Phil Mickelson Interview - Bob Hope Chrysler Classic
BY iseekgolf.com | US PGA Tour | 2007 Bob Hope Chrysler Classic | General | 17 Jan 2007
Joe Chemycz: We welcome two-time Bob Hope Chrysler Classic champion Phil Mickelson to our room.
Phil Mickelson: Hey, guys, happy new year.
Joe Chemycz: Happy new year to you. It’s been a while since we’ve seen you, so maybe talk about your off-season and we’ll go from there.
Phil Mickelson: It was a great off-season. I watch sat on my couch all day and watched TV and didn’t do a thing. Just kidding.
It was a great off-season. I had a chance to do a lot of fun things and now that I’ve had that time, I’m looking forward to getting back to playing golf. Amy and I had some great trips. We did a week in Italy, went to Venice and Rome and hung out there with some friends. We had a chance to celebrate our 10th anniversary, we went down to Bora Bora and had a Polynesian wedding to renew our vows and just had a great time together.
Also did some design work as we sent out a press release, went and visited a couple of sites in North Carolina for a course we’re doing there called River Rock, beautiful, beautiful 4,000 acres there in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Went to Diamante Cabo, a new development there with Davis Love doing the Dunes Course right there on the Pacific Ocean right there in Cabo San Lucas. And I’m doing the Oasis Course, which is going to be an inland course with a lot of trees and kind of an isolated feel and only 40 home sites.
So I’m excited about a couple of projects I’m doing there. Did a couple of things outside of golf, and now that I’ve got those out of the way and everything is going well there, I’m excited to getting back and playing. The last six days I spent with Rick Smith and Dave Pelz, working on my game to get it sharp and address areas that need to be addressed in the off-season.
Q: You haven’t played since the Ryder Cup, I believe, as you know, there was a lot of criticism aimed at you because of your performance in the Ryder Cup, did you read about that, did you care, and could you explain what happened?
Phil Mickelson: Well, my performance at the Ryder Cup was every bit as disappointing as my finish at the U.S. Open. Those two events were what made 2006 a disappointing year. Even though I won The Masters, I looked back and those two events, those were the ones that needed to be addressed. Why did that happen and what is it that I can do to fix those.
And the first one was the U.S. Open. You know, I really believe that the past former presidents of the USGA that passed away were looking down and said no one should win the Open hitting two of 14 fairways, and that certainly came back to bite me and I have got to address that need.
I addressed it with Rick Smith and Dave Pelz who devised some devices to help me with the driving. Rick is helping me with why that happened; why after The Masters I was not able to pick up where I left off and get my swing back.
And then I used Callaway’s technicians to help with the design of a driver that will eliminate that left shot because not only was it on 18, it was on 17 and it was all throughout the final round. And so we’re working on designing a club that eliminates that, and I think we’ve got it right. So I’m excited about that.
And then I feel like the Ryder Cup performance was more of — as opposed to a game problem, more of a physical problem. It’s late in the year, it’s the last tournament for me of the year and I don’t feel as though I stood up physically throughout the nine months, and especially we’re playing 36 holes a day. And I needed to address that.
So the last three or four months, I’ve done a lot with my trainer, Sean Cochran, to address that. I immediately lost 20, 25 pounds and put on about 10 to 15 more with muscle from lifting, trying to build up stamina doing 45 minutes to an hour and a half of cardio five or six days a week. I’ve started a new martial arts, a different type of martial art from what I’ve been doing. We also continued with our core strength and so forth. But I’m hoping that this will improve stamina so that at the latter part of the year I have a better performance.
I don’t expect so see much in the start of the year because I usually play well in the start of the year. I expect to see the same. But I think at the latter part of the year I’m hoping to continue or sustain that level of play throughout the whole year now.
Q: Two questions. One, how many drivers are you going to have in your bag this week, and the second question, did you good get a chance to see Tadd Fujikawa, and what did you think of him?
Phil Mickelson: How can you miss him? He was everywhere. At 5’1", he was still everywhere.
I loved it. I remember what it was like for me to play professional events as an amateur and it was not easy to play and do well. And for him to finish in the top 20 and play the way he did, it’s remarkable and I can’t wait for him to get out on TOUR. He still has to finish high school, but I can’t wait for him to get out on TOUR. I think he’s going to be a great addition to the game of golfer.
How many drivers, I’ll have one this week. I have been working on a driver for Augusta as well and a couple other tournaments. But at the Hope, length is not as big a factor like it the as Augusta so I’ll be using the FT5 this week. I’ve been working on a longer version for the FTI, because it’s so straight, I’m able to increase the length of the short and to some thinking to hit the ball longer and keep it in play so I’m using most likely that driver for Augusta.
Q: With this tournament, it seems like some of the bigger names other than yourself tend to shy away, wonder why you think that is and also what about this tournament do you like? What keeps you coming back?
Phil Mickelson: Well, I think what I like about this tournament might also be the same reason why some people shy away from it. I love the fact it’s five days. I love the fact that the weather usually is perfect here. It’s a great place to start the year because you’re guaranteed four competitive rounds whether you make the cut or not. It’s usually great weather which allows your game to progress and for you to get positive feedback or good feedback on what you’re doing right or wrong.
