ERIN, Wis. — Phil Mickelson, as expected, did not appear for his scheduled 2:30 p.m. press conference Tuesday at the 117th U.S. Open at Erin Hills. He was still back home, presumably, in sunny SoCal. But having previously taken the podium in 20-plus pre-Open pressers it’s not hard to imagine how his meeting with the media would have gone.
BETH MAJOR: Good afternoon. We’d like to welcome Phil Mickelson into the interview room here at the U.S. Open in Erin Hills, Wisconsin. Phil is no stranger to this championship; he’s a six-time runner-up, most recently in 2013.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks for that, Beth. You really know how to make a guy feel good about himself. [Smiles]
BETH MAJOR: [Laughs] You’re very welcome. So I think many of us are surprised to see you here today. Does this mean you’re planning on playing Thursday?
PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, Beth. If I may, I’d just like to start by saying how great the people of Wisconsin have been to me. On the way over here, we stopped at a lemonade stand a couple of kids were running on County Line Road, just east of here in Monches. They were just the nicest kids, so polite, and their lemonade was next level – perfect balance of sugar and lemon juice. Their parents, Bill and Charlotte, invited us in for a quick breakfast. Fluffy eggs, OJ – oh, and the sausage. Have you tried the sausage around here? Mark, I know you have [points to a reporter, smiles, everyone cracks up.] Anyway, they were just the nicest folks you could ever hope to meet. They wished me the best, then sent me on my way with three-dozen eggs and a package of fresh-cut bacon. And then it was more of the same when we played the course this morning. The Wisconsin fans are so supportive, so incredible. They’re far and away the best fans in sports. Just amazing. Really, really awesome.
BETH MAJOR: OK, we’ll open it up to questions. Yes, Doug in front.
Q. Thanks, Beth. Phil, can you walk us through your last 24 hours and your decision to fly out here for a practice round?
PHIL MICKELSON: Good to see you, Doug. Well, as you know, Amanda’s graduation is scheduled for Thursday, so I’m still TBD – I’ll need some luck with the weather. But to be prepared as possible I thought it best to get out here and see the course. I left Carlsbad at 5 a.m. this morning, landed at 6:45 local time, arrived at the course at about 9, hit some balls, then played 16 holes before coming in here. I’ll fly back home tonight, but I’m going to leave Bones behind to chart the course. Pelz’s guys have been sending me computer simulations of every break on every green — about 600,000 in all — so I have good feel for the complexes out here. Also, I’ve been drinking fescue smoothies.
Q. Phil, you saw most of the course this morning. Does it suit your eye? Is this a course you can win on?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love this golf course. Adore it. It’s firm and fast and long. The fescue is tough in spots, but I don’t expect to miss any fairways [grins], so that shouldn’t be a problem for me. Michael, Dana and Ron did such a wonderful job. You know, this land was pushed around by glaciers many, many centuries ago. They call it Kettle Moraine, though the proper geological term is Kettle Interlobate Moraine. It was created when the Green Bay Lobe of the Laurentide Ice Sheet collided with the Lake Michigan Lobe of that same glacier. The collision left a bunch of sediment here. The land is pocked with kettles caused by buried glacial ice that calved off the terminus of—
BETH MAJOR: Sorry, Phil, we’re going to stop you there. Other questions? Yes, microphone 3.
Q. Hey, Phil. How’s it going? Saw you were carrying five drivers today. Are you still deciding—
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I’m going with five.
Q. Five drivers? As in five drivers in your bag at once?
PHIL MICKELSON: As in five drivers in my bag at once [grins].
Q. Can you talk us through your thinking there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not much to explain. I’ve got my cut driver and my sweep-cut driver. I’ve got my straight-ball driver, then drivers for a draw and chasing-draw. This course gives you plenty of tests off the tee, and I just feel a five-driver strategy gives me the best opportunity to hit fairways. If I can pair the right driver with the direction of the fairway grain, the grass type, temperature, wind, altitude, moisture on the clubface – all these nuances will allow me to find more fairways. It’s simple physics. I’ve never been more confident with a set makeup. Ever.
Q. And no wedges, right?
PHIL MICKELSON: That’s right. I can hit a better flop shot with a 5-iron than half the field can with an L-wedge [smiles, winks]. I’ll be all right.
Q. Phil, there’s been lots of talk this week about the length of the fescue off the fairways. What were your impressions out there?
PHIL MICKELSON: [Exhales dramatically, smiles] Did I mention I just love the people of Wisconsin? Such great people.
Q. So you’re not a fan?
PHIL MICKELSON: Of the people of Wisconsin? I think we’ve covered that topic.
Q. Phil, it’ll take an act of God for you to make your tee time here on Thursday. Which act of God would you prefer?
PHIL MICKELSON: A really fast jet might also do the trick. I’m working on that, Hank. [Laughs]
Q. This course seemingly sets up well for you. Wide fairways, collection areas that put a premium on the short game, supportive galleries.
PHIL MICKELSON: My game is better than it’s ever been. My golf swing is smoother than it’s ever been. My putting is more consistent than it’s ever been. I’m in the best shape I’ve ever been in. I’m mentally stronger than I’ve ever been. I’m happier than I’ve ever been. I’m a better grilled-cheese maker and Connect 4 player than I’ve ever been. And my hair has more flow than it’s had, well, at least since college. So, yeah, I like my chances.
Q. In the past at majors you’ve sought out the club professional and others for advice. Is there anyone that you’ve sought out this week to get some local knowledge on how to play Erin Hills?
PHIL MICKELSON: Other than Goatman? Yeah, I’ve talked to some local caddies. I asked a lot of questions about what his thoughts were on the golf course.
Q. Anything specific?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, lots of specifics, yeah. Very specific, absolutely [laughter].
BETH MAJOR: Phil, always a pleasure, thanks so much for spending time with us today. We wish you well throughout the week.