I let myself miss it on 15 where I just couldn't miss it and that only happened that one time and I was able to save the stroke with a hot putter. But throughout the course of the round, to only let one or two shots slip is a real improvement for me, and given the last couple of years, because when I'm playing well and when I'm playing some of my best golf, I'm very focused on each individual shot.
PHIL MICKELSON: The eagle to me was as important as any. But yeah, I would say probably the eagle, because it's an unexpected eagle. I'm just trying to make a four not a six. I'm not playing aggressively for a three off the tee. It's an awkward shot for me, if I get it turning over at all it just runs into the ocean so I have to be very conservative there. The fact that I gave myself a good look at it and made the putt, and the fact it put me on top of the lead, that was a real big turning point for me.
Q. First win of 2012 under your belt, what are your goals for the rest of the year, and how much confidence do you take away from this win?
PHIL MICKELSON: This has been a really big week for me for a number of reasons, but it does give me a lot of confidence in my game because I've known that I've been practicing well; that I physically feel terrific, that I'm able to practice hard, work hard and yet when I get off the course, I wasn't shooting the scores. The only thing that matters in this game is what score you shoot. It doesn't matter that you practice well. You have to perform on the course and I haven't been doing that, and so it gave me some doubt, and this week really gives me a lot of confidence and erases doubt.
Q. You started six shots down and after six holes, you already had a two shot lead. How do you - I'm sure you couldn't have thought that was going to happen, but what could you envision the game plan being and how different was it when that happened?
PHIL MICKELSON: The tough part about that, when you see that happen, is to stay aggressive, because there's still a lot of holes left and there are a lot of guys that are right there and just a couple back. The tough part was staying aggressive, especially going into a tough stretch of holes, especially 8, 9, 10 and I was able to get through those with par and make birdies there after. But when I teed off, thinking, okay, I've got to go, why did I play a great round, shoot something in the mid to low 60s, to have a chance to win, and after six holes I'm leading, it throws my whole use the entire round to catch the lead into a whirlwind. So I ended up again just trying to stay focused on being aggressive and attacking the pins.
Q. You talked about the self doubt that comes in, I know you can't get into Tiger's head at all, but when players at your guys' level go an amount of time not winning, and Tiger, he's going on 30 months or something like, that is it surprising to you that he has not won in that period of time, ands can you appreciate, just talked about some of the self doubt you had this year at this point, do you appreciate what he's going through?
PHIL MICKELSON: I know that it's not easy to go through something like, that because I've been through it and so forth. But it can change in one week. Watching him play today, it's going to change in one week. You could see, it's such a night and day difference where the ball - he never hooked a shot. He used to hook, you were waiting for it and now he's just striping it right at his target with a tiny little fade just like he used to do. And his iron play looked extremely sharp. I know the score wasn't what he wanted and I know he didn't putt the way he wanted to, but you could tell that he's really close and all it takes is one week. Here I am struggling the first couple of week, feeling like I'm close, knowing I'm close, and yet the scores are not reflecting it, and it just takes one week or one day in this case to turn it around.
Q. You went through a Toasty's in Pacific Grove for breakfast, a young guy asked you for an autograph; is that something you do intentionally or is it second nature? And do you think that's why fans root for you so much, that you do things that are kind of out of the blue from what other players may do?
PHIL MICKELSON: I appreciate you saying that. I mean, I really am truly appreciative that I get to play golf for a living and it's the people that come out and support the game that make it possible. So I don't feel like that should be out of the norm. That should be the norm for everybody. I'm also appreciative of this week, what the celebrities have been doing, starting with Bing Crosby bringing celebrities here, because they bring notoriety and people into the game that we would not reach otherwise, and I'm appreciative to this tournament because of that.
Q. When is the last time you felt this confident with the putter?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's been a while. Honestly, it's been a while. I've felt really good and I've putted really well the first three weeks, again, not scoring but I've been putting much better. I just feel like I'm putting like I did when I was a kid without the thoughts and the mind clutter and so forth. But I feel really good with the blade and when my ball striking gets back to where it was the last couple of years, the way it was today, I'll be able to shoot some low scores.
Q. Do you think players, their putting falls in their 40s, and that the putts just stop dropping as you get older?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's difficult when you know the importance of putting, to putt freely as you get older, because you sometimes, or I sometimes, over-think it. But I've been able to address that and get back to putting without much mechanical thought, and it's made a big difference.
Q. As you know, the rule of thumb here you is pick up your shots in the first seven holes and hope you do well. I notice your final comments yesterday, you said, if I can get off to this roaring start, I can really put pressure on the guys behind me. You didn't use the word pressure, but make them think a little bit. You did exactly that.
PHIL MICKELSON: In 2001, I think it was 2001, Davis Love shot 64 on me, and I was a few groups behind him. It was really tough to make birdies because you knew you had to make birdies because guys in front of him were lighting it up and I know how it feels. If I knew the group in front were able to make some birdies, it would be difficult to respond; that it's tough to go out and shoot 68 on a Pebble Beach in some wind and thick, heavy air when you have to make birdies. And so I tried to do what was done to me 10 or 11 years ago.
