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February 21, 2009
PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA
JOHN BUSH: We'd like to welcome our tournament leader after 54 holes, Phil Mickelson into the interview room.
Phil, as if the 63 earlier in the week wasn't good enough, you came through with a great 62 today. Just comment on the day.
PHIL MICKELSON: It was a good round today. I hit the ball a lot better and I hit some good iron shots coming down the stretch. I was able to get some putts to go in and had a good round of golf. I was obviously very excited about it.
I didn't feel confident after yesterday's round, and made a phone call to Butch right from the scorer's tent. He was able to come into town fortunately and we had some good work done this morning. I feel like, I don't want to say, back on back but I have a direction of where I want to go and my iron play was much, much better because of it.
JOHN BUSH: Comment on the eagle, eagle start on 1. That hole is definitely working for you this week.
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit 3-wood off the tee and hit 5-iron to the green to about 15 feet and made it for eagle.
Birdied 4. I hit 3-iron to 22 feet and made that for birdie.
I parred the rest of the front nine, but the back side, I ended up birdieing 10. I hit 3-wood just short of the green. Chipped by a little long about seven feet, but I made that.
11 was an interesting birdie. I drove it way left over there by the trees and carved a 3-iron back around the fairway to 78 yards and hit 73 yards, an L-wedge to a couple of feet.
And then I birdied four in a row starting on 14, the par 3 there. I hit a good 8-iron to three feet and made that for birdie.
16, I missed the green when the pin was right and I wanted to make sure I missed it left and I blocked it a little bit. I only had 30 feet and that was a fun one to see go in, because it wasn't expected.
Q. What was the block?
PHIL MICKELSON: 8-iron on 16.
17, I hit a good drive. I really hit that one hard. I had 3-wood into the hole and flew it about pin-high when I was in that right bunker and hit a good bunker shot to a foot.
Q. I wonder, 12, if you could talk about that. What was the third shot?
PHIL MICKELSON: 12, the par 4, I thought I hit it out-of-bounds. It was right along the edge and I hit a provisional, and my ball was in play. I hit a 4-iron up by the green, just left, chipped up.
Q. My mistake for relying on ShotLink. They made you look like a star. Sorry.
PHIL MICKELSON: Okay.
Q. What adjustments did you make working with Butch, and what did you work on with Butch?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, the specifics of the swing are not that important. It wasn't that far off. I just wasn't quite controlling the miss and getting the club to go through smoothly. It just wasn't -- I wasn't controlling fades the way I would like to and being able to draw at will. It was just little things here and there, just the little tees that allowed me to get the club through impact a little better.
We are going to go work on it again, too.
Q. So you were three back going into the round and you're 4-up now. Curious what your mind-set was standing on the first tee this morning. Did you have a number in mind, a position you wanted to be in, obviously going into the final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, heading into the round, I had a good session with Butch, two good sessions. We had one early, took a break and hit another one.
I hit the ball well, the best I've hit in a couple of months. I didn't have a lot of confidence heading into the round and I was putting better are week. I saw Pelz earlier in the week and my putting felt great and I felt if I could be patient in this round and try to use all 18 holes, I thought I could shoot 5-, 6-, 7- , 8-under par. I thought could I get a good round.
But I didn't want to be pressing just because I knew I was starting to play better. I was patient throughout the round and ended up taking advantage of some opportunities.
Q. Butch said it came pretty quickly this morning. Is it different having him standing there and talking to you rather than talking on the phone the night before? How much difference does it make with Butch there and he's seeing it and you're confident in what he's seeing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, he's pretty good. (Laughter) He's pretty good at what he does. So having him be able to be right there and identify it was nice.
I ended up going back to my old irons, trying to eliminate some variables. The blade irons I used all last year. I've had two different clubs. I have a new driver and I have a new 3-wood and I love my 3-wood. It just made a world of difference.
A perfect example is 17 today where I'm 280 to the hole and I'm on a tight lie and I just know it's going to get up and carry and it flies 280. Being able to fly it there as opposed to being able to run it makes a big difference, because I was able to get it pin-high. If I hit it off-line and lower, I would have had an almost impossible bunker shot. Being able to fly it back to the hole made a big difference.
Obviously that driver, I have not hit the ball this far, ever. Those two clubs made a big difference, now that I'm hitting them straight. I was hitting the ball hard, and now that I'm hitting it in the fairway, it's making a big difference.
Q. Sorry to bring this up, but I'm confused on the irons. The old ones, the new ones. When did you put the old ones back in?
PHIL MICKELSON: Last week, after Friday's round. So just Saturday's round. The only different was shafts. I ended up going back to my old shafts. It wasn't the shaft; I was just swinging so poorly, I have to go back to what I was using before to eliminate any other possibilities, and then I know it's the golf swing.
Q. Okay. And when did you arrange for Butch to come in?
PHIL MICKELSON: From the scorer's tent yesterday. As soon as I signed the card, I called to see if he was available. Fortunately, he was, and I appreciate his wife letting him go. They just got back, that day, Thursday or Friday, from vacation, and here he is hopping on a plane, but I'm certainly appreciative.
Q. First, Butch; Vegas, is that where he was?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes.
Q. So a short trip.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
Q. And the other part, if I remember, you didn't like this tournament or this course, and you stayed away for a couple of years. Since then, you've come back with a vengeance. Could you just go into that? You can basically almost have three wins in a row.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, let's not get ahead of ourselves. I've got a big round tomorrow. I haven't exactly had the performance the last three weeks that just exudes confidence heading into tomorrow. So I'm going to have to get some work done tonight.
