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June 17, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
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
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
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
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
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?
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
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?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly.
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
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?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
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
LES UNGER: Thank you, Phil.
End of FastScripts