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April 7, 2006

Phil Mickelson


BILLY MORRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, we're delighted to have Phil Mickelson with us. Phil had an even-par 72 today. Phil, would you like to make some comments or just go to questions?

PHIL MICKELSON: Let's go to questions. What's up?

Q. How good a round could this have been with the putts?

PHIL MICKELSON: It could have been good. I left some shots out there. But the way I look at it is I'm in a good position heading into the weekend. It was a day that was tough. There were times where the round could have got away a little bit. When I hit a good shot on 11 and it went in the water, I ended up getting up-and-down for bogey. There were times where it could have slid away a little bit but I was able to keep it in check and come back with some birdies.

So to be within four shots, be within striking distance, I'm excited about that and I'm looking forward to the weekend.

Q. Just real quick, why did you drop where you did on 11? We saw a few other groups that also went into the water and were able to drop and stretch back toward the fairway a little bit; didn't take the full drop over the water.

PHIL MICKELSON: I had to go from the pin to the point of entry and my point of entry was on the other side up by the green. So that's just keeping it in line, that's where I had to drop it.

Q. Not to be smart, why was it a good shot if it went in the water?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a solid shot, just misplayed the wind.

Q. The wind came up then?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I was playing left-to-right but it shot right-to-left. But that stuff happens there. I've gone right there so many times and it's such a hard up-and-down, I tried to attack the green there, not the pin, but I was just trying to attack the middle of the green. Just came up a little left.

Q. Overall, when is the last time it was this dry, this tricky, wind-wise and how would you compare yesterday to today wind-wise?

PHIL MICKELSON: I remember it was really hard the year Vijay won in 2000. I think it was really windy the first day or two and ironically he's up on the leader board again. That's probably the last time that I remember it being so difficult.

Q. I know you didn't play with Ernie the year you won but what was it like playing with him this year and how did he look out there?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's enjoyable. He's a tremendous player and very easygoing guy. He hit a lot of great shots. He, too, had a chance to get it going. He got it to 4-under and had a great chance to get it going, as well.

Q. On the board today, there's been at least I can find 10, 9, a couple of 8s, 7s. You've played here long enough, do any of those high scores --

PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean, 10s, 9, on a hole?

Q. Guys, some hit them in the water, some didn't, and took high scores. Is there a disaster waiting to happen on this course with every shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think that's a good way of putting it. Yeah, I think that's very well put. I think that 15 could be -- you look at it as a birdie hole but, gosh, you can easily chip one in the water there, especially later in the day as the greens firm up.

13, I remember that pin last year, Tiger putted it in the water and then obviously ended up winning the tournament, so it didn't matter. But that could be a very tough 2-putt. 12 with the wind is really hard, too. So is 11.

Q. In relationship to par, where do you stand?

PHIL MICKELSON: 2-under. (Pointing to leaderboard).

Q. With each of the two drivers?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I don't know. I don't know.

Q. No idea?


Q. Do you miss the old Augusta where people were more aggressive as opposed to it seems like we hear a lot of players talk about being defensive.

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I try to prepare to win the tournament or to be in contention, and whatever the course is, however it's set up, however it's been changed, I just try to accommodate and play to that to win on this golf course.

Maybe later in my career when I stop playing or stop playing competitively and look back and say, I liked it better when it was this, or I liked it better when it was that. But it's irrelevant to me right now. All I care about is trying to play whatever course is presented this particular year.

Q. A quick two-parter. How do you feel you are driving the ball, No. 1, and No. 2, today do you feel that the shots you left out there were mostly on the green?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, they were mostly on the green. I drove it very well. I thought when I did miss a fairway, it was a yard or two in the first cut. So I was really pleased with the way I drove it. It allowed me to be aggressive to some holes, to attack some pins, to give myself birdie opportunities and I just didn't take advantage of enough of those but I'm in good position.

Q. I'm sure you're aware of the stats concerning the dominance of the last group on Sunday. Does getting into Sunday's last group, does that become kind of the primary goal tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: I know that this tournament has not had a winner from -- a group out of the last in quite a number of years. But I don't think that that is going to necessarily affect this particular year or next year or what have you.

My goal is to play a good round tomorrow and try to move up the leaderboard and see if I can get on top or near the lead.

Q. Is there an advantage significantly more so here than elsewhere to being in the last group?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, other than having the lead, yeah, that's probably the biggest thing. (Laughter).

But there's also a lot to be said for going out early and posting a score, too.

Q. What was your reaction to having the tee moved up on 4?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was nice. I mean, unexpected but nice.

Q. Could they have played the hole from the back tee today with that pin position?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, they could have, sure. Would have been hard. (Laughter).

Q. On the 12th hole, I think you had just hit your tee shot and over on the 13th, a man was being given CPR and there was quite a commotion and all.

PHIL MICKELSON: You're kidding? I didn't know that? On 13, in the gallery?

Q. Yeah, you had hit your tee shot --

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I didn't know that. Is he okay?

Q. Yeah, he's okay. I didn't know if you were aware --

PHIL MICKELSON: I had no idea. We're so far removed on 12 and 13 off on the side, we don't have any idea what's going on in the gallery. That's probably the furthest away we are from the gallery.

Q. Maybe it was Hootie. How far did you hit it off that tee?


Q. Can you break down which holes you used your drivers? Has it been the same each day though?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's varied a little bit. There was a little right-to-left wind on 17 so I hit a cut driver today. I hit draw driver yesterday. When I say draw, it moves it left-to-right, but also it's 25 yards longer so I'm going for distance as much as I'm going for curving of the ball.

But overall it's gone pretty well I think. I've driven it well, hit it good distances when I've needed to. It's been good.

