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Mickelson Hopes for Better Results this Week


Phil Mickelson was none too happy about his play last week. In his 2013-14 season debut in Malaysia, the 2013 British Open champion and five-time major winner ended up tied for 19th in the CIMB Classic.

After carding rounds of 71, 70, 68 and 74 at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club, he finished tied for 19th at 5-under 283, nine strokes behind winner Ryan Moore.

"We all go through highs and lows and last week, the start of the week, I was really struggling with my swing and controlling it and hitting it solid," said the World Golf Hall of Fame member.

"As the weekend went on, I started to hit the ball a lot better, and even my score got better on Saturday. Sunday the score wasn't as good, and I felt much better about how I was hitting it and I feel a lot better about it now. I feel the ball striking is getting better, the rhythm is getting better."

Mickelson stayed in Asia for the WGC-HSBC Champions. The $8.5 million event starts Thursday at Sheshan International Golf Club in Shanghai, China. In one of the marquee groups, the 43-year-old will be paired in the first two rounds with Justin Rose and Keegan Bradley. Defending champion Ian Poulter will be playing with Brandt Snedeker and Henrik Stenson.

Mickelson won the tournament in 2007 and '09, and this week will be seeking the fourth World Golf Championship title of his career.

On Wednesday, Mickelson sat down with the media and discussed the state of his game heading into the tournament, the fourth event of the young season. Here's what he told reporters.

MODERATOR: Very pleased to welcome Phil Mickelson into the interview room. Welcome back to Sheshan International, a place which has served you well in the past, and I know this tournament means a lot to you. Just share your thoughts on returning to Shanghai this week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've really enjoyed seeing what has happened to the HSBC Champions golf tournament as it's become one of the strongest events in the game of golf, and certainly the strongest event in Asia. And to be back here at Sheshan feels great for me personally because of the success I've had here, 2007, 2009. We had a great run last year at Mission Hills and I certainly enjoyed my time there, but I always enjoy spending time here in Shanghai, especially here at Sheshan.

MODERATOR: And a win would be nice to round off the year for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: This has been a fun year for me. It's been a very special year. My play in the U.K. and The Scottish Open and the British Open has meant a lot to me. I've enjoyed my time there, and enjoyed my year very much. This is my last tournament this year, and I would love to finish strong. I would love to finish with some momentum. And I felt like last week, I was not playing well. I was not swinging well in Malaysia. The last two days, my game started to come around and as I enter this tournament, I enter with a lot more confidence than I've had in a while.

Q. After the first round last week in the quotes, you sounded quite concerned about your swing, like you had not had those kind of problems before. Can you talk more about that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we all go through highs and lows and last week, the start of the week, I was really struggling with my swing and controlling it and hitting it solid. As the weekend went on, I started to hit the ball a lot better, and even my score got better on Saturday. Sunday the score wasn't as good, and I felt much better about how I was hitting it and I feel a lot better about it now. I feel the ball striking is getting better, the rhythm is getting better. Sheshan is a golf course that I feel very comfortable on. I feel like I know how to play this course successfully, and I'm looking forward to this week.

Q. Well, you always talk about aiming, and particularly after winning The Open, you're aiming for a Grand Slam. So the question is: Will you be concerned that you're not lack of skills but just lack of luck because of your performance in the U.S. championship in the past years?

PHIL MICKELSON: To use an analogy, when I am putting well, not every putt goes in, but I catch lots of lips; the ball comes close. And the when it's close, I know that eventually they are going to fall in. And I use the same analogy for the U.S. Open. I've come close so many times; I've played well so many times in that tournament, that I believe it will happen soon.

Q. Will the pride you have in your HSBC titles grow over the years as golf gets stronger and stronger in this part of the world?

PHIL MICKELSON: I believe that they will. I believe that the World Golf Championships over time will continue to have more and more prestige, just like the major championships did early in their career; decades later, we look upon them with such (prestige). I believe 50 years from now, the World Golf Championships will have a very similar prestige.

Q. How many shots are you able to hit now that you couldn't hit when you were 25, and have you added something new just about every year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've tried to add new shots and create more strengths. The best thing that I've done in my career is try to turn weaknesses into strengths. It's very easy to practice the things you're good at. It can be difficult to practice and innovate and create new ways to be successful with things that have been difficult. And as I've been older, I look back as a player where I was ten years ago, and I see a huge difference. The last 10 years, I spent a lot of time from 150 yards in, and it's the best that I've ever been, looking back in my entire career.

Q. Did you once see 150 in as a weakness?

PHIL MICKELSON: I felt like my distance control needed to get better. I felt like that was the scoring area that you have to be precise, and I never felt like it was a weakness until I learned how to practice efficiently and how to get really good at it. And now I look back on it, and I wasn't anywhere near as good as I needed to be and as I am now. I wasn't that bad, I wasn't as good as I needed to be and you were saying I felt I was bad at that in no, I said you were good, you're way better (laughter).

Q. You spoke recently about tweaking your schedule to focus on the majors next year. Does that mean you might be cutting back on your international schedule or is it more like the American tournaments in the meat of the season?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure yet. I think it will be spacing. I think it will be proper spacing. It really took a lot out of me these last couple of months where we played nine out of 12 weeks and it was difficult for me to get the proper practice session and preparation for each tournament. I don't want to enter a tournament where I feel unprepared, and that's kind of the baseline that I'm going to use as I build my schedule next year, but I don't have specifics for you right now.

