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August 9, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JULIUS MASON: Phil Mickelson, ladies and gentlemen, playing in his 13th PGA Championship.

Phil, welcome to Baltusrol. If you had a chance to play it, tell us what you think, and we'll go to Q&A.

PHIL MICKELSON: I just walked off the golf course, and it's one of the best, fairest, toughest setups that I think we've had in years. I understand now why this golf course gets so many major championships. It's just a terrific test of golf. And I'm really excited about the tournament getting started.

JULIUS MASON: Questions?

Q. Does your love affair with Baltusrol have anything to do with you playing well today?

PHIL MICKELSON: I played well today. I had a good practice session, and I was able to come in here last week and kind of see the course, know what shots to hit, and I think that it's just a very hard, straightforward, fair test of golf. I can't say enough good things about it.

Q. With a chance of thunderstorms this weekend and this being such a long course, what kind of adjustments do you make or would you make, and what type of player do you think has an advantage should it rain this weekend?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know if length will be a big factor or not. It certainly could be. If it does rain and stay wet, it will play longer, but I also think it will allow for lower scoring, because of two reasons. One, the ball will stay in the fairways a lot easier than if they firm up; and two, hitting shots into the green, although we might be hitting a long iron, a 3 , 4 or 5 iron, having the ball stop quickly on those fast greens is going to be a huge help. So if it stays wet, I think we'll see lower scores than if it dries out.

Q. Is there a certain type of player do you think has an advantage, a high hitter?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it favors any one particular style of player. I think length could be a factor, but I think the most important thing is just to play well and hit the shots. It's not playing overly long to where the shortest of hitters can't play well and win.

Q. There's a theory that the longer they make the courses, the fewer players that can really win. People are saying 10, 15, only 20 players here can really win. Do you subscribe to that theory?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't subscribe to that, especially this week. I think that it's just such a fair test that you don't need length necessarily to play well here.

I think that Augusta is a course where length is a big factor, no question. But here, the rough is so penalizing well, the difference between here and Augusta is that the fairways are, one, a little tighter here, and the rough is a lot thicker. If you do hit it into the rough, you are having a very difficult time saving par, so even though you might be a slightly shorter hitter, hitting out of the fairway allows you to get a lot closer to the green and make pars and birdies.

Q. Can you talk about the first seven holes here and how it sets up the golf course?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the first seven holes are by far the meat and toughest part of the course in my opinion. If you can somehow squeak through those first seven holes at even par, you should be able to have a pretty good round.

Now, it doesn't mean that the last 11 holes are a pushover; they certainly are not that, but you have shorter irons in if you can hit the fairways and more birdie opportunities; whereas three 3 and 7 are converted par 5s, they play very difficult, you'd be very thankful just to get a par there.

The 4th hole is one heck of a starting hole; it's one of the toughest par 3s we'll see, it's just a very difficult test of golf. The first seven holes are by far the toughest.

Q. In terms of sports popularity, do you think it's better to have it real competitive at the top as it was with you and Vijay and Tiger, or is it maybe even better when Tiger is ahead of everybody?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I know which one I prefer (laughter), but that's a little biased.

So, I don't know, I like it when we see a lot of guys competing for the top spot.

Q. I just want to ask, do you sense that it's getting to be like 2000 again where Tiger is a little bit above everybody, or do you not feel that at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly his wins would lead anybody to feel that way. But as a player and a competitor, I don't really subscribe to that.

Q. What's your anticipation level for this major? It's been an odd year for you in the majors. Are you more anticipating it because of what the golf course looks like, and how is the game coming along? You seem to be getting a little bit of momentum last week.

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it's been a great three weeks since the British Open for me. I've had some great ideas on how to start playing the way I feel I can and know that I can.

I had a good week last week. Even though I didn't play my best, to have a 10th place and to hit some shots at times even though I was a little rusty, I feel like I learned a lot last week and I'm trying to carry it over this week. I'm really looking forward to the last major. I really think everybody is really putting everything they have into this event, myself included, to finish out the year the right way.

Q. After playing a few practice rounds now and seeing 17, what's your overall assessment of it, one; and two, could a 700 yard par 5 be in the near future?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm sure it could.

