I was watching the Golf Channel’s coverage of Phil’s press conference at the US Open yesterday and was struck by an exchange he had with a reporter:
Q. Earlier this year you were struggling to find your form and then it sort of clicked when you got to Augusta. Do you feel like you’re in a better shape with your game coming into Pebble than you were going into Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would say comparable. It’s different because Augusta requires a lot different shots, you know, it requires a lot different approach to certain holes. I swing as hard as I can at Augusta off every tee shot. Distance is a factor. The driver that I had was stronger, designed to go farther.
The U.S. Open is different. Distance isn’t a factor here. Accuracy, controlling the ball off the tee, putting the ball in the right spot in the fairways or right spot in the rough if you have to, or missing the greens in the proper spot, chipping out of rough instead of chipping out of a fairway or first cut. The shots that I’ve been working on are nothing like what I had been working on at the Masters.
Q. Conventional thinking is that at a U.S. Open you play conservatively. Conventional or conservative is not really what we associate with your game. In an Open, do you have to rein yourself in more or fight your instincts in that way more, in an Open?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I don’t. And the reason is I want to play aggressive into the green. I don’t want to play aggressive off the tee, per se, I want to play aggressive at the pin.
And when I play 6 I want to play more conservative off the tee, so that I can play more aggressive into the green. If I hit that fairway, even if it’s with a 5- or 6-iron I can play more aggressive into the green. I can hit 3-wood up by the green and make birdie with my wedge.
If I miss that fairway, trying to hit 3-wood or driver, now I can’t even get up top of the hill. Now I’m playing conservative. So I approach U.S. Opens as how can I be most aggressive into the pin, not necessarily off the tee.
I like the way he’s thinking. It makes me more confident that he won’t do something crazy. I think he’s got a real chance to win this one.