Phil Mickelson Interview

Wed, Jul 7, 2010

Betting News

I was lucky enough to interview Phil Mickelson live on ATR today and thoroughly enjoyed it. Not only was he a real gent to chat to he gave some pretty interesting insights too. My thanks to my ATR colleague Dave Duggan for organising the interview which came via the good offices of well known racehorse owner Richard Ricci (Mikael d’Haguenet, Pomme Tiepy, Blackstairmountain etc) who also happens to be the boss at Barclays Capital. Terrific to get Phil on the channel and a real privilege to chat to him. I thought I’d post on here some of the key points I took from our chat.

Mickelson is clearly in terrific heart this year having won the Masters and gone very close in the US Open and his confidence is very high. He believes he’s a better player than in 2004, when he came here on the back of very similar form to go within a shot at Royal Troon. He told me he has worked a lot with Butch Harmon on his swing, especially his driving. Whilst acknowledging he’s still not the straightest driver in the World, he said ‘I feel like I’m hitting a lot more fairways’ and also argued that even when he’s off line he’s not far off line.

For a man who regularly hits the ball 300 yards from the tee this increased accuracy could be a very big factor. Examining his playing stats it’s clear that he is often wide of the fairway with his driver but  it’s equally clear that he has few peers when it comes to finding his target from the rough. If Phil is right that he is more likely to be in the first cut or so these days then that second shot accuracy is going to be a huge boon to his scoring.

He specifically argued that this will be a plus for him at St Andrews. He feels that he already plays St Andrews well but his confidence is further boosted by the fact that he thinks he can get the ball back into play from most situations at this historic course. He, rather surprisingly, compared it to Augusta in that his flexibility and creativity with second/approach shots will come into its own.

Another intersting insight in terms of how he intends to play St Andrews was his professed willingness to use his driver from the tee. Many players will be reaching for irons off many tees in order to place the ball inside, or indeed short of, the infamous pot bunkers that line the fairways. Mickelson told me he intends to take many of these out of play by driving ‘very high and very long’.  He is confident that by doing this he can land the ball on the fairway beyond or on adjacent fairways or benign rough and then play on from there and attack the greens. It’s a really interesting insight into his tactics for The Open.

Most of all though I was impressed by his overall confidence and his enthusiasm for St Andrews and for links golf in general. He described the feelings that St Andrews inspires as being ‘almost spiritual’ and professed to ‘absolutely love’ playing links golf.

I also asked him about the change in Justin Rose’s fortunes of late; specifically that he’s actually started winning events. Mickelson thought this could be a very big factor indeed and spoke of the kind of ‘epiphany’ that players need to go through in order to start converting good performances into outright victories and he feels that Rose is ready to win a Major.

He was particularly fulsome in his praise, and his admiration, of Rory McIlroy. He clearly likes McIlroy’s cavalier and fearless approach but also talked about how much he enjoys the young player’s company and what a nice guy he is. That again, was a really interesting insight to get from a player of Mickelson’s stature and experience.

Overall, he was a pleasure to chat to and a real treat to speak to such a big sporting star. Be very interesting to see how he performs at the Open on the back of what we heard today.

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7 Responses to “Phil Mickelson Interview”

  1. Santiburi Says:

    Sean, good interview that. Just watched the replay this morning. Nice guy and sounds like he could go well next week although it hasn’t convinced me to change my plan to lay him and Tiger. He played some great shots from difficult lies to win the Masters but hit just too many wayward drives in the PGA and then in the US Open. I lost count of the number of saves he had to make.
    I know it’s a little bit of ‘heart’ in amongst the analysis that the head is doing but I like the games of Harrington and Poulter for St Andrews. They’ve both gone well on Links before and I expect them to go well again.
    I can also see one or more of Els, Goosen and Adam Scott performing well with the Nick Watney being an outsider to watch and a real wild pick, if the weather turns, being Paul Lawrie.
    I’m really looking forward to next week as I love the four days of seemingly endless TV coverage of the Open.

  2. seanboyce Says:

    I’d have said the same re his driving and the stats certainly bear that out. In fact looking at his driving accuracy numbers you’d wonder how he does so well but he’s brilliant at getting out of jail and he obviously thinks that will be possible at St Andrews. Really interesting to see if he’s right!

  3. Halfway To Nowhere Says:

    Is there a nicer or more deserving man in golf? In sport?

    When Phil is hitting the ball sweetly off the tee, there are few better players in the game – he’s long, his iron play is a joy and that short game is to die for. Though he appears to have developed what can only be described as a ‘wicked slice’ in recent weeks, sometimes ending up 40 yards or more off line, it is to his credit that he’s performed so well so consistently. The Americans are often guilty of producing wide, manicured fairways, but there are always plenty of trees to punish wayward drives and some of the shots Mickelson has pulled off have been extraordinary (none more so than his approach to the 13th in the final round of this year’s Masters).

