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June 17, 1999

Phil Mickelson


LES UNGER: We have 3-under performer here in Phil Mickelson, who is proud of his round, I'm sure, and looking forward to the next four or five days with a lot of anticipation on two fronts.

PHIL MICKELSON: I am. I was really excited about this tournament heading in. I'm really excited about the setup of the golf course. And I think that this is the best test of golf that I've played in a major championship in that it tests every area of your game. It tests every shot. Past Opens has not really tested you off the tee as well with the driver. It required you to hit 2, 3, 4-irons, but this week the fairway is as wide at 240 yards as it is at 320. And every player has an opportunity to hit any club he wants off the tee. And around the greens we've seen in years past the short game be obsolete, but this year there's a lot of emphasis placed on short game. It's an integral part of the tournament. So I was really excited heading in. I thought that this would be a good opportunity for me to play well in the U.S. Open. And I'm fortunate to have gotten off to a good start. Obviously the course is playing as easy as it can today with the greens being as soft as they are, but yet it's a tribute to how difficult the course is, in that there really aren't any really low scores. For 3-under to be hanging up right now on top of the leaderboard, I think we're going to be in for a long weekend if the greens were to dry out.

LES UNGER: Every once in a while do you have a transfer of thought to the fact that you're about to become a dad?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this is an exciting time for me because my wife and I are expecting our first child, as many of you probably know. It's due June 30th and we are expecting it to be at least June 30th, possibly a little bit more, according to the doctor. She's seeing the doctor every day to make sure that she's not thinning out, if you will, or getting closer to labor. So things look good, but obviously with labor you just never know. But it's been a really exciting time for us.

LES UNGER: Would you take us through the card with emphasis on everything but routine pars.

PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. I birdied No. 2. I hit a driver, 7-iron to about 18 feet, made it. I birdied No. 4, I missed the fairway on No. 4 to the right. I missed three fairways today, two in the first cut and this was in the thick stuff. I 6 ironed out to 112 yards and hit a pitching wedge to 8 feet and made it for birdie. No. 5, the very next hole. No. 5 is a brutal hole out here. I hit two good shots, a good drive and good 5-iron. It went down the slope about 25 feet off the edge of the green and I chipped it in for a birdie. I bogeyed 6. I hit a 4-iron. It landed on the green, obviously, and rolled down with the slopes we've seen into the rough and I hit a good chip shot to 5 feet, but I missed the putt. And I bogeyed 8, also. I attacked the pin there. It was front left, which was the only play there was to go about 30 feet right. I pushed it just a little bit and caught the swale and rolled down. I hit a board chip about 15 feet by and ended up missing the putt for bogey. That's a tough hole, No. 8. I ended up birdieing 13 and 14. I hit a 2-iron off the tee on 13 and had 147 left. I hit an 8-iron to about 30 feet past the hole. And here's an example of a case where we talk about how the round tends to level out, even out. I missed a 5-footer on 6. But on this hole I was just trying to knock that 30-footer straight downhill somewhere by the hole and ended up catching the corner of it and falling in. I birdied 14. I hit a driver, 9-iron from 135 to 8 feet and had a nice look at it there, made that putt. And just parred in. That was it.

Q. Phil, after you chipped in on No. 5, it seemed like you were about 50/50 in trying to get the ball up close to the hole. Was it because of the location of where the ball was

or --

PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean?

Q. On, I believe on the next hole, No. 6 you were off the green, and on No. 8 again you made bogey on both those holes. You didn't get it close on either.

PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean 50/50? On getting the clubs, on chipping?

Q. Yes.

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't understand the question.

Q. Did you decide to do anything different?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I think that the greens obviously were rounded as we've seen, they fall off. But the challenge is that they fall off, but then they roll down, so you're chipping uphill and then downhill. And so if you don't hit it just right, it races by the hole. And if you hit it too easy, it could come back at you. You have to guard against the ball coming back at you. That was the case on No. 8. I had to make sure I got it to the hole so it didn't roll back down to where I started. And I hit it a little firm. On 18 I hit a poor chip shot. Probably looking back on it it was a poor choice of clubs, because I had some green to work with, I probably should have putted it. I hit a L-wedge, because it was downhill and I thought spin would help, but it ended up checking up short. There's a lot of decision making and club selection that's required on and around these greens because of the contouring. But every shot, with few exceptions, obviously there's a shot I chipped in on No. 5 that was a very basic chip because it was straight uphill the whole way. It didn't round off. Every shot on and around these greens are extremely difficult, even though the greens are soft and it's playing as easy as it could today. We're still seeing guys with a basic chip hitting it 10, 12 feet routinely, because it's difficult to judge it right, when the ball goes away. If the slope were steady, whether it be straight down or straight uphill, it would be a different story. You'd see more guys getting up-and-down.