Q. You're glad you did it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, so far. I'm 2-under, I'm right in the tournament, it's been good.

Q. A little off the beaten path, speaking of some higher numbers, David Duval, an 84 yesterday and he had a 10 on No. 2 today and has been struggling. There's a significant amount of people rooting for him. Do you empathize with a guy who was at that level who has been struggling to get it back?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's just hard to fathom because I have played with him in Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups and seen him at his best. It's just hard for me to visualize him at anything but his best. He's just a tremendous talent and it's hard -- I just can't understand what's going on because he has a lot of game.

Q. Two things. I wonder if you can talk about the chip on 15. You mentioned that's a chip you could put in the water?


Q. What were you hoping for when you hit it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Are you kidding me, a little tap-in birdie, no problem. I had to put a little spin on it to try to get the ball stopped to take the slope and go down by the hole. Otherwise it would have gone to the front.

Now, I don't think we'll see too many balls in the water because Ernie's ball was going with some decent speed and stopped at the edge or on the fringe and leveled out there and I don't think that we'll see guys chip it in the water, per se. But, if you don't catch it flush or don't put the right amount of spin on, it could happen.

Q. And secondly, in the past, did this major resemble any of the others, and does it now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it never used to. It never used to. But the holes like 11 and 17 and 15, the trees on the right of those three holes, they are not just three or four trees. There's 60 on the right of 11. So instead of having U.S. Open rough, you have --

Q. 60-foot rough.

PHIL MICKELSON: A forest. And you don't have the ability to hit the shot. There's no shot-making ability there anymore. It's just try to get the ball back in play and salvage a bogey. Or 15, make a par, what have you.

Whereas in the past, it required, shot-making was much more prominent. You could hit a wayward tee shot and be creative into the greens.

I would not say it resembles the U.S. because the rough isn't rough; it's first cut. But the penalty for a missed tee shot on a number of holes now is U.S. Open type penalties.

Q. Ernie said a little while ago it doesn't look like you're going to have to shoot 65 to win here. Do you agree with that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. You look at the scores today and they are just -- they are very tough to go low. I mean, Chad Campbell played a great round of golf to shoot 5-under par, but he did it in the morning when it wasn't blowing as much when it was possible.

I think right now, shooting par is going to be a great score.

Q. Is there less of a premium on decision-making now?

PHIL MICKELSON: On what? Heavens, no. You have to think on every shot. Chipping and putting, this is the ultimate course for decision-making.

Q. Like at 11, you pretty much have one spot you have to hit a tee shot.

PHIL MICKELSON: The fairway? (Laughter) Yeah. That would be it, yeah.

Q. But are there fewer options and things because of the changes in the course, fewer options?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. Just more penalizing off the tee. But you still have to be much more strategic, just as strategic into the greens and around the greens.

Q. Can you expand on the putting a little bit today? There were obviously some chances; how much of it was the way the greens played, how much of it was stroke?

PHIL MICKELSON: You just have to read these perfectly. And all the ones that I missed, for the most part, were downhill. Last one was pretty easy, but the last one was downhill and fast. So I just have to tap them and read them perfectly and I did.

Q. What did you hit into 8 for your second shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know what, I'm going to refrain from answering that question, because if I do, the tee box is going to be back even further. (Laughter) It was just a good shot and it was downwind so it played the shortest it could ever play.

Q. I got you for an 8-iron; is that right?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. (Laughter) I'll tell you in confidence later, but I don't want that one getting out to Hootie either.

Q. A few years ago, Chad Campbell in an SI poll was voted the best new player, the next big thing. Just wanted your take on his game and what it might be like for him with the lead going into the weekend.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, gosh, I mean, he's played some great golf in majors, like he did at the 2003 PGA at Oak Hill. He's won some big tournaments, like Bay Hill last year, THE TOUR Championship. He's just a tremendous player.

And last year wasn't the year that he wanted. It wasn't his best year, and he came back this year really hungry to play well, and he is. He's going to be really tough this weekend, really tough.

Q. Even though he doesn't have the experience, necessarily, here? He's only made one cut.

PHIL MICKELSON: But like Fuzzy won in '79 without having played here. It's not that imperative.

Q. The saves at 6 and 7, is that one of those moments where you're talking about keeping the round together?

PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly, yeah. When I hit a poor shot on 6 long right, I remember '95 I made double-bogey from that spot and knocked me out of the tournament. Here, I putted it up 12 feet and made it for par.

Missed that pin to the right on 7. You don't want to be there. I ended up making a 12-footer for par. So I kept the round going when it could have slid away, just like we were saying. On 11 when I was looking at double, I ended up fighting for a bogey and got it.

But then when I hit great shots, like the wedge into 17, or the 8-iron into 12, and had 6-footers there, I ended up missing those, the ones that could have propelled the round. So it was just kind of a stuttered round all the way through. But the way I look at it, gosh, to be within four shots on the weekends, I'd gladly take it. I know I'm hitting some good shots and playing well and I look forward to the chance to compete this weekend.

Q. I was about to ask you almost to say what you just said, but just to follow-up on that a bit, your mood after the midway point, is it just to be in the hunt right now, are you happy enough to be in that mix right now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the answer is yes. After last week, I would kind of like to be a little bit higher up.

Q. In a general sense?

PHIL MICKELSON: Generally, I'm happy to be four shots back. A good, solid round tomorrow could propel me close to the top of the leaderboard and one more round on Sunday. It was a day where a lot of guys are going to let it slide away, and I fought, hung in there, and stayed within striking distance.

BILLY MORRIS: Phil, thank you very much and good luck to you tomorrow.

End of FastScripts.

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