Phil Mickelson: “I love to compete, I love playing the game”
05/24/2021 by Elena Reiter
Phil Mickelson aufter the PGA Championship 2021. (Image: Getty)
Q. Can you share your emotions about such an historic day and what inside of you made you keep the belief that this could happen again?
PHIL MICKELSON: It’s been an incredible day, and I’ve not let myself kind of think about the results until now, now that it’s over. I’ve tried to stay more in the present and at the shot at hand and not jump ahead and race. I’ve tried to shut my mind to a lot of stuff going around. I wasn’t watching TV. I wasn’t getting on my phone. I was just trying to quiet things down because I’ll get my thoughts racing and I really just tried to stay calm.
I believed for a long time that I could play at this level again. I didn’t see why I couldn’t, but I wasn’t executing the way I believed I could, and with the help of a lot of people, my wife especially, Andrew Getson and my brother Tim and Steve Loy, I’ve been able to make progress and have this week.
It’s very exciting because I’ve had a few breakthroughs on being able to stay more present, be able to stay more focused, and physically, I’m striking it and playing as well as I ever have but I haven’t been able to see that clear picture.
Although I believed it, until I actually did it, there was a lot of doubt, I’m sure.
Q. Over the last several years, as the age crept up, you never really let that get in the way. You always downplayed it, actually tried to dismiss it, probably. How did you do that? I mean, certainly, you know the history that it doesn’t work out as much at this point. What did you do?
PHIL MICKELSON: Worked harder, is the deal. I just had to work harder physically to be able to practice as long as I wanted to and I’ve had to work a lot harder to be able to maintain focus throughout a round. That’s been the biggest challenge of late.
My desire to play is the same. I’ve never been driven by exterior things. I’ve always been intrinsically motivated because I love to compete, I love playing the game. I love having opportunities to play against the best at the highest level. That’s what drives me, and I think that that’s what is — the belief that I could still do it inspired me to work harder.
I just didn’t see why it couldn’t be done. It just took a little bit more effort.
Q. You’re going to have so many stories when your career is over to your grandkids. How would you describe this day to them, do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly one of the moments I’ll cherish my entire life. I don’t know how to describe the feeling of excitement and fulfillment and accomplishment to do something when — you know, of this magnitude when very few people thought that I could. But the people that believed in me, my wife, Amy, Tim and Andrew Getson, those are the people that continued to inspire me to get the best out of me.
Q. You’ll be remembered for a lot of achievements and one of them now is an old guy who broke records. What does that mean to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: So it’s very possible that this is the last tournament I ever win. Like if I’m being realistic. But it’s also very possible that I may have had a little bit of a breakthrough in some of my focus and maybe I go on a little bit of a run, I don’t know.
But the point is that there’s no reason why I or anybody else can’t do it at a later age. It just takes a little bit more work.
Q. You’ve mentioned him a few times, but can you talk some more about your relationship with Andrew Getson and what he’s done to get you here?
PHIL MICKELSON: So he is a tremendous instructor because of his ability to simplify it. He has helped get my swing on plane from parallel to the ground. Obviously I have a long swing but rather than try to change that when it’s halfway down, halfway through, you know, it’s on a track and he helped me get there and develop and refine my feel and touch and simplify it. He doesn’t cloud my head with a lot of things.
When he’s out here with me, he’s able to keep me on track right away if I make a few errors. His guidance has been invaluable, really, to get me back to playing at the highest level because I was striking it very poorly when we started working together years ago, and I had a great performance at the 2016 Open Championship where I lost to Henrik Stenson.
But he’s really helped me get my ball-striking back and as I’m starting to focus a little bit better. You’re starting to see the results, but he has been getting my swing there for some time now.
Q. You’ve given credit to your brother for his role. Can you share a story of something he did today or even along the way?
PHIL MICKELSON: I’ll tell you a perfect example, and this is an intangible that makes him relatable or understand me, get the best out of me and makes him a great caddie is I’m walking off 6, I had made some uncommitted swings the first six holes. I had been striking the ball awesome the first three days. I had a wonderful warm up session, like I was ready to go and I made some uncommitted swings the first six holes. He pulled me aside and said, “If you’re going to win this thing, you’re going to have to make committed golf swings.”
It hit me in the head, I can’t make passive — I can’t control the outcome, I have to swing committed. The first one I made was the drive on 7. Good drive on 7 gave me a chance to get down by the green and make birdie. From there on, I hit a lot of really good shots because I was committed to each one.
Q. I just have two questions. One quickly, I know you can’t think of it at 5 holing out of the bunker, but when you look back on that, that just seemed like a moment where it’s meant to be for you to some degree. You probably are not thinking that at that moment, but thinking now, is that one of those things that happens in a round that maybe is a sign?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly it was a momentum builder. It was a little bit early in the round to start jumping ahead because, you know, so much can happen. It was only the fifth hole but that was a big momentum thing.
Biggest thing was getting it up-and-down. I just didn’t want to throw away another shot and I had fought hard to keep the round in check and I was still 1-over through four. So that — I just needed to get that up-and-down and to have it go in was a bonus but I knew I had a lot of work ahead.
Q. Does this forge your belief even more, all the focus and what you’ve done these four rounds that you’ve talked so much about, trying to keep the focus? How does that help you for The Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: I’ve believed for some time now without success that I could play at my best and compete in major championships still, but until this week, I haven’t proven it to myself or anyone else.
But I do believe that I believe that if I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines. I’ll take two weeks off before that and go out to Torrey and spend time, spend time on the greens and really try to be sharp for that week because I know that I’m playing well and this could very well be my last really good opportunity, although I get five more, but really good opportunity to win a U.S. Open. SO I’m going to put everything I have into it.