Q. And speaking specifically of the U.S. Open, which you mentioned earlier, going back to Pinehurst, what are your plans as far as preparing for there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I enjoyed and felt like playing Memphis the week before was very helpful for me to be ready. They are very similar grasses at Memphis as we have at Pinehurst, with the exception of the greens being bent at Pinehurst, but the grass, the rough, the fairways. So I plan to play Memphis. I plan to play Memorial the week before. I like having a three week stretch heading into the Majors, although this year that will be the only three week stretch. I will play Colonial and the Masters, Scottish and the British, Akron and the PGA, and I'll probably have a one week lead up. But I plan on having two weeks prior to the U.S. Open lead up and I'll have some time in Pinehurst prior to that.

Q. Have you got the Claret Jug with you? And where have you taken the Claret Jug since you won at Muirfield, what people have you introduced it to? And what's been the reaction?

PHIL MICKELSON: I did not bring it with me this trip. I've brought it just about everywhere else. It's been great for outings. A lot of the corporate clients have really enjoyed drinking from the Claret Jug (laughter) and it's been very fun having it with me and joining everyone in a sip. So that's been a lot of fun having it. What was the third part?

Q. Just the reaction.

PHIL MICKELSON: I've had a wide range of reactions, and people who really understand golf and appreciate The Open Championship, the Claret Jug, they are shaking when they hold it. It's a really fascinating thing to watch people's reaction to it, especially those that understand the importance of the Claret Jug, how special it is, and that makes it even more enjoyable for me to share that with them.

Q. They didn't drop it, did they?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, no, no.

Q. You first came here in '07, that is right?

PHIL MICKELSON: I believe that was my first year in '07, yes.

Q. Some people can come to a country and play a golf tournament; you seem to kind of invest more than just golf in this country. Can you talk about why and what kind of relationship has come out of that, specifically some of your golf course design.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think we all benefit in the game of golf to see the game grow. Manufacturers benefit, because we sell more equipment. Course designers benefit because they sell more equipment. Players benefit because we have more tournaments. Members of the media benefit because there are more opportunities for coverage, more opportunities for more magazines. I think we all in the sport benefit from the growth of the game, and I believe that China and other parts of Asia are the biggest growth opportunity in the game of golf. And I feel as though we should all help expose the greatness of the game of golf to these parts of the world, and see the game flourish.

I recently completed a golf course here in Shanghai over at Agile, and what I really tried to do there is allow the golfer to play the ball on the ground; to be able to run shots up. As people are being introduced to the game, it's very difficult for them to fly the ball over a bunker, over a hazard and get the ball to stop on the green. And then if they are not able to hit those shots they don't enjoy the game. When I created this golf course here, I was able to make it challenging for the good player by having the difficulty be on and around the greens but giving the average player what I call containment where the ball stays on the ground and works towards the green, rather than being repelled away.

And that's one of the things that I really focused on here in China for a number of reasons. One, I want it to be playable and fun for everyone, and I want the beginner players to enjoy the game of golf and not be pushed away because of it being overly difficult. But I also believe you can make a course great that is playable for the average player and still challenging for got player by having the difficulty be up and around the greens, because I'm still going to play the ball through the air.

Q. What's the name of it?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's called Mickelson International Golf Club at Agile.

Q. Media rate is?

PHIL MICKELSON: Free. (Laughter) But it won't up until April or May. But I was just over there on Monday.

Q. How do you feel about yesterday when you participated in the grand reception when you have to act like a Chinese Asian character; how do you feel about that? Do you know anything about the kind of wardrobe that you are wearing yesterday?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought I made it look good (laughter). Part of my enjoyment for participating in this tournament is some of the cultural experiences we've had, from Tai Chi two years ago to Chinese checkers where I beat Tiger that game (laughter) to table tennis and many of the cultural experiences that China has to offer, we get to get a glimpse, a small amount, and I've enjoyed that.

Q. You talked earlier about this course and how you have a decent game plan for it. What does it demand specifically and what can you maybe get away with a little bit here, if you can give us some examples?

PHIL MICKELSON: I love the greens. I love the bentgrass, the conditions and if you putt I've putted these greens very well. I'm able to read them well and they are very true and consistent, so you can make a lot of putts. That's a big part of the success I've had; I've putted very well here. Also, there is a lot of room to play, even though the fairways might be somewhat tight or reasonable, there's a lot of grass to the sides, and I feel as though it's a very playable course; that I can miss the ball and still be okay, and get the ball up by the green and salvage par if I make a poor swing or two.

Q. When you walked into the room, you were kind of sweating, so what practice have you done this morning? And after last year and coming back to Sheshan for the HSBC Champions, do you see any changes happening in Sheshan? And you've been a good father, good husband and you've got a lot of fans here in China; can you share some more tips for the youngsters in China, particularly in helping them to grow in the development of China golf.

PHIL MICKELSON: I was wondering why it took so long to say what she was saying. I had noticed some change here at Sheshan. The par-5, 14, is a little bit longer than it was last time we were here. But the conditioning and the golf course is very similar. The reason I was sweating so much is I came straight from the driving range where I was practicing and had an hour and ten minute practice session before spending time here. And as tips for junior players, I believe that it's important to develop short game and to practice chipping and putting, because that's such an important part of the game, but also, to swing hard at a young age; to start early trying to hit the ball a long distance. Because as many players before me have told me as I was growing up, it's important to get distance early. You can learn accuracy later but it's difficult to pick up distance and speed as you are older. So it's easier to learn that at a young age; I would say the same thing here.

MODERATOR: Thank you very much for your time and best of luck this week.

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