'Lefty' Hoping to Energize Season this Week in Scottsdale


Phil Mickelson has already played two events this year and the results certainly haven't been up to his high standards. The 41-year-old, who has 39 Tour wins and four major titles during his illustrious career, didn't make the weekend in last week's Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines after opening with rounds of 77 and 68.

The week prior in the Humana Challenge, "Lefty" finished tied for 49th, earning $13,821, and didn't make it past the 54-hole cut in La Quinta, Calif.

But Mickelson, like most great golfers, has a short memory and hopes a turnaround is in store in this week's Waste Management Phoenix Open, which starts Thursday at TPC Scottsdale in Arizona.

When asked Wednesday about his season so far, Mickelson, a graduate of Arizona State, didn't even address the past two tournaments, responding, "Well, we're only a couple weeks in, so I think everybody is excited to get here to Phoenix, and the fact that we're going to have some great weather, this is a tournament that the guys who play here just love it and look forward to it every year.

"The environment is unique. It's different than what we see week in and week out, and to have great weather here just is going to really add to the tournament. It has been really good the last few years, but to have it be perfect like it's planning on being is going to be exciting."

Another recent news item for Mickelson is his offer to assist in the redesign of the North Course, the much easier of the two courses used during the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines. He met with San Diego Mayor Jerry Sanders last week and has been given the okay to assemble a preliminary proposal on how best to renovate the 55-year-old William F. Bell design.

Mickelson, a native of San Diego, has offered to do the work for free. "It has been a dream of mine to turn that golf course into what I know it can be," said Mickelson, whose first full design was the well-regarded Whisper Rock Golf Club in Scottsdale. "We will spend countless hours making sure that that course is right because the goal - the first goal is to make it playable.

"It's got to be playable for everybody. It's a daily golf course, municipal golf course. Everybody has got to go out and enjoy it."

Here's what else Mickelson had to tell reporters during a media session Wednesday at TPC Scottsdale.

MODERATOR: We welcome Phil Mickelson into the interview room. Thanks for taking a couple minutes. Two time winner here. Talk a little bit about the season so far and then we'll just open it up for some questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're only a couple weeks in, so I think everybody is excited to get here to Phoenix, and the fact that we're going to have some great weather, this is a tournament that the guys who play here just love it and look forward to it every year. The environment is unique. It's different than what we see week in and week out, and to have great weather here just is going to really add to the tournament. It has been really good the last few years, but to have it be perfect like it's planning on being is going to be exciting.

Q. They've always liked you here, one of the greatest golfers, and to be paired up with Emmett Smith, a hall of famer, talk about that.

PHIL MICKELSON: We had a lot of fun. I really enjoyed my time with him. Here's a guy that's extremely successful in everything that he does; whether it's playing in the NFL and being in the Hall of Fame or dancing, he's great. You know, he's great at what he does. And yet he has no ego about him. He's just very easy to be around and have a conversation with. I had a lot of fun with him and was able to ask him some questions and he was very responsive. I enjoyed my time.

Q. Is a pro am for you a serious approach or do you play more loosely, more of a fun day?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a chance for Bones and I to see how the golf course is playing, see what's been done with some of the cuts, the fairway cuts and the greens, around the greens. It's also an opportunity to see how far the ball is flying. Each week different altitudes, different temperatures, the ball flies different yardages for us, so it gives us a chance to see how far clubs are going, and it also is an enjoyable day. We get to play with some really interesting guys, and it was a fun day today. Emmett obviously was great but so were the other three guys, Jim, Jeff and David. David is with Waste Management, and to have them involved in this tournament is pretty special. It's great for the community, and what a great company. My kids used to do, and still do, papers on many of the environmental things that Waste Management is doing to recycle trash, to turn it into alternative energy forms. It's just pretty cool what the company does.

Q. You had everybody captivated on the seventh tee when you were giving Emmett his short-game tip. How did that go for him?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he hit some great chip shots thereafter until we got to 16, and he missed the green just left, and there was a bunch of people watching, ready to heckle, and he gave them every opportunity to heckle him. I don't know what happened because he got it dialed in. I mean, he hit some great shots, and he's got this great hand eye coordination as any athlete does, but his ability to pick things up quickly is obvious. I was surprised how much club head speed he had. He really can move the ball out there quite well.

Q. Do you do that a lot? That was a pretty extensive session you spent with him.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we had people on the green. We weren't going anywhere.

Q. It was very generous is my point.

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I appreciate it. I think if you can just take a couple of minutes and explain the basics of chipping, it just is easy to pick up. It's just not a hard part of the game but it baffles people why they struggle with it.

Q. You're in the Hall of Fame now, getting inducted. 39 wins, four majors. Where do you get your motivation from and are you still motivated?

PHIL MICKELSON: I just love to compete. I love to compete. I'm excited about this year. I'm ready to play. I don't know what happened last week. I'm going to put it as something I'm going to shrug off because I know that my practice sessions have been really good. And I'm going to - I was able to take it a little bit better to the course today. I hit a lot of good shots today, and bringing it from the practice session and bringing it out on the golf course, that's my challenge right now, because I was able to solve - I say solve, but I've been able to get my putting where I want it. My putting feels terrific. I felt it was the last physical part of my game that needed some work, and it feels great. Now I've just got to get it from the practice tee to the golf course.

Q. Can you elaborate on your proposal to redo Torrey Pines North that was in the news?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I tried to underbid everybody. (Laughter.) That was the goal. It has been a dream of mine to turn that golf course into what I know it can be. We will spend countless hours making sure that that course is right because the goal - the first goal is to make it playable. It's got to be playable for everybody. It's a daily golf course, municipal golf course. Everybody has got to go out and enjoy it.

