Mickelson Set to Start New Season in Malaysia


Phil Mickelson is making his 2013-14 season debut in the Far East. The five-time major champion will tee it up Thursday in the opening round of the CIMB Classic. The $7 million event is taking place at Kuala Lumpur Golf & Country Club in Malaysia.

Mickelson will be playing alongside defending champion Nick Watney and Thailand's Kiradech Aphibarnrat. On Wednesday, Mickelson discussed the tournament, his initial visit to Malaysia and what he's expecting in his first tournament of the year. Here's what "Lefty" had to say.

MODERATOR: We want to welcome Phil Mickelson here to the interview room at the CIMB Classic. I know you're excited, your first visit to this tournament, I believe your first visit to Malaysia, as well. Maybe some opening comments on your experience so far here in Kuala Lumpur.

PHIL MICKELSON: I've had a great few days here. I had a wonderful bus tour of the city of Kuala Lumpur. It's a beautiful area. Had an up close look at some of the milestones in the city. It was spectacular, and I'm enjoying my time here. The golf course is a great test of golf. It's difficult, it's challenging, and I think it will be a wonderful host for this event.

MODERATOR: It's great for you to be here, but it's also an official PGA Tour event for the first time, enabling you to get a start and get some FedEx Cup points early in the season. Talk about that opportunity.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think having this tournament be part of the FedEx Cup gives it a lot of credibility and world class golf here in Malaysia. I think it is a great statement, and we're all appreciative of CIMB bringing world class golf here to Malaysia.

Q. You've done everything that needs to be done now, you've touched the Claret Jug, you've traveled a lot. What's the motive that you have now, Ryder Cup victory? Where do you see your future?

PHIL MICKELSON: I love what I do. I love competing. I've always been a competitive person by nature, and I love the opportunity to compete in golf at the highest level. I have over the last 20 years of playing the Tour, I have learned more and more each year, and this past year I've had some wonderful things happen to me that have helped me play some of my best golf. And whether it's driving the ball off the tee, getting the ball in play so I can compete well in the U.S. and British Opens, whether it's putting and certain keys on putting, I've had a phenomenal putting here. I'm starting to drive the ball better than I ever have, and I'm excited about upcoming years because I'm starting to play some really good golf again. I love to compete. It's just that I love what I do.

Q. I just looked at the FedEx Cup points that just started. There are two Asian players in the top 10. Now, superstars like you coming to Malaysia, there must be a rub off on this. Can you expand about what you feel about the future of golf in this region?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know why there would be, as you quote, a rub off. I don't understand that. I think it's great to see good world class golf taking place in Asia, and we've had some great young players, Matsuyama san who played in the Presidents Cup is a very talented golfer, very young and has a great game, and we have players from Korea there with K.J. Choi. I've seen some good young players from China coming through the ranks, although they haven't quite hit the Tour yet, and we have a great player Aphibarnrat who I'm playing with tomorrow. It's great to see good players coming out all over Asia and competing against the best players in the world and giving the game of golf a lot of credibility in these countries.

Q. You talked about your schedule somewhat this year. Are we going to be seeing you more in Asia?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure exactly how the schedule is going to play out this next year. I just feel as I look back on my career there are certain tournaments that change the way I view my career, and winning the British Open did that for me this year. I want to give myself opportunities to play and compete in the big tournaments, mainly saying the majors, and I'm putting less importance on other events. So my whole purpose and focus will be gearing up, participating in certain tournaments that will help me play well in those majors. So a tournament that is taking place two months prior or after a major championship that has no impact on my ability to perform well in a major, those are tournaments that I won't put as much importance on.

Q. So one of those tournaments would be - the primary goal this season would be the U.S. Open, wouldn't it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Of course it would be. There's no hiding the fact that winning the U.S. Open would be my career goal of completing the career Grand Slam, and that's the final leg that I have. I'll be putting most of my focus into winning the U.S. Open, but I'm not going to skip the Masters and the importance that that event has because every green jacket is meaningful to me, as much as I love that tournament.

Q. But we'll still get to see you in Asia at some point?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would envision yes. I just don't know how it's going to play out right now. I know that I'm going to start cutting a certain percentage of events next year, and I'm not sure which ones those will be.

Q. You played with Matsuyama san yesterday; is that correct?

PHIL MICKELSON: We played one hole, yes. We caught up on the last hole.

Q. Could you say how important it is for young players to practice with experienced players like you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I had a chance to play with Matsuyama san at the British Open the first two rounds. He's a wonderful player. Having him be on the Presidents Cup team and being able to spend all week with some of the best players throughout the world is a great experience that will help guide him into directions where he needs to spend time practicing to get better as well as showing off how good he is already.

Q. What about the heat? How are conditions like? And what are your expectations where you want to finish?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't mind the heat at all. I actually enjoy it. I feel that it's much easier on your body when it's warm like this. The muscles become looser and perform better, and I think that the golf ball performs better in warm conditions, and I think that the heat is helpful to the golfers to play well. The golf course is difficult, though. The greens are not holding very well, and that's making it difficult for guys to get the ball close to the hole. I don't think the scores will be that low. I think this is a very difficult test. The rough is extremely thick and difficult around the greens, and I think it's a hard test. I'm optimistic that I'll play well.

MODERATOR: Phil, good luck this week.

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


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