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April 4, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Congratulations, Phil. 2005 BellSouth Classic champion. It's a long week, but you were able to come through. Long day today. Great feeling to go into next week also.

PHIL MICKELSON: It is a great feeling. I'm very fortunate, Joanie, to have won this tournament. There was not just the five guys that were in the playoff, but there were another four or five guys that could have and should have won this tournament outright.

To be able to be the last guy standing, it feels great. Especially after a long, difficult week, to be able to hold the trophy feels terrific. It gives me some momentum. Especially the way I played the Back 9, without having what looked like even a chance to get in the playoff, to shoot what I did to get in the playoff and win gives me some momentum for next week.


Q. You said earlier you liked playing the week before the Masters. To play a competitive round. Did you get enough competition to go into Augusta? Did you get your wish?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it is very nerve wracking and you feel the butterflies when you're in a sudden death playoff. Coming down the stretch, knowing I needed to make birdies to get into a playoff. Feeling that anxiety, that excitement, the stuff that I feel every day in a major championship, it's great for me to prepare for the Masters this way, to have that feeling just a couple days before Thursday.

It's sometimes a culture shock for me when I stand on the first tee on Thursday of a major, having not played well or having not played in tournaments for a couple weeks, and feeling those butterflies and not having a chance to deal with them. Here I've been able to deal with them just a couple days before the first round.

Q. Butterflies are a little different than at Augusta National?

PHIL MICKELSON: They are. They certainly are. But Augusta sets up very well for us left handers. Some of those butterflies go away.

Q. Could you talk about 18 today, both in regulation and playoff, how it played today, why it was so difficult?

PHIL MICKELSON: Why 18 was so difficult?

Q. Yes.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know what to say because it was surprising in the playoff that nobody birdied it. I thought three guys, maybe four, would birdie it to move on. It was more shocking than anything. I don't know what to say.

I did notice that every time the ball would get up by the hole, from whatever direction it was rolling from on the green, it would fall off at the hole. And I think that's why we didn't see very many made putts on that green. But other than that, I don't know, because we all hit some pretty good shots, we all had chances to make birdies, and guys really struggled with it.

It's a tough hole, but I didn't expect it to be like that.

Q. Have you won tournaments before where you hit the ball in the hazard three times on nine holes in the last round?

PHIL MICKELSON: If I did, I probably wouldn't claim it. It was a very interesting week for me because I did some things or made some mistakes that I hadn't made this year, and I was able to recover. First round, I hit two shots out of bounds. Last round, I knocked three balls in the hazard in the Front 9 alone. And I haven't been making those mistakes, I haven't been hitting those shots this year, and last year. So it was kind of surprising.

But I am kind of proud of myself for how I fought through that and gutted it out and made birdies and hit shots when I needed to because with it being only 54 holes and not having nearly the normal amount of holes to catch up and make up ground, I certainly feel very fortunate, but I'm also I take a lot of pride in this win because of the way it went.

Q. (Inaudible) did it feel like it might be a 72 hole setting?

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't far from it. But I think I could tell, we were pretty lucky to get it in before dark, because darkness was creeping up on us. For that putt on 17 to go in felt great. It was fast, it was downhill, and I couldn't really give it much momentum. It just kind of wiggled, went right in the middle. It ended it because I think we only had one more hole in us. I don't think we really wanted to come back Tuesday morning. It was a very real possibility, too.

Q. Do you think getting into and out of trouble like you did this week will help you next week, especially because there's probably going to be some precarious situations at Augusta?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't plan on hitting into any trouble next week, I really don't (laughter).

But if I do, it's nice to know that I'm able to recover.

Q. You know you're tackling something that only one other player has ever done before: won the week before the Masters, then won the Masters.

PHIL MICKELSON: Sandy Lyle, 1988. It is something that doesn't happen I guess that often. I look at it as a great way to build some momentum, to take the intensity and the focus that I had to have the Back 9 to get in the playoff and take that into Thursday's opening round. It's just a couple days away. So I think that it could really be a benefit.

Q. This tournament, the BellSouth itself, you played very well here many times, you won it twice. Is it in danger of being overshadowed by what's coming up down the road? Are you able to separate and appreciate this victory for what it is, as well as the one you had before?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the majors always stand on their own, and every TOUR event seems to get overshadowed to some extent.