And the other thing is that the character is not being brought out right. The character of the canyons and the beauty of that place has not been pulled into the golf course. It's been separated. The canyons are on one of the side of the golf course and then there's been no integration, so the character that we bring out will try to enhance the natural beauty that's already there. There will be a lot more rustic areas, I call it - what's the best word? Kind of a rough canyon look, if you will, where I'm going to make the hard holes harder, but I'm going to make the easy holes easier. I want guys having fun on some of these holes. The 2nd hole is going to be moved up and shorter, little examples. We pretty much have it mapped out how we want to make it.

But I'm excited about this opportunity because it's the most beautiful canvas out there, and it has not been utilized properly, and I feel like after playing for so many decades and looking at these courses and appreciating all their beauty, to try to take that and integrate it into a course that just - that I love is a fun opportunity. I know the guys are going to love it because it's going to be playing well. That's the first goal.

Q. Can course design work and other business interests take away from your golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: It certainly can if you let it, but that's why I have to isolate it. That's why this is a perfect fit. It's in San Diego when I am home. I always take a week off after I play for a few weeks, so it's a perfect opportunity for me to go spend time after I drop the kids off at school, go spend a few hours on the golf course 15 minutes away.

Q. ASU alumni, back in Arizona, does this feel like a homecoming whenever you play at this Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: You asked the same question last year.

Q. I wasn't here.

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. I'm just kidding. I'm just kidding. It is fun for me to come back here because the people here have treated me so well through the years, and I can't believe it's been 20 years since I've been out of college. It's gone by awfully quickly. I still, even though I moved back to San Diego a decade ago, I still feel a community vibe here and the way people have treated us have been awesome. Walking up to that 16th tee box, playing the 16th hole and coming down the 18th fairway, the reception just really means a lot to me.

Q. With your brother now the coach, how is that?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's been great, because it gets me back involved in the program, which I've wanted to do for some time and help build the Arizona State golf team back to national prominence where it belongs. I think he's on the road to doing that. Certainly this year is going to be a challenge, but I think hereafter he's making the move to make them not just great players and win national championships for Arizona State but set these kids up to give them every opportunity to succeed in the game of golf.

Q. You said you tried to evaluate the course conditions out there today. How did it look and how do you think it's going to play and what kind of game is it going to favor this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: It always amazes me coming from sea level and cooler climate, then when I come here and see how far the ball flies, so it just takes some adjusting. I think that there's going to be a lot of birdies here. This is one of the greatest risk reward golf courses that we have. Those final six, seven holes where you have the opportunity to make birdies and eagles and you also have a chance to make doubles, some of the best viewing, some of the best challenges and excitement that a golf course can provide for a finish of a tournament. So I think that those guys are going to have to take on risk and make birdies to win.

Q. What is it like, two of those risk reward holes are 15 and 17. What is it like mentally to have 16 sitting between those two holes and kind of in that stretch of golf right there?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's actually a bit of a break, and the reason I say that is although 15 and 17 are a par 5 and a par 4 respectively, you have to view them as a very difficult par 4 and as a very difficult par 3, because those are critical holes to that you have to make a birdie to not give up ground against the field, and so they're a lot harder holes than it is to make a par on 16.

Q. I'm working on a piece on sports psychology. What has worked for you over the years in terms of psychological approach, and have there been periods where you've been in a negative mode and you just can't kick start it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we all go through mental challenges where we're seeing the negative and not the positive. If you're going to succeed, though, you have to be able to see what you want the ball to do as opposed to where you don't want it to go. Working out of a positive frame of mind is critical, and being able to slow your thought process down, especially the last nine holes of a golf tournament when you're in contention, is a critical ability if you want to succeed.

Q. Are there tools that you use to slow yourself down?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes.

Q. Are they top secret?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think certainly breathing exercises are the first and easiest way that guys can control that.

Q. Byron Nelson would be 100 years old this week. You had a special relationship with him. Can you talk about that relationship and what he meant to golf and maybe if you have a favorite story?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've cherished the time that I've been able to spend with Byron over the years. He and his wife Peggy have been just amazing individuals as far as the character and interest and how fascinating a people they are. But he lived life with such high integrity that I don't know of an individual in or out of golf that's lived as well as he did and as a better role model for people to follow, again, whether you play golf or not. But from a golf professional standpoint, he epitomized what a professional golfer is all about, and for us to benefit from what he's given this game of golf where he's taken it, I think he was very instrumental in the image of the PGA Tour even today, because of the way he acted and treated people thereafter. And as far as a story, it's not any one story, it's just watching him interact with people, spending time with him and seeing the way he treats people and how uplifting it is. Everybody that's around him feels better about themselves. It's such a great quality.

Q. Did you see what Kyle (Stanley) went through on the 18th last week, and if so, did you kind of feel for him with what he went through, and also did you have a chance or would you ever talk to him as kind of a veteran of the Tour?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see it. That's probably the easiest way to answer all those questions you threw in there. I was with my kids and practiced in the morning, and we went and did some stuff in the afternoon, and I missed seeing it. I think when I miss the cut, it's not enjoyable for me to watch on the weekend. I feel like I kind of beat myself up over it, so I try to let it go.

Q. Giants or Patriots?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not sure yet. That's an interesting game. It's going to be an exciting game. You look at it and you think, gosh, the Patriots look like a better team, but the Giants seem to beat them all the time. It's going to be an exciting Super Bowl.

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


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