Mickelson Ready to Go in China


Though still carrying disappointment on his sleeve from the U.S.A.'s loss in the 2012 Ryder Cup, Phil Mickelson returns to competition this week. The 42-year-old four-time major champion will be teeing it up Thursday in the opening round of the $7 million, WGC-HSBC Champions on the Olazabal Course at Mission Hills Golf Club in Guangdong, China.

He'll be paired in the first round with Lee Westwood and Francesco Molinari, who were both members of the European Ryder Cup squad that made a stunning comeback against the Americans at Medinah Country Club near Chicago.

Mickelson said he still hasn't gotten over the Americans' blowing a 10-6 lead entering Sunday's singles matches and falling to the Europeans 14˝ to 13˝.

"I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career," he told reporters Wednesday. "It was a very emotional time because we really thought we were going to win. We expected to win; we were playing well; we thought that we were going to do it on Sunday. It was one of the biggest disappointments that I've had to deal with throughout my career.

"I think that the disappointment will last a lot longer than a month. I still feel disappointed from it. I still feel that over the next two years, we'll still have the same disappointment from not winning this year's Ryder Cup."

Here's what else "Lefty" had to say about the Ryder Cup as well as the HSBC Champions tournament during a Q&A with the media from Mission Hills.

MODERATOR: Want to thank Phil Mickelson for joining us here in the media certainty at the World Golf Championships HSBC Champions, a past winner of this event. I know you've been out and played the course, so initial thoughts on coming to the course for the first time and the facilities.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think this is a wonderful golf course. I played the course for the first time this morning, Keegan and I played a practice round, really enjoyed it. Thought it was fun to play. Great mixture of holes and challenges. The greens are very fair, and I think it's going to be a fun course. It's fun for us to come here to China to compete in the WGC HSBC Champions and it's got World Golf Championships status, and it's also exciting that it will be part of official money and status on the PGA Tour starting next year, too.

Q. We have noticed that you've been training and giving advice; through the training process, how do you feel about the golf of China in the future?

PHIL MICKELSON: I saw some young players today that we worked on bunker shots, and their golf games are tremendous at such a young age that we are seeing a lot of progress now with young junior golfers. I think that in 15, 20 years is when we'll start to see the Chinese golf professionals be very strong, but I think it will take some time, because only in the last five years have they really been training properly in a large number to be competitive on the big stages of professional golf.

Q. At the Ryder Cup, do you guys from the American Team get back together to review the strategy and other stuff from the Ryder Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. (Laughter).

Q. Since this is your first time I think back playing since the Ryder Cup, most of the guys I talked to afterwards have had different ways that they have dealt with how long it took for them to shake off what happened on Sunday. Just talk about how it was for you, how long it took to kind of shake this off and your thoughts about what happened on Sunday as you've had a chance to reflect on it maybe a month later?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the first two weeks following the Ryder Cup was a really tough low, one of the biggest lows of my career. It was a very emotional time because we really thought we were going to win. We expected to win; we were playing well; we thought that we were going to do it on Sunday. It was one of the biggest disappointments that I've had to deal with throughout my career. I think that the disappointment will last a lot longer than a month. I still feel disappointed from it. I still feel that over the next two years, we'll still have the same disappointment from not winning this year's Ryder Cup.

Looking back, though there, was some good that came from it in that I had a great couple of days playing with Keegan as a partner. We played some good golf early on. And I saw some things where I can improve my game and I have this new kind of excitement and energy that Keegan has, and it's rubbed off on me and I am excited to play and work and practice. I'm excited to drive the ball - I saw an opportunity to where if I could drive the ball the way Keegan did, I would really have some opportunities and chances to do something special in my career and have some of my best finishes. Because when we played alternate shot and I was hitting the ball from the middle of the fairway way down there, we were shooting some low scores. I'm excited about working on my own game and seeing what areas I can improve on from the Ryder Cup.

Q. Were you in touch with Keegan in those two weeks, and did he need any reminding of how well he played, because he was obviously one of the stars of the Ryder Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: Did he need a reminder?

Q. In a consolation way, if you see what I mean. There was a guy that played so well and really didn't deserve to be on the losing team and if he was taking it badly.

PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. We really weren't. We all kind of dealt with the loss in our own way. We sent a couple of texts but unrelated to the Ryder Cup. That's about it.

Q. What sort of feeling or result do HSBC events and WGC events and what sort of platform have you created out of it, this tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: I started playing the HSBC Champions in 2007, and won in 2007, 2009. It was a great opportunity for me to learn about China; to come over here and experience the culture and bring my family. It was an opportunity to see that golf is becoming - is growing in China; that the young players are more talented, more and more talented each year and will hopefully have a stronger presence on the professional tour soon; and that the opportunity to bring great golf to China in course design this year. And because I've enjoyed coming here so much, I've tried to take advantage of those opportunities and I have a couple of courses that are opening and will be opening shortly.

Q. What sort of upcoming play is for you in the future in China?

PHIL MICKELSON: I will continue to do more course design, and the PGA Tour is having regular Tour events in China next year that count for our FedEx Cup list. And so I plan on playing here a couple times each year, and on those trips, I'll plan on spending time in Kunming, in Beijing, Shanghai, hopefully Shenzhen and continue to build golf courses and golf academies to help bring proper instruction here, too.

Q. It is the first time you've come to play at this Olazábal course; which hole do you think is more memorable for you, and for strategy wise, what sort of strategy will be more important, like the short game, the long game or putting or whatever?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the short game is the most important part of the game, because more shots are played from inside 50 yards than from outside 50 yards. Here on the Olazábal course, the 15th hole I believe is the most interesting hole that gives a player many ways to play. It's also a very important hole to the tournament's final result, because it's an important birdie. You need to make a 4 there to be on top of the lead, if you want to win here.

Q. How do you feel the difference between playing the same event in Shanghai and here in Shenzhen Dongguan?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoyed our first time in Shanghai, but I think this golf course is wonderful, too. Our major championships, with the exception of the Masters, moves to different cities every year. So the fact that the golf tournament is moving is nothing different than what we have amongst all of the big major championships in golf. This is a great site with a great golf course to host it.

Q. You obviously help kids in America and help them here; what would be the dishes if you had a party of ten Americans and ten Chinese children, what would be the difference in how they would listen and how they would apply themselves?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought that the juniors that I just spent a few minutes with today had great golf swings and were able to make the little adjustments that I recommended, and then hit the shot that was needed. It's that type of ability to learn quickly with proper instruction is a sign of a good young player that can go a long ways in the game. Because the key to being a professional is getting better every year, and their ability to learn and pick things up quickly was very impressive, very similar to what I see in the States and other parts of the world.

Q. Any differences in terms of attitudes?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, just the language barrier. But we had great translation, so they were able to implement the changes very easily. To hit a high, soft shot out of the bunker, out of a deep faced bunker that they were hitting, those are hard shots, and every one of them was able to hit it in the end.

MODERATOR: Thank you, Phil. Good luck this week.

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


CBS Sports Official Partner