But this tournament is a very well run event on a great golf course. I think the great thing that I like about this tournament is that it doesn't have an ego. It says, "Look, guys, come play here because we're going to try to set it up as close to Augusta as we can for you. We want this to be a great place for you to come and prepare. And, by the way, we're going to have a huge purse and a strong field and great conditions." Although this week it wasn't great conditions. But we did the last couple rounds.

I just think that that's really cool the way the tournament goes about doing it. It's not trying to become something it's not. It's just a great, fun event that the guys really enjoy. And the way the people of Atlanta support this tournament, we don't have many tournaments on TOUR like that. We have maybe a couple that get that kind of turnout in Phoenix or Dallas. But Atlanta is a tournament that gets amazing support.

Q. You said you wanted plenty of competitive rounds going into the Masters. As the playoff dragged on and on, did you start thinking, "Be careful what you wish for"?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I was scheduled to take the day off anyways. My wife Amy and daughter Amanda drove in last night. They got into Augusta last night, the whole family. They drove over last night. We're going to have a great couple hour drive down tonight to reminisce about the day, talk about the upcoming week.

I don't have but one practice round scheduled. I've done all my work and preparation on the golf course before, so I don't have that to look forward to. I'll play a practice round tomorrow, take Wednesday off, or just a little bit of practice, the par 3, and I should be refreshed and ready to go.

It's not a deal where I feel like I lost a day and I've got to go work Tuesday and Wednesday to learn the course. It's not that at all. I've already done that.

Q. Can you talk about your first trip to Augusta in '91, why it's so difficult for first time players there to do well or even win there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the biggest thing that I've learned over the 12 years that I've played there is how certain pins look like you can attack but you can't, what holes to attack and what holes not to. And it changes each hole. There's not a given hole where you're trying to make birdie every time and then par on some of the others. Each hole is a birdie hole, given where the pin is.

You don't know that the first time you get there. You think it, you kind of realize it, but you don't know where all the balls seem to funnel, you haven't had enough time to learn each one of those putts, how it breaks. I mean, you can see that it breaks left to right, but those extra couple feet of break, the difference between a 3 footer and a 5 footer really wears on you over the course of 72 holes.

I think that's why we haven't a first time winner there since Fuzzy Zoeller in '79.

Q. Mentally, do you think you still could have won the tournament if you had not made that putt for bogey at 9?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's hard to say. I mean, you're probably right, but I could have said that about the par putt from 15 feet on four. I could have said that about the 20 foot birdie putt on 6. I could have said that about a lot of shots.

The Front 9 I hit it horrible and putted great to stay in it. The Back 9 I hit it terrific. The swing really started to click in. The Back 9, I hit the ball as well as I could. In the playoff, I hit some very good shots, too, drove it very well, which was a key for me in the playoff.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Let's go through the two birdies you made on the playoff.

PHIL MICKELSON: I guess 18, the third time around the second time around.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: In the playoff.

PHIL MICKELSON: Right. I hit a driver. After the final round, I knew we were only playing 17 and 18. I had taken out a 3 iron this week because there was really only two shots that I might need a 3 iron, hole No. 8, the par 3, if the tees were back, and I might need a 3 iron into 18.

When the round was done, knowing the rules, I took out my sand wedge, because I wasn't going to ever use it on 17 or 18 I didn't think. If I laid up, I would have been a pitching wedge or gap wedge. Took the sand wedge out, put the 3 iron in. It paid off because the third playoff hole I had a perfect 3 iron shot that I just had to hit a good solid 3 iron to the middle of the green, about 25, 30 feet, and had a great chance to win it right there with that eagle putt that just slid by the right edge.

I birdied 17 in the playoff after Rich had chipped up close to make par. I hit a good drive and a 9 iron to about 15 feet, 12 to 15 feet, just right of the cup. I had missed that exact putt not that exact putt. I missed the putt eight feet behind the hole. I missed the putt in the playoff 15 feet left of the hole. Now I'm right of the hole. I just tried to give it a little different angle I guess because that one ended up rolling in.

Q. The second shot in regulation, given the pressure, talk about that.

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't as good as others, I would say. I mean, I know it looked good, ended up 30 feet. It was left of the hole. That certainly wasn't what I was trying to do. I tried to start at the right edge of the green and fade it in towards the middle and give myself really the putt that I had in the playoff.

After the 3 iron, I wanted that 25 footer straight down the hill. It kept leaking left on me and barely stayed up. I was very fortunate that it did.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil. Congratulations.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys.

End of FastScripts.

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