    St Andrews will play to his strengths in that he has impeccable ball control, can get up-and-down from almost anywhere on the course and the work he has put in to improving his fitness – the man’s arms are huge compared to only three or four years ago – will surely see him hit some truly astonishing tee shots. I seem to remember Tiger Woods driving the third green at St Andrews some years ago with the whole playing close to 400 yards – Phil is more than capable of doing the same.

    The one worry I have is if the slice does make an appearance at any stage, he could well end up a very long way from where he wants to be. In the States he has benefitted from ricochets off trees, technical compounds and I dare say the occasional, somewhat unfortunate, squirrel, but there’ll be no such protection at St Andrews.

    I don’t think there’s any mileage in backing the likes Rory McIlory – the boy’s swing is a dream, but I don’t think he’s close to being the finished article yet – Lee Westwood or Graeme McDowell, and I’m yet to see Ian Poulter approach a tournament of this stature with the right attitude. I still believe he’s taking himself far too seriously and get the impression that he remains too ‘in love’ with the fame and glory of being a top-ten golfer.

    Martin Kaymer makes some appeal, as does Jim Furyk, but I’m tempted by Ricky Barnes at a massive price. He’s dogged it under pressure more than once – most famously when failing to trouble Lucas Glover in the final round of the US Open a couple of years ago – but he plays well in the wind, has a wonderful Tiger-esque ’stinger’ drive in his armoury and can control his irons beautifully when in the mood. There is an element of Jekyll and Hyde to his game in that he’s just as likely to finish last as win – his putting can let him down badly – but he’s scraped in to the field thanks to the withdrawals of Anthony Kim and David Toms and he just might take advantage of his good fortune.

  4. Santiburi Says:

    HtN, there was a time a little while back when I questioned Michelson’s approach to the game and his demeanor, but I agree that he’s now one of the nicest guys on the scene seemingly. I did hear an interview with him last evening though and while he was great, it does seem that his stats for our Open are pretty poor and a few of the other players interviewed really wondered whether he could get the ball around in few enough shots. Watson, for instance, has Tiger as the clear favourite despite his trouble.
    I understand all your other points and agree with most although one point on McIlroy and one on Poulter.
    A pal of mine is on McIlroy’s bag and he’s previously caddied for Els, Clarke and McGinley and he’s never seen someone hit the ball as consistently as McIlroy. All the guys like playing with him because of his spirit, good humour and approach. Watson and Mickelson both commented on him in their respective interviews so he’s a player I probably won’t back but I will definitely not be against.
    On Poulter, go back 4 or 5 years then I think your comments are spot on. He’s now so well set up in terms of his external business interests, his family life and the like, it seems to me that the big tournaments are the only ones that matter to him any more. He had a 2nd placing in the Open a couple of years ago and has won in the US this year. He went well in the US PGA last year and the Masters this year and has been pretty much focused on the Open, and his practice for it, for the last three weeks or so. He’s already at St Andrews and will have played 3 full rounds with Rose, Casey and Scott before most other players get there so my view is contrary to yours. He wants to go well and prove that he’s worth his position in the World’s top 10. Should be fun.
    PS: I know it’s a bit obvious now with his run in the last three weeks but, just looking at his finishes in the Open when he’s qualified for it, Rose has to go well, although his price does seem to reflect that view.

  5. DenLon Says:

    Well day 1 is here. Woods would be a cert if his brain wasn’t on other matters, so for me he’s a lay. Mickelson did seem confident in your interview with him Sean, but he’s a lay too. His Open record isn’t great and, even though he’s having a great year, his tendency to lose the ball to the right, as he did in The Masters, won’t do him any favours at St. Andrews.
    Justin Rose, Luke Donald & Ian Poulter I’d agree have chances, but I’ve backed 4.

    Ernie Els, Harrington, who’s coming back into form, Rory McIlroy & at a huge price, Thomas Bjorn, who a few weeks back won his first tournament since blowing The Open at Royal St George’s.

  6. Santiburi Says:

    Looks like the weather may have a big say in the outcome of this year’s event. I hope it doesn’t spoil things. FWIW, I’m with DenLon and have laid Woods and Mickelson. I’m with Poulter, Goosen and Harrington with my two outsiders being Watney from the US and Paul Lawrie.

  7. DenLon Says:

    Santiburi you’re quite right, the weather will be important. It can often be down to the luck of a tee-off time as to the score a player shoots, especially with links golf

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