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Phil Thrilled to Play Royal Melbourne
Phil Mickelson considers Royal Melbourne Golf Club, site of this week's Presidents Cup, one of best places in the world. The venerable links has a regular place among the world's top-100 courses.
In comments he made Tuesday, Mickelson - who's been a member of every American team in the Presidents Cup dating back to the first matches in 1994 - believes the five Australians on the opposing International squad will have a hometown advantage, considering their knowledge of the course and with what will assuredly be a loud and supportive gallery.
"It's a real challenge for us to play here, because we are playing such a strong team, the International team has a lot of great players, a lot of great Australian players, and the people here are so supportive of the game of golf and so supportive of the Australian players that it's challenging for us to play well here," Mickelson said.
"But we feel that the people have treated us great, and will continue to do so and we are really excited about being here."
That course knowledge was borne out in 1998 when the International team logged its first - and only - win in the Presidents Cup when it was also held at Royal Melbourne.
The event will take place on a "composite" layout that uses 12 holes from the Alister MacKenzie-designed West course and six from the Alex Russell-designed East course.
During his media session, Mickelson not only discussed the course and the Americans' opponents but other issues as well. When asked whether he's interested in becoming a captain of a future Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup team, he responded, "I haven't really thought about it."
Here's what Lefty had to say during his Q&A at Royal Melbourne.
PHIL MICKELSON: This is one of the best courses we play, an Alister MacKenzie design, and Royal Melbourne is one of the courses that rises to the top. We are fortunate to play here, the greens are in great shape and they are challenging, reminds me of Augusta years ago where the greens were this quick and this firm, and so challenging to get the ball close.
Q. What were your memories from '98? What sort of advice have you offered your teammates in light of that experience this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how that really is going to help in any way here this week. It's a whole different International Team, a whole different U.S. Team, and the golf course is playing so differently than it did back then. Really it's such a spectacular place to play, and I think that it's actually -- even though it's not the longest of courses, it's very challenging, it's very hard to get the ball close to make birdies.
Q. What's different from '98?
PHIL MICKELSON: The firmness of the greens is one of the biggest, but if we look back to '98, it was really before the golf ball had a huge jump in distance, so it played much longer back in '98.
Q. Given the way the results have panned out over the years, what would it mean to you guys to win away, to win an away title, obviously not on home soil?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, we have done pretty well in this competition, and we have been able to do okay at home and away, but the only time we have lost at all is right here in Royal Melbourne, and it's a real challenge for us to play here, because we are playing such a strong team, the International Team has a lot of great players, a lot of great Australian players, and the people here are so supportive of the game of golf and so supportive of the Australian players that it's challenging for us to play well here. But we feel that the people have treated us great, and will continue to do so and we are really excited about being here.
Q. How is the mindset when you're home, against coming here, traveling the distance and taking on the crowd -
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really understand where you're going with that.
Q. Against playing at home and the advantages of playing at home, how much harder is it to travel down under and come here and take on not only the course but a crowd that will be supporting the Internationals.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think because most of the guys have come down here already, traveled to Asia, parts of Asia, parts of Australia to play and compete and get adjusted to the time as well as get their game sharp, I do expect the U.S. Team to put on a good challenge. Certainly I would expect them to be the favorite because of their home course knowledge, as well as the home course support, but we are going to try to make a good run.
Q. Did Freddie explain the clothing, the green and gold? Did he explain it to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Fred has got rhyme and reason for everything he does. I haven't asked him. I just go along with whatever he says.
Q. Well, they are Aussie colors, green and gold, and they are going to be auctioned off to raise money?
PHIL MICKELSON: Cool. Very cool.
Q. I think you're 12th on the U.S. Money List, not where we are used to seeing you.
PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited about playing golf in 2012 and getting started and excited about having some time in the off-season to work on my game. I feel there were areas in 2011 I did better than ever, but there were areas that I had a weakness and I'll have to try to improve those but I'm really looking forward to playing. I feel good physically. I feel good mentally and I'm excited to compete in 2012.
Q. How significant is it for you individually that you decided to come down so late to adjust to the time -
PHIL MICKELSON: Actually, you're wrong. I did, I competed in Singapore and went over to Shanghai for a couple of days. So I've been here in this part of the world for some time. There's only a three-hour time change from Singapore.
Q. So you think that's sufficient, for the time zone -
PHIL MICKELSON: I do.
Q. Freddie said he would leave advice to the rookies to the veterans like you and Tiger; have you spoken to the rookies and what might you say to them?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really think it matters if you've played on a team or not. We have guys that play spectacular and I think guys that are playing well. If you play well you are going to play well whether it's a PGA Tour event or whether it's the Presidents Cup or next year's Ryder Cup, what have you. I think it's just more important how the guys are playing rather than what they are playing in. But we want to make it fun for everybody. We want everybody to feel comfortable and excited to be here and enjoy their time, not only on the golf course but off it, as well and we are having some fun times in the team room, too.
Q. 18 Cups, that's what Fred said for you. You were a math major, I know.
PHIL MICKELSON: We skipped a year in 2001 and I'm not sure how many it's added up since '94 but every year but '01.
Q. Can you just talk about that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I really enjoy it, I enjoy the team events. I enjoy the relationships that are involved. I enjoy the Match Play format and I enjoy playing four-ball and foursomes and these are events that I've come to really appreciate and enjoy and look forward to.
Q. As a veteran of so many national teams, what's your formula besides playing well on the golf course to be a good teammate?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that you want to have similar style of play in foursomes. You want to have opposing style of play in four-ball. You want to have a similar type of demeanor, if you can match that up, because it seems to lead to a little bit better energy, a little bit better momentum throughout the day. That historically has kind of worked well if you can get all three to fit.
Q. Is there a singles opponent you would particularly like to take on this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nobody stands out. I mean, I'm sure that any match, whether it's myself or any other player, we are going to be wanting to win just as bad as any other.
Q. How would you measure the progress of this event from '94 when you first played on it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the Presidents Cup since 1994 has helped to promote and grow the game more internationally and create more international interest and I think that's been a really good thing. The excitement level amongst the people here in Australia has been one of the highest that I've seen, and the support that we are having this week is pretty impressive. So I think this event has been important to the growth of the game.
Q. Some of the International Team members playing for a long time in the event this year are here are really desperate to get it back after so long, do you get the feeling that the American Team -
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't know if we feel -- how we feel about that.
Q. There's been a lot made of the potential match up of Adam Scott and Tiger Woods. Knowing Tiger as you do, what do you think he's going to make of that and what do you make of that? Obviously there's been a lot of story lines around that particular combination.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think every point is important but I don't think any point is any -- any one point is more important than another.
Q. Do you think the politics of golf could get in the way of anything like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: So, I mean, I appreciate how you're trying to steer me down that road, it's pretty cool, but no thank you. (Laughter).
Q. It looks like on paper the American Team is a little longer, the course is not very long out there, there's a lot of drivable par 4s, but is that an advantage for you guys?
PHIL MICKELSON: The par-4s may be reachable but they are really not drivable. It's more important to set up your approach shot, get the correct angle, given that the ball won't stop as quickly, angles are much more important this week, much like a British Open where you want to have the ability to land the ball 30, 40, 50 feet short and let it release back to the hole. So getting the ball actually on the surface of holes that are reachable is not really feasible or probable I would say out here. Creating better angles and shorter shots here is probably more important than trying to get it on.
Q. Have you given much thought to the idea of being captain one day, whether this or the Ryder Cup?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't really thought about it, no.
The transcript for the above interview is courtesy of ASAP Sports.