They Said It: Phil Mickelson At The Tour Championship

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It Was A Nice Way For Phil Mickelson To End His Year On The PGA Tour With A Win In The Tour Championship

courtesy PGA Tour

Following his win in the PGA Tour Championship at East Lake, Phil Mickelson spoke with the media about the victory and what it means especially with the ordeal of his wife Amy and his mother both battling breast cancer.


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: At this time we'd like to welcome the winner of the 2009 TOUR Championship presented by Coca-Cola. Phil Mickelson, congratulations on your 37th career win and you finished second in the FedExCup. Great week for you, especially the last couple of days. Maybe some opening comments about your win this week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, today was a lot of fun. Boy, I really enjoyed it. I thought that it was a tough, challenging day with the wind. I knew that it was going to be difficult for some of the leaders to -- or the group behind me to take off and run, and I felt like if I could just make a couple of birdies here and there, and I played one of the better rounds I played all year.

Q. Just how meaningful was this, given all you've been through the last several months?

PHIL MICKELSON: It means a lot to finish the year off on such a good note. You know, we've been through a lot, and I'm very proud of my wife and my mom on the fight that they've been through, and we've been fortunate in the long-term. We're in good shape. Although day-to-day is tough, and the meds are tough, and it's not easy for them, we're fortunate that our long-term outlook looks good.

So the hardest part was that first month, not knowing, so much uncertainty. But to get -- although we have a long road ahead, to get the first part behind us feels good and to finish this year off with a win feels terrific.

Also, I feel like I have some direction now on where I want to go with my putter. I felt like I've been hitting it this well for quite some time since working with Butch, and yet I have not had the results. So to be able to put it all together from tee to green as well as on the green feels great.

ImageQ. Phil, it's kind of an unusual scene out there on the 18th green with you and Tiger standing next to each other each getting a trophy. Who do you think felt like the bigger winner out there today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, his check was for $10 million. (Laughter.) I thought that it would have been great if I had played better in the first three FedExCup events. I played terrible score-wise. I hit it well, but I didn't get much out of it.

Had I put myself in a position to where we had the entire FedExCup on the line coming down the stretch, that would have been even more exciting. But I felt like the day turned out well.

Q. Going back earlier in the year, obviously you got off to a great start. You played very well. That Masters playing alongside Tiger obviously gave you a lot of confidence; you played very well. The situation with Amy was regrettable in every way, but as you look back on it, do you think in a sense that this was the year that you were primed to really, you know, make a big run at maybe No. 1 or just make a statement?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not really sure where you're going with that question. I think that I'm excited to get 2009 behind me and look forward to 2010. I'm excited about this off-season, to be able to spend more time doing fun things, vacations, what have you, with Amy and the kids, and I'm excited about where my golf game is headed in that I know where my long game is headed with Butch's guidance, and I know where my short game is headed with both Daves' guidance, and I'm excited about what 2010 brings.

Q. You mentioned Tiger taking home the $10 million check. Do you agree with the way the system is right now? Do you like how the format works out? Do you think it's the right format, or should there be some changes and some more tweaks in the future?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I don't know enough about it. I know that if you play well, you win. If you play well, you do well, and I think that's important. I don't know, I haven't really invested the time to look at it. I just know that if I play well, things will work out.

I didn't play well the first three FedExCup events; I don't deserve to win the entire FedExCup just based on one tournament win. It's got to be based on all four. So the way it worked out so far this year, it seems like it's just. The best player won, the guy who played the best in all four events won, and I liked the fact that I was able to make up extra ground here in the final event.

Q. We've been able to just piece together that things are going as well as they can be expected at home. I'd just be curious what it's been like the last two months since Amy came with you so often to tournaments, what it's been like to leave family behind and go back in terms of preparation, week, focus, all that stuff?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's been different not having them travel. We had already made kind of a conscious decision to not travel as much this year because of so many after-school activities. But still, they were planning on coming out to certain events.

I'm hoping that she'll come out, just her and I, to a number of events and have kind of a date, if you will, for the week. But it's been a transition year. But we were going to have a bit of that transition, whether the year went the way it did or not.
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Q. Did it affect your focus at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that that had anything to do with my play. I mean, my play has been like this for two years. I'll have some good weeks where I'll putt well, and I've won a couple tournaments each year. But it hasn't been as consistently solid on the greens as I expect or as it has been in the past. So that's why I'm excited now is that I feel like I have the right direction to get that back.

Q. And what led you to Stockton?

PHIL MICKELSON: Bones' idea. Bones came up with a great idea. I said, "Bones, for two years, I've been kind of floundering here not having the right direction. I want you to think about it."