17 will not be hit in two shots this week at all. I just don't see how it's at all possible. There's maybe two guys or three guys that might have a chance, and even then they would have to be missing the cut by ten shots to even try it I would think (laughter).

It's a true three shot par 5, as true a three shotter as they come.

Q. Do you think John Daly could be one of those? He hit a couple of balls from the fairway today in his practice round and came up just short in the rough. Would he be a guy that would go for? It?

PHIL MICKELSON: Given the right scenario, yeah, I wouldn't be surprised (laughter).

But I think if he's contending and going to win the championship, he won't be going for it in two.

Q. We're coming to the 75th anniversary of Bobby Jones' Grand Slam. What do you think of his achievements? What do you think of them and do you think some of his records could ever be matched in this day and age?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not going to say that the records couldn't be matched because I think we thought that what Tiger has done in his career wouldn't be matched or it wouldn't be done back in the mid '90s. So I would not put anything past anyone.

But what Bobby Jones did as a player, it's remarkable is really not even a fair assessment. I think the thing I respect most about Bobby Jones is how educated an individual he was. He didn't spend every minute practicing like we do, working out, trying to hone his skills as much as possible. He would put the clubs up for six or eight months and go study and get his degrees and so forth and then pull the clubs out of the closet and then go play top caliber golf over the summer. It was just amazing.

Q. It's no mystery you're a huge fan favorite, but the New York fans, the New York area fans are sort of a different breed. Can you talk about them and what your thoughts are on the New York fan?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're in New Jersey, just so you know.

Q. The New York area. I tried to qualify that.

PHIL MICKELSON: I love it up here. I love it. I love the golf courses and I love the people and I love the food. It's a great place to come. It's a great place to live, but if you don't, it's a great place to come and visit. My wife and kids can't wait to come to the events up here because of all the great things happening in downtown Manhattan, and the whole city provides such a fun atmosphere from the shows and the zoo and such great educational experiences and we just love it here.

Q. And the fans themselves?

PHIL MICKELSON: Awesome. Awesome. 2002 at Bethpage was one of the coolest moments. Even though I didn't win, it was an awesome place to hold an event.

Q. All of the majors have their own personality, their own charm, their own traditions. If you had to describe it, what makes the PGA distinct from the other three?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the great thing in my opinion about the PGA and why it is quickly becoming one of my favorite events in majors to play in is that they know how to set it up, set the course up fairly. It's just a good, straightforward, hard test, fair test of golf. There's no tricked up greens, there's no tricked up pin placements. They didn't move the fairways in eight to ten yards like we saw a couple of months ago. It just is a very fair test.

And if 8 or 10 under par wins, so be it, and if the wind comes up or the greens firm out, even par could win it. Score doesn't matter as long as it presents a fair challenge. As fellow professional golfers, and that's what members of the PGA are, we all see eye to eye on that.

JULIUS MASON: Good answer.

PHIL MICKELSON: You're a little biased though, aren't (laughter)?

Q. How much did Julius pay you for saying that, A; and mostly, on your schedule, you said earlier this year, I think, that you pour so much into the four majors that when it's over, there's a bit of a break, and I'm just curious with the Presidents Cup, the Other Cup sorry, Julius next month, what your schedule is looking like the rest of the year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'll play a couple more events and I'm excited about those, but right now, Doug, all I'm trying to do is put everything I have into this event, from the preparation last week, playing the event, trying to hit the shots I'm going to hit. A Nicklaus course favors a left to right shot, and all the last week, I was hitting right to left fades, because that's all I'll hit here. You'll see me hit fade after fade on this course because I want to take the right side out of play on most every hole. So I was trying to hit those exact shots last week that I was going to hit here.

I want to put everything into that I have into this one championship as I'm sure my fellow competitors are doing and I'll worry about it later, but I do plan on playing some more events this year, absolutely.

Q. Obviously going into the Masters there was a lot of talk about the top four or five players in the world competing, and now Tiger has won twice and finished second and the other players at the top have not really contended in the back nine on Sunday. Are you surprised it has unfolded that way and what can you do to put it together?