Sometimes when the weather is blowing 20, 30 miles an hour, you can’t tell what exactly you’re doing right in your swing or what you’re doing wrong and you get in some bad habits. To start here in great weather is a perfect place to start.
Q: After you left after the Ryder Cup, it seemed like a popular game around the country was: What’s Phil’s state of mind and how is his shattered psyche. It doesn’t sound like you played into that game much in the off-season.
Phil Mickelson: Well, dealing with failure is part of the game. I deal with it 90 percent of the time. I look back to when I lost the 2001 PGA to David Toms. On the 16th hole there, I 3-putted. I had a 50-footer, 60-footer, I blew it eight feet behind the hole and 3-putted. I looked back at that event and realized my lag putting needs to improve because I’m not going to win majors if my lag putting isn’t better.
After imploring the help of Dave Pelz, we developed drills to improve my lag putting, and it’s led to two Masters wins as well as a PGA on some quick greens.
This off-season what we addressed is driving. I always kind of put it back like, “I know I can hit a fairway if I have to,” what have you. It wasn’t the case and I had to address that.
So this off-season, that was the key element that we addressed. What is it with the golf equipment, what is it with the golf swing that we can do to eliminate that left shot that has crept in my game after starting my career having it be a hook be the problem. I’ve turned it over to be the block that has been the problem. And so now, we have addressed that with equipment, we’ve addressed it through instruction, and I’m really excited about 2007 because I really think that shot is going to be eliminated the majority of time.
Q: Just wanted to ask you, what do you think of the new host of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, and what do you think he’s going to bring to the tournament this week?
Phil Mickelson: I’m a big George Lopez fan because he is one of the nicest individuals that I’ve ever met. He treats people so well, everybody so well. And I think he’s going to be a great addition to the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic. I think his golf game has — less than to be desired but that’s not the point. (Laughter) we’re here for his personality and that’s what he brings to the table.
I also look forward to him playing up at AT&T, too. He’s a wonderful person. I’ve been fortunate to have a chance to spend a little bit of time with him in the past and I just think the world of him.
Q: You mentioned the new stamina, the emphasis on that. Is that directed at all toward the FedExCup finish with the four tournaments in a row?
Phil Mickelson: Very possibly. Not just the Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup, but hopefully it will help out through the FedExCup finish where we’re looking to be most likely playing six of seven events. That’s going to be a big element of it, and one of the things that I added, too, was weight training. I haven’t really done that in the past. I started lifting a lot more and instilling kind of a weight program that should hopefully help with endurance throughout the year.
Q: I apologise for asking the first Masters question of the year, you’ve had a lot of success and good things that have happened to you, is there one Masters memory that stands out now as your favourites?
Phil Mickelson: Come on now, 18, ’04? Absolutely. (Laughter).
Q: The first time around, what made that more special than the last?
Phil Mickelson: Well, it was my first major. The first time I ever won and I birdied five of the last seven to do it, culminating with one on 18. That’s what was so exciting.
With that being said, I enjoyed the walk up 18 a lot more in 2006. That was awfully fun to have a three-shot lead and to know that I had the tournament at hand.
Q: Your history is to get off to a very fast start, I think it’s four or five times you’ve won the first tournament you’ve played in a year, is that because you have taken the time off or because you’ve worked with the teachers just before the beginning of the season?
Phil Mickelson: I think it’s a little bit both.
But the biggest area is I’m excited to play again. All of the things that I had to get done that were non-golf related, I was able to get out of the way in the off-season in the past as well as this year. I just can’t wait to get started. I’m really excited about this year. I think the TOUR has a lot of new excitement thing, likes the FedExCup that should help create interest throughout the entire year, not just specific events.
What’s cool is that we actually have something to play for now at the end of the year, as opposed to having the Money List already decided, the Player of the Year already decided and it just being a tournament for the top 30 on TOUR. This is now going to be a four-tournament stretch that will decide a lot.
Q: You talked about changing your game after No. 18 there, had you hit that fairway, would you have made these changes anyway?
Phil Mickelson: I probably wouldn’t address them, no. Because I won the tournament.
Q: You’re on an incredible momentum roll there, but just that one shot made you rethink?
Phil Mickelson: Yeah, it looks like that one shot is what really made me go back, but you look at the whole tournament in general, and that’s where I noticed there was a lot of shots lost left and I need to eliminate that miss. I need to create two things different. A slightly different golf swing and a slightly different equipment makeup in the head, and that’s where the technicians, Alan Hoffman (ph) specifically of Callaway has been helpful in creating a little more heel weight that takes away that leak to the left. And then Rick Smith with the golf swing, too, to make sure that doesn’t creep in.
Q: When you talk about the one shot, you mean the drive?
Phil Mickelson: The drive, yeah.
Q: Because you couldn’t do anything after?
Phil Mickelson: But it wasn’t just that one drive on 18. I missed them through the entire tournament but that one drive made me look back at the entire tournament to say, what’s going on here.