He came back the next day, and he said, "I think you should call Dave Stockton. You guys putt the same. You've talked to him in the past and he had some great ideas."

He happened to be in San Diego that week with the LPGA, and he was the first one to articulate with my hands getting ahead. How many times have I heard you forward press too much. He says, "Nobody will putt as well as you and I with our hands like that because we're leading with the back of our hand." Other guys can putt other ways, but this is the best way to putt. Once he said that, I said, yeah, that's right, I've always believed that. So I went back to it, and it's been a night and day difference for me.

Q. Is that what you said outside scoring, best idea you've ever had?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think it was, yeah. He's had some good ones, too, over the years.

Q. I wonder if you've ever had a victory that you feel like is easier to share with so many people than this one and just maybe the emotional uplift for the whole family.

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I mean, I don't know how to answer that. I've got a lot of things kind of going through my mind.

I talked to Amy. She had a great day hanging out with her friends. They ditched the Girl Scout meeting and hung out together watching it. So they're excited. I'm excited to get home and see her and see the kids. I'm excited to have a week off. I'm excited to go on some dates and spend time with her and the kids.

It's been an interesting time because these last two months we've played a lot of golf, and we're nearing the off-season. I've got a lot of people that I'm appreciative of, not just the guys who've helped me with my golf swing, but the doctors that have spent their lives doing their work and specializing in their field to save so many people's lives, my wife and mom included, and all the clinical trials that women have been a part of to be able to get the kind of information we have now.

I don't know even where to start or finish. I've got a lot of things going through my mind, but it just feels great to finally get my golf game up and going a little bit.

Q. You played almost a flawless round of golf today. I don't think anybody else shot lower than 67, and I don't think you missed maybe one tee shot and maybe one iron approach today. Talk about playing that well under these circumstances, particularly on a Sunday when you're trying to win a tournament like this.

ImagePHIL MICKELSON: I know that it seems to be a rarity. I understand that. However, I've actually been hitting it like this for quite some time, but I just have not been getting the results because I haven't been getting it on the greens.

I'll hit 5-irons from 200 yards, a great shot, maybe 10-, 12-, 15-feet and just not ever make any, and instead of getting momentum for the way I've been playing, I've been walking off feeling dejected.

So to see some putts go in, it just changed the way I looked at it. Even when I was throwing -- playing hockey there on 13 the Thursday, you know, slapping the ball all around the green, I still felt much better about my game and I was excited about playing even though I wasn't getting out of my round on Thursday what I should have, just because I feel I'm starting to make some more putts.

Q. Talk about the emotion you had when you chipped in on 16. That was a double fist pump there. You looked like you really were satisfied. Did you know when you made that, that that was probably going to be the tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: I knew that was big. That gave me a three-shot lead. But I had a terrible lie. Here I am 15 feet from the hole after hitting a great second shot after a salty little pin in the back right, and I end up with that lie and to make that shot was unbelievable. That ball could have shot off any direction, and it shot off in the hole. That was nice.

Q. What did you hit there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a 64-degree wedge.

Q. It's been said that golf at this level is never better than when you're on and pushing and challenging Tiger like you did today. As a sports fan, did you see where we're coming from with that, or do you buy into that?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I like the way today went. I was two back of him, I beat him by three. He gets the $10 million check and I get the $1 million. I've got no problem with that, I just love holding this finally.

Q. Are you going to continue to work with Dave Stockton?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm planning on it, yeah.

It didn't feel new to me. These changes were not new; they were just putting like I normally do, and because of that I was able to put it in play, put it up in competition right away, just a couple of days later and be able to work with it. So that was why -- normally it would take some time.

Q. You said you worked with him for two days. Was it long days --

PHIL MICKELSON: No, just a couple hours.

Q. Did it click right away?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.

Q. You had four birdies there on the front nine. Which one of those holes gave you the most momentum going into the back?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's hard to single out each one because I needed one to get me going. I needed a birdie early to get me going, so that 15-footer I made on 3 was pretty big.

But the putt I made on 4 was just as big because I hit a poor wedge shot in there to 30 feet, and when I made that putt, the whole rest of the round I didn't feel as though I had to attack some of these tucked pins. I felt like if I hit in the middle of the green 30 feet, I could make it. And I almost did; I almost made a bunch more.

But the one on 8 was a tap-in, so the one on 9 where I hit a good drive and a 5-iron over the green, and to hit -- I had a tough lie and hit a decent chip but it was 12 feet. I really needed to make a birdie on that par-5 to not give back any ground. That was a critical one, as well. They were all important, but the first one and the second one seemed to get me going.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil, thank you, and congratulations.
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