It's important that heading into Augusta, if we think that far out, it's important that I get competitive rounds, being in contention, having opportunities to win, hopefully winning, but having these rounds for some momentum heading into Augusta, it's very difficult to win that big of a tournament without that experience and without that confidence level.
And so to get back on the right track, but also to have rounds like tomorrow where we are going to be fighting it out with a lot of guys with a chance to win and coming through with a victory are things that are going to be beneficial later on.
Q. What about you didn't play here for a couple of years; did you not like the setup?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't play at Riviera, not because I didn't like the course. I've always loved this golf course. It's just that I play so many on the West Coast. This is my fourth in a row and next week will be five in a row for me. When I dropped the Hope, I added L.A. Now that I've been playing well here, obviously I'm going to keep it on the schedule. And being able to stay at home, which is something I never thought of before, being able to do that the last three years, has made a big difference for my performance, I believe.
Q. Why? You're not that far from home, 100 miles or so, but just you avoid the hassle of finding a place?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's just relaxing not having to pack, not have to really travel, stay in a hotel, to be able to stay at home, see my kids, have dinner together a couple days, be able to see them after school and some of their activities, whatever it is. It just feels like I'm playing golf at home.
Q. Just wondering what it felt like on the back nine when you're standing over putts; did you just feel like everything was going in, and maybe the last time you've felt that way through a stretch?
PHIL MICKELSON: It feels really good. It feels really good to do that. (Smiling).
To see a few putts go in, it's obviously a great feeling, because it rewards the iron play. It makes me want to not have to attack pins, but play more conservative, hit it 10, 15 feet, if I know I have a good chance of making the putt. Just like 16 is being a good example, I was able to play further left away from the hole because I felt that I would have a good chance of making put uphill.
Q. How much longer are you hitting it with your new driver than previous drivers?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a noticeable difference for me. When I say noticeable, it's 12 yards. I mean, that's a big difference for me. Being able to get eight, nine yards for carry, that's a really big difference. I mean, usually it would be two or three yards and you would notice a difference. This is a big difference for me.
The biggest thing, though, is that I'm able to work shots, hit cuts, draws, low shots, rather than just one standard shot. I feel like the versatility there -- the versatility is there.
The other thing for me is I've never had a 3-wood that's this easy to hit and gets up that high. So that shot on 17, or the tee shot on No. 1, I hit 3-wood, 8-iron yesterday. And 3-wood, 5-iron into that back pin today. I've never been able to feel confident standing on the tee box hitting 3-wood the first three days, hopefully tomorrow, four.
And that gives me two alternatives off the tee. I can maybe carry some bunkers with the driver, and if I can't or want to play to a fatter part of the fairway, I feel like I'm not losing any distance with my 3-wood so, it's giving me an alternative club to drive with.
Q. How much longer are you with your 3-wood, would you say?
PHIL MICKELSON: Five to ten yards, but it's not the overall distance. It's the carry distance; it's probably 15 yards of carry distance, and that's making the big difference.
Q. Now the position you're in right now, do you feel more pressure leading going into the final round?
PHIL MICKELSON: I always feel pressure going into the final round, no matter if I'm trailing, have a small lead or a big lead.
But I need to feel that pressure right now. I need to get back into the mix and I need to get back into contention and in the final group on Sunday. So I welcome that challenge. I mean, I love that challenge. And I hope to have it more, more times, especially in the coming five, six weeks, heading into Augusta.
Q. Your fans are constantly yelling your name and trying to get your attention every hole. I'm just curious how you stay focused, how you remain concentrated on your game with all that commotion.
PHIL MICKELSON: It's great energy. I mean, the people here are so positive that it's -- you can't help but feel the positive energy. It helps to get that energy before you're about to hit a big tee shot or any shot. So I think it's very beneficial, and a lot of guys feel it, the people here have been so up listing to everyone, that we certainly feel it when we're playing.
Q. At one point during the round, there were about eight or nine guys within a stroke of the lead and you were able to obviously distance yourself over the back nine. How much of a help is that going to be going into tomorrow knowing you have a few shots to play with and you don't have to press as much?
PHIL MICKELSON: Every shot is critical. But the key for me tomorrow is going to be playing a good, solid round. I need to hit the ball like I did today. I need to roll it like I did today. And if I can shoot a number, I'll be very hard to catch.
So that's the goal. It really doesn't matter how many guys or where. It's that I need to go out and shoot a good round. If I can do that, I feel like I'll be able to do it.
Q. Have you ever played with Romero?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have, yeah. He's a great young player. He hits the ball a long ways, hits it hard. He won, is it New Orleans last year? He's a very talented player.
Q. I think this will be the first time Freddie was in the last group since, I want to say the Masters in about 2006.
PHIL MICKELSON: I remember that day, yeah. (Laughter).
Q. I wonder if you can just talk about that. Were you surprised to see him here? Will it be fun tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON: He's played well in the hat past. I remember watching him and Davis go head-to-head here a bunch. He's played well here and played well here countless times.
I love Freddie, he's fun. His caddie, Joe is as entertaining as anybody out on TOUR. It makes for a fun day. We've become good friends over the years. I know he's our Presidents Cup captain this year. I think everybody enjoys playing with Fred. He's just a fun guy to be around, and it will be a fun day.
Q. He's 49. Did you know that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Did I? Yeah.
Q. Is that surprising to you at all, to be doing this at that age?
PHIL MICKELSON: He looks young. So he doesn't look that old, and although he's been out here for a while, he still hits the ball so hard, and long, and his swing is so smooth and fluid that it just doesn't look like he's this old.
JOHN BUSH: Phil thank you for coming in and good luck tomorrow.
End of FastScripts