PHIL MICKELSON: I might be a little surprised. Certainly, unfortunately, Ernie Els hurt his knee and won't be competing this week. Retief looks like he's playing at the top of his game after a great performance last week. Vijay winning Buick is playing very well. I think that a lot of the top guys are going to be there to put up a good challenge, though, this week.

Q. Another two parter, just about preparation. Are you preparing the same way you did earlier in the year for majors last year, and that said, has this year been a bit of a disappointment for you as far as the success you've had?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely I'm preparing the same way. I haven't had the same success to answer the second part of your question, which is certainly not most thrilling. But after a great start, I had a great start to the year, and feel like I was playing very well. I just didn't play the best during the summer, but I think that things are turning around and I'm looking forward to finishing off the year right, not just this week, but maybe a few more events. As I was telling Doug, would I love to play well at the Presidents Cup; after playing poorly there in 2003, I want to turn that around. But I really want to put everything that I have into this week and see if I can play to the level I know I can play.

Q. Has there been anything that you can identify that you've struggled with this year? I know last year you worked a lot on your short game with Dave Pelz. Has there been anything this year that you can identify that you've had trouble with?

PHIL MICKELSON: If I look statistically, my putting has been the one area on these quick, fast greens in the majors that has not been to the same level as last year, so that's something I've been working on and hopefully have it figured out. The greens here, I feel like I have a pretty good feel on, and they roll so true and perfectly, I feel very confidently on them.

Q. Knowing the challenge in the majors, in the context of the game and its history, where would you rate a year where a single player won three majors and came in second in the fourth?

PHIL MICKELSON: Is that the year that Tiger had in 2000? Is that what you're referring to?

Q. No. It's the year, with all due respect to your own contention, it would be the year that he would have this year if he won here.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, let's answer that one, though, a little later (laughter). Certainly that's a good question, but let's ask that one a little later.

Q. Given how much you pour into preparing for major championships and the yardstick they can provide for careers, how big of a week is this for you, given that you have not challenged in the first three majors this year? In a sense is your year almost hanging on the four days to come here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't quite put it that degree, no, but it could certainly make my perception of the way I feel about my performance of the four majors do a 180 this year. But I would not wrap up the whole year into how I played in the fourth majors because starting the year I felt that I had achieved a couple of things in my game that I had been wanting to do for a while. I feel like there were some good strides taken in 2005.

Q. You had been talking about how you do prepare the same way for a tournament and things like that. How about peripherally, like wearing a different color shirt? Any superstitions to snap you out of whatever you get into sometimes?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I try really hard not to be superstitious, but you may see something this week that I haven't ever done really, and that's play with a hat. My head got a little sunburned last week, and to keep some of the sun off, I may wear a hat, which I haven't done in a long time.

Q. If you win will you wear a hat next week?

PHIL MICKELSON: You might see that. I might become a little more superstitious (laughter).

Q. I was just trying to help you out.


Q. Obviously both Pinehurst and St. Andrews are very unique setups in major championships. How much a function of those setups do you think it is that the top four or five guys weren't all right there at these majors do we have to look at those setups and how unique those courses are in looking at big picture of the Big Five?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I think that I wouldn't say that. I think that even though well, I think that the setup can play a factor, but the players playing the best should come out on top each week regardless of the setup. Everybody is playing the same course. Unless you have a ridiculous circumstance like we saw, I believe it was 2002 at Muirfield on Saturday where the leaders just got hammered with 40 mile an hour winds and rain and were shooting in the 80s, unless something like that happens, the best players, regardless of who they are, should come out on top and regardless of the setup.

Q. Just back to Tiger a little bit, he seems very comfortable and confident. Obviously he's had a good year and he's won the two majors and whatnot. You played with him a few weeks ago at The Bridges thing and whatnot, and you're around him at the events. Have you noticed, I'm not even saying necessarily the way he's been playing, but is there a certain comfort level, maybe in his marriage and whatnot and working with Hank that you've noticed maybe that's been the difference this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know if it's his marriage or winning the Masters and the British Open, but certainly he seems pretty confident, absolutely. And he's playing very confidently, too.

He's going to be a tough competitor this week.

JULIUS MASON: Thanks for visiting with us, Phil.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys.

End of FastScripts.

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