Q. Can you describe the scene on 18 and did you think you would ever see Brooks after he got swallowed up by the crowd?
PHIL MICKELSON: It’s an incredible experience. I’ve never had something like that. It was a little bit unnerving but it was exceptionally awesome, too. So that was kind of a special moment that I’ll be appreciative of the way that people here have supported me and the entire tournament.
Q. The last couple days in here, you seemed drained. Were you, and how different physically and mentally did this week feel than when you won majors when you were younger?
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly it takes a lot out of me. It takes a lot out of me. Like last night I didn’t have enough sunlight to work on the things I wanted to. I wanted to work on some putting and work on a few shots that I hit before this round and I didn’t want to let it go all the way till this morning. And because we finished so late, I just didn’t have a lot of time.
Certainly takes more energy out of me. But if I work a little harder, spend a little more time in the gym, eat well, practice hard, there’s no reason why I can’t put it all out there for 18 holes.
Q. Can you talk about what happened with the driving iron before the round and how that might have impacted you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Little things happen, but yesterday, I hit a couple of squirrelly shots on 12 and 13 and the face on my 2-wood flattened. Fortunately I had a backup head and swapped it out and hit it great today.
As I was teeing off today my 2-iron face cracked. I mean, just you can’t swing it as hard as I hit it and not expect them to crack — I’m kidding.
Tim noticed when I put it back that it had cracked across the face. It happens. In fact, if it doesn’t happen, you start to question the manufacturer, hey, aren’t we making this as hot as we can. It’s certainly part of it, but fortunately I had a 4-wood that’s a very comparable club to that 1-iron distance-wise and I was able to use that club effectively. I used it off 3 tee, 4 tee. There was a few times that I hit it and I hit that club very well.
It’s just one of those things that happens and you just have to be prepared for it, which is why I bring backup clubs out here.
Q. What do you call it?
PHIL MICKELSON: I call it both. I have a 4-iron and then I have that iron so it’s a one, two, three, whatever you want to call it.
Q. Can you talk about the back and forth that happened over the first five holes? As we were watching it, it seemed like a heavyweight fight. What was the experience for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was not as steady as I had been. I just made a couple uncommitted swings and it led to some inconsistencies in scores because those first four or five holes — those first four holes are not that hard. 1 is downwind, if you hit a decent shot it’s a sand wedge in. 2 I think I hit a 2-wood off the tee and a 4-iron in. You should birdie those holes. 3 was drivable and I played them, you know, over par, so I was just not making committed swings.
And I think Brooks had a couple poor swings, too, and we just weren’t steady. But we seemed to steady it out a little later.
Q. Earlier this week you mentioned some of the brain training and longer meditation sessions. What other breakthroughs did you find?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just the ability to kind of quiet my mind and get rid of all the exterior noise. That’s kind of been the biggest — I don’t want to get all spiritual but that’s kind of been the biggest thing for me.
Q. What was the best shot you thought you hit today and how does this win inspire younger golfers that may have grown up watching you and now believing that they can have a long career?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a couple of good shots on the back. I thought the 7-iron into 10 was really good because I had to start that ball out over the bunker at the bunker’s edge and made that birdie putt there. So that was a big swing.
And I made some good tee shots on 15 and 16. Those were really good swings, too.
But there’s no reason why the game of golf can’t be the game for a lifetime. And if you take care of your body and do it the right way, and now with the exercise physiology and technology that’s out there like with TPI and everything, that you can work out the right way to get your body to function right and play golf for a lifetime, so I’m appreciative of that.
Q. That scene on 18, did you allow yourself to enjoy that? I mean, I know you’ve still got the hole to finish, but you hit a great shot from back there, but could you for a moment or two take that in?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, like I’ve never had that experience, and to see that kind of — to feel that kind of excitement and enthusiasm was — and be at the forefront of that was pretty special. That’s a moment I’ll always, always cherish.
Q. When we were all younger, you watched Greg Norman and Tom Watson have opportunities in their 50s to win Open Championships back then. When you saw those back then, did anything in the back of your mind think that, yeah, you know what, it will be normal competing for major championships when I’m there?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn’t see why — I mean, I thought the 2009 Open Championship performance by Tom Watson was the greatest — one of the greatest sporting performances, and he hit a perfect second shot, too. He couldn’t land it any better and it still went over. It was one of the greatest performances in the sport. And it’s inspiring, yeah, to see people like that do it.
And I hope that this inspires some to just put in that little extra work, because first of all, there’s no reason why you can’t accomplish your goals at an older age. It just takes a little more work.
Q. On 17 when you backed off the tee, was it the wind or did a particular thought cross your mind?
PHIL MICKELSON: As I was standing over, it I didn’t feel right-to-left. I felt almost the wind go straight down left-to-right, and I’m playing close to the pin and letting it work away. And if I had a left-to-right pin that wasn’t going to be the right shot or line.
So it didn’t feel right as I was over it and I started to have doubt and it just didn’t feel right, so I backed away. But that’s was what I was sensing. It just wasn’t — my senses weren’t feeling what I was anticipating or expected.
Q. You talk about the amount of work it takes at this age to keep going. What’s the biggest thing you’ve had to give up, sacrifice or miss out on in recent years when other guys are able to enjoy certain things in life?
PHIL MICKELSON: Food. (Laughter.) Yeah, I’ve got to eat a lot less and I’ve got to eat better. I just can’t eat as much and I have to let my body kind of recover. But it’s also been a blessing for me because I feel better and I don’t have inflammation and I wake up feeling good.
It’s been a sacrifice worth making.
(PGA Championship Pressconference, Source: ASAP Sports)
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