Q. Phil, there's been a lot of talk about the beeper goes off you're out of here. How are you going to get back to Phoenix on time? Do you have some plans set already for the week? It's a long flight back, obviously.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I figure I'll be about five hours and 15 minutes from the time I get the beep to the time I arrive at the hospital. It's about four hours and forty-five minutes probably flying back, and I'll be ten minutes away from the hop, and probably 20 minutes for me to get in the air.

Q. Are you going to take a private plane?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've got a plane standing by, and as you know, I'm a pilot. I've got my copilot ready to file, and we'll go.

Q. Are you going to be the pilot?


Q. You talked yesterday morning about different strategies for chipping around the greens, putting and chipping and wedging. What was the percentage today? What did you use on 5, for instance, and how long was the putt on 18?

PHIL MICKELSON: The putt on 18 was 12 feet. No, actually it was a little more than that. It was about 15 feet, I would say. And it just checked up short. I didn't use a putter from off the green. I probably could have on 18 and probably should have. On No. 5 I probably could have putted it, but I chose a L-wedge because the grain was into me. And I felt like if I were to try to putt through that I might have to hit it too hard to get it through that initial grain and then it would race by the hole. And if I didn't hit it hard enough, I felt like the grain would kill it and it would stop six feet short. That's why I chose to chip it on 5. On 18 I could have done either because the gain was down. I felt like I had been practicing that shot with the L-wedge, and it would be fine. And I didn't hit it hard enough because it checked up too soon. So I think I didn't miss that many greens. I would say three or four. And there were three times I remember L-wedging from just off the green. One I was in the rough so I didn't have a choice. Two could have gone either way. And the other was a bunker shot, and I can't recall missing it more than four. I don't remember the other one.

Q. You talked about the fifth hole being a brutal hole, and can you talk about how you approach those holes today, and how you might have to change that approach?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think that the approach would have to change from today as opposed to the next. The idea is to make par. And the holes don't play that much different than any of the other holes, other than they're a little bit longer. But No. 5 is tough because it's very difficult. I don't want to say impossible, but it's very close to it to actually be on the putting surface. If you hit a great drive and you have a 5-iron in, the green is such where the first 15 yards, as you've seen, the first 45 feet the ball will come right back off the front. And if you go 30 yards, the ball goes over the green. So now you're dealing with a 30-foot circle. That's a tight area to have a ball end up, 30 feet on a 490 yard par-4. So obviously when you take a par-5 and you call it a par-4, it's a tough hole. The scoring average is the same. It's 4.4 whatever it is. You're either .6-under par or .4 over. I don't know how much the hole has changed. I don't know if they've moved the tee up or whatnot. It's essentially a par-5 and you call it a par-4. It's a tough par.

Q. I know philosophically the decision has been made, but what if you're tied for the lead 48 hour from now when the beeper goes off?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the best way I could say it -- let me say this. When I was 20 years old I thought that, gosh, the Majors would be so important and I didn't really know how I would feel. But being placed in the situation of having the opportunity to have my first child and for USGA to be very -- we're very fortunate to be able to have a child. We thought we were going to have problems, and it came very easily. That's something that I don't want to miss. And that I have an once in a lifetime opportunity to be there, whereas the U.S. Open takes place every year. And that's just the way that I've tended to look at it. I didn't know if I would feel that way or not. But we've got a little code in case somebody calls it accidentally or gets a wrong number and beeps us accidentally, we have a little code. So if she punches in that code, I'm getting out. I'm getting a car as soon as I can and getting to the airport.

Q. Phil, two questions, really. One, considering your late arrival here, did you have any concerns about your preparation on playing on this particular course, which is kind of unusual? And two, considering you have some other more important things on your mind, do you think it may be kind of almost a blessing that you weren't totally focused on the Open, and maybe it helped in some kind of way?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that could be the case in that I have something to take my mind off a major championship. As far as preparation for it, it's actually no different than I prepare for any other regular Tour event. I get in Tuesday night and play at Pro Am and go tee off. The practice rounds at major tournaments are a chore. It's a six-hour round, you're supposed to sign autographs all day, and you're trying to prepare for one of the biggest tournaments of the year. So to only have one, I feel like I'm much fresher than had I had to play two or three. And that's just the way that I look at it. Obviously it's not the way everybody does. They're very difficult to play. I had an opportunity to see the golf course, and I've got a caddy out there who's been walking it daily, seeing how it plays. So I'm really not concerned. If I have a question, he's been able to answer it.