Q: Can you talk about what your schedule will look like this year, you typically have not played a lot of late season tournaments, do you expect to play a lot of them this year and how does that change for you?
Phil Mickelson: Well, specifically my schedule will be very similar like it has in the past for the West Coast where I’ll play the next four weeks. I’ll take one week off at L.A. Even though I love the golf course there, I just couldn’t play six in a row because I play the week right after that at the Match Play in Tucson, which is five out of six.
And then I’ll end up playing the World Golf Championship at Doral, as well as Arnold Palmer’s tournament. What’s unusual is I’ll be taking the week off before the Masters and before the U.S. Open most likely this year.
But I do expect to play the same number of events typically, but in a more condensed time frame.
Q: A couple of years ago, everybody remembers the Tiger versus Phil, everybody was watching it, of course you came on when Tiger was being introduced at the one tournament, do you dislike that, like it; do you think we’re going to see a rekindling of that or what are your thoughts?
Phil Mickelson: Well, I don’t know, he’s obviously played very well. He’s won the last six tournaments.
It was fun. It was fun and I certainly want to get back to that level where I’m able to compete in each tournament, compete against Tiger week-in and week-out. But again, it’s not easy. He’s a remarkable player.
Q: If the past when you’ve had, ’99 and 2003, when you came back and bounced back with more than stellar seasons, what kind of confidence does that give you coming into this season after what happened last year, knowing that you’ve done it in the past?
Phil Mickelson: Well, I’m very excited about 2007. I’m not excited just because we have a new FedExCup season and so forth, but because I’ve addressed a problem in my game that I think I’ve created a solution.
I’m excited to see how the first three or four weeks ago to see what the percentage of fairways, how that goes, what the percentage of shots missed left, and if so, how far. I’m looking in those first three or four weeks to see if the changes I’ve made in the off-season have made a significant, positive result.
Q: I wanted to talk to you about the driver, one of the drivers that you talked about is the square-shape driver?
Phil Mickelson: That’s correct, yes.
Q: Could you talk to us about what you think the reception of that will be on the PGA TOUR and what you think about it?
Phil Mickelson: Well, I think that the FTI, the square-headed driver, is not just an evolutionary driver. I think it’s more of a revolutionary driver. Because it’s such a drastic change, because the moment of inertia is so high, because the ball goes so straight it doesn’t want to curve, I think it’s actually going to take a little bit more time on the PGA TOUR.
There will be guys that love it. Guys that don’t like to work shots and want to aim it down the middle of the fairway and rip it, this will be perfect for them because it goes so straight but some guys like to hit little draws, hit a fade, hit high shots, low shots; and the design from my manufacturer, the FT5 is a much better fit to hit those variety of shots.
But if I just wanted to hit it straight, I’ll go to the FTI which is why I’m leaning towards that driver for Augusta when I tried to hit it a lot longer. I’m not really trying to manoeuvre it or curve it; I’m just trying to hit high bombs.
Q: Do you think they will accept it in time?
Phil Mickelson: Eventually they will because it’s a much better product. The ball goes a lot straighter, and I think that the average player is going to love it, and I think the TOUR player will gravitate toward it over the next year or two.
Q: You talked about the swing changes in the off-season, can you give us sort of a synopsis in layman’s language that readers might understand about what basically you’ve done to change your swing off the tee?
Phil Mickelson: Well, what I really want to do is instead of having the face at impact aim left, I want it aimed more down the middle. That’s the goal. (Laughter) Otherwise, you know, technically, everybody’s swing is different. It’s not going to make much sense, but all I’m trying to do is square up the face a little bit quicker.
Q: And you talked about the psyche and how you dealt with that last year, and you said it was a part of the game and you pointed to the PGA in 2001. I’m curious, not so much technically your reaction to Winged Foot but what was that like emotionally as the year went on. You’ve been very open about how much you want to win the U.S. Open and you were very candid afterward about how close you came obviously; what was that like emotionally as the year went on to handle that?
Phil Mickelson: Well, I didn’t really address it until the end of the year; I had a couple of majors to go. I didn’t play as well as I wanted, but I felt like I had a chance and all up to a certain point and played reasonably well, just not as well as I had hoped.
And so it wasn’t until after the season that I looked back and tried to decipher what emotionally, what technically went on throughout. And so I tried to address that in the off-season but I really didn’t look at it as the season was going on.
Q: When you play in this tournament, historically scores are very low, how do you not fall in the mind-set of saying, I’ve got to go low and not let that happen; do you think some players are drawn into that?
Phil Mickelson: You do. You have to go low. Go make birdies. There’s nothing you can do about it. You’ve got to go low.
But you’re right, you don’t want to force it or press the issue. You’ve got to wait or be patient and take advantage of your opportunities but really that comes down to putting because you will have a lot of opportunities. Par 5s are reachable, par 4s are short. You’re going to hit good iron shot in there. You just need to get hot with the putter.
So rather than trying to jam them in and force birdies, just let the ball role in at good speed and you should make a number of them.
Joe Chemycz: Thank you.
Bob Hope Chrysler Classic