Q. Are you working with a new sports psychologist and did she help you today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Maybe, and yes. (Laughter) It's an area I don't like to talk about too much, but I've had to address it for some of my focus issues.
Q. You talked about the difficulty of bringing it from practice to the course in terms of when you're playing well, but maybe not scoring as well. What is the hardest part of doing that, or what was the hardest part of doing it for you in terms of getting to this point to be able to win?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a process. I mean, there's a lot of little mental hurdles. And it comes down to being able to focus on each individual shot, not trying to force the issue, trying to be patient with the round, accepting the bad breaks. It's all these little hurdles that you have to deal with to be able to get the end result.
Q. Your second at 13, can you talk about that one?
PHIL MICKELSON: Sure, yeah, I liked that one. (Laughter) That back pin is a tough pin to get to, but with the greens being a little bit firmer than they have in the past, I was able to scoot a shot in there. The shot was only 140 yards, which I could probably get a full wedge there, which would back up 50 feet. I could probably take a little bit off of a 9 and get it to stay somewhat close to the hole but I took an 8 iron, and just hit kind of a chip 8. I kind of call it a chip 8 iron where I'm taking 30 yards off of its flight and trying to bring it in so low and spin it that it releases back. I was able to execute it exactly how I was hoping it would and it ended up two feet.
PHIL MICKELSON: I did hear the roar. I didn't know what had done what, though, but I did hear the roar.
Q. I know you shot 64 today, but would you be sitting here right now without that tee shot on No. 4 at Spyglass on Thursday?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's always a big decision for us, as you know. The guys that - a lot of the writers that do this full time, I saw you out there on that tee box, by the way. (Laughter). It's a bit of an issue that Bones and I have had over the years and the big question is what am I going to hit off that tee box and I ended up hitting driver on Thursday. And I was so glad that it was the fourth hole of tournament for me, that I was able to get it out of the way and not dwell on it and hit it to 12, 15 feet and made par. Being able to escape with a par is a good thing because I've made 8s and 9s there and thrown the tournament away there in the past.
Q. In the opening stretch, which one do you feel like -
PHIL MICKELSON: Five, because five is a tough birdie and I knocked it a foot. That's a grind on the putt, and to hit a shot like that where it was not an easy pin position because right at the hole it would go away so you had to hit it very precise and I hit the exact shot I was hoping to hit and it ended up a foot. That was one I ended up picking up a shot I wasn't really expecting to.
Q. Just number, 40 years old, 40 wins, upcoming Hall of Fame induction, like your grandfather's silver dollar inspiration for generations to come, your thoughts on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thank you, and I'm very proud to be in the Hall of Fame but I also feel as though I want to look ahead. There will be a time in my career where I'll look back and reflect but right now I'm looking ahead because I feel like I have the ability to play some of my best golf.
Q. Valentine's Day present for Amy?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I think she - I think she wants something a little more personal. I want to give her something a little more personal, too.
Q. Down six coming into the round today, how optimistic were you when you stepped to that first tee box?
PHIL MICKELSON: Very. Because I knew how tough it is, when you have to follow guys in front of you making birdies, and I knew if I get off to a good start, it would be very tough.
Q. Was there a mind set change at MPCC after the front nine, talking to Amy in between, and then you go out and light it up? And was there any kind of a mindset change?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, there was. I was moping. I mean, like I was moping. It was terrible. And she said, come on now, cheer up, let's go make some birdies, come on, and she was so positive and it just changed my attitude, playing one of my favorite golf courses. I love that Monterey Peninsula, what a great addition it's been to the tournament. And I ended up making some birdies. I didn't even really think I was in position to win at the moment but I just had a nice round. And it was really an attitude change that she instilled coming out with her bubbly, positive attitude that got me going. I told her that in the car that it wouldn't have been possible without that talk.
Q. Why were you hoping? Was it the weather?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was frustrated that I wasn't getting the score just like many tournaments, I missed a 6 footer for par on the 18th hole which was my ninth. I left four or five birdies out there that were short range that could have gone either way and I was just disappointed and a little frustrated and I was moping.
Q. You obviously have an affection for this place and you've come here every year, what would it take for you not to come here?
PHIL MICKELSON: It would have an injury or something like that. I missed the tournament the first couple of years of my career in the early 90s. I don't know why. I don't know I had a good big picture of the overall importance of the tournament to the game and what it provides and how much I love the place.
PHIL MICKELSON: There's been a few things that have really helped me with the weather. When we get in this thick, heavy air, the ball gets hit and affected a lot more, and I felt mentally, maybe it was a psychological plus or advantage, but I knew that the golf ball I have, performs better in this wind and flies better and is more accurate. I'm not trying to tout it, but I felt coming in, I had a slight advantage. I had been driving the ball well, and I should say, I had not been driving the ball well but I had it on Monday, Tuesday, and it just really clicked. So I felt heading in, I had a bit of an advantage in some areas.
Q. What's your schedule going to be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll play L.A. next week. It's been on the schedule, I'll end up missing the Match Play, not because I don't love the tournament; I love the tournament, but all of our kids are out of school that week and it's a perfect time to go on vacation. I played five in a row and added the Hope because of it and I'll end up being back at the Doral event.
MODERATOR: Thank you.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.