Q. Phil, a question about the short game. We've seen a couple of times today where balls that are funneling in these collection areas, actually end up in old divots or you hit it up and the ball comes back at you. Do you see that as a developing scenario as the week progresses?

PHIL MICKELSON: Obviously it certainly could be. I did not run across that situation myself or play with somebody who did. But I could easily see that, especially given the fact that during these practice rounds, guys hit chips from all over, all around the green, making these little divots. You're talking about five to ten chips by each guy all around the hole, very easily you could have divot problems around the greens. But the course seems to be in such good shape that I think that would be just a very unfortunate incident if that were to occur. And if it does occur, you're going to probably see a guy putt it out of that lie, and he'll be able to get it somewhat close for the reason that's a very viable shot. You don't have to worry about the sand in the divot and catching the ball right. You can probably putt it and get it somewhere around the hole.

Q. Phil, two questions, yesterday I saw you working with Bob Rotella. How has he helped you with sort of the two strategy issues, if he has, with the forthcoming baby and then the strategy for the round? And then secondly you've talked about some of the holes you thought have been playing difficult? I've got 8 and 5. If you could name some of the others you think are going to be make-or-break holes.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've spent some time with Dr. Rotella, and I just enjoy talking with him. I enjoy being able to bounce some ideas off him and listen to some of his ideas as to how to play a golf course and how to manage yourself on the golf course. It's not so much that it's a deal where I try to work out a schedule and so forth. It's more of a bouncing ball. I like to listen to his ideas, and I like to hear anything he has to say about my ideas. And it's basically, in my opinion, an intelligent guy that I have an opportunity to have conversations with and to learn from. Otherwise, it's not like we have a weekly deal where we talk, what have you. It's just a nice sounding board, and I've really appreciated his time. It's been very beneficial in the sense that we've talked about how to regain confidence and so forth, or how to be patient on a tough golf course like The Masters or U.S. Open, because it's very easy to get frustrated while trying to attack and make birdies, when it's just not the way to go about it. As far as your second part about the difficulty of the holes, I think that obviously 5 and 8 we mentioned and 16. Those are the three that are going to be the most difficult pars. But I don't know if those are certainly make-or-break holes. I think that some of the birdie opportunities might be make or break holes because those are the few spots that you have an opportunity to pick up a couple of shots. No. 4 I think is a critical birdie hole to get off to a good start. Other than today there might be a few guys who can get there today because it was playing so long, but I think that that hole should be reachable throughout the rest of the week, and it's important to get off to a good start, because now you've got the fifth hole to play, that's a very difficult 4 as well. So we've identified 5, 8 and 16 as being probably the three most difficult pars. 6 is a difficult par, for a par-3. I'm not so sure those are necessarily make-or-break holes.

Q. Where exactly, during the round, where exactly are the beeper and the phone, are they actually on your person --

PHIL MICKELSON: My phone is not on. I don't turn my phone on, but my caddy carries the beeper and if that were to go off I'll give her a call.

Q. So the phone is in the bag, you can pull her out and give her a call?


Q. How close did you come to not even coming here, how late was the decision made?

PHIL MICKELSON: Tuesday morning was -- the decision was made. We went and saw the doctor. He said it looked like -- he thought in his opinion it was two weeks away from coming, it would probably be June 30th, if not later. So based on that, and based on the fact that we were trying to have her take it easy for the next five or six days to have it not start early, and she's going to the doctor every day to make sure that she's not progressing as far as cervix thin go out and so forth, as long as labor is not nearing, we feel like we're okay.

Q. Is your wife saying stay here, knowing it's so important to you, and you're saying, no, no, I want to come home?

PHIL MICKELSON: I made it clear and she understands that I want to be there off the bat, and that I don't want to miss it. We've talked about it. It's not worth a tournament; that this is the most important thing as far as our family is concerned, and she will call me and let me know. And I will be very disappointed if she were to go in labor and not call me.

LES UNGER: Thank you, Phil.

End of FastScripts…

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