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July 12, 2005

Phil Mickelson


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, we have in front of us Phil Mickelson.

Phil, you came earlier last week and had one or two practice rounds. How is the preparation for The Open going?

PHIL MICKELSON: It has been going very well. I was not expecting it to play like this. We expected it to blow 20 or 30 knots, and it hasn't done it. I think there's a good chance the scores will be pretty low because of it.

Q. Obviously this was a pretty good Open Championship for you in 2000. You played well last year. Can you kind of assess St. Andrews and how it works with your game and how much better it is as an Open venue compared to other places. This hasn't always been your best championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do like this golf course a lot. And I think the conditions that we're having is going to allow for lower scoring and not nearly as many big numbers, which is going to create a bunching of the field, in my opinion. And if the wind were to blow, it would be a whole different golf course, and we'll see a lot more separation in the scores. But the way it is in the practice rounds, and obviously it could change over night, but the way it is in the practice rounds, we should see a lot of people being able to play through the air, not have to hit along the ground, play through the air, fly balls on the green, get it stopped and be able to make birdies.

Putting is a lot easier without wind, as well. And so that is a factor in adjusting scores. But all it takes is 15, 20 knots of wind and the entire golf course turns around.

Q. When you look at this golf course, how much differently does it look to you than maybe some other Open Championship golf courses?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, a lot of it plays very similar to the States, where there's no wind, because you can fly balls on the green, you play through the air, and it's a normal shot like we play back in the States. But if it just gets a little bit of wind it plays totally different. Now you can no longer fly balls on the green that are downwind or you're hitting a lot longer shot into the wind and the wind will take it off line, if it's playing longer. It just right now is playing not like it normally does.

Q. Can you talk about the difficulty of the bunkering here, and is it difficult to stay out of them, even if you strike a drive or ball very well?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the bunkers are pretty far between each other. There's a pretty good corridor between bunkers. But that's, again, with no wind. As soon as you get a crosswind those corridors are cut in half. And that's where the greatness of the golf course comes out, where the challenge off the tee and the challenge off the green comes into play. It narrows up once you get a crosswind. We haven't seen it yet.

Q. Tiger didn't hit any bunkers here in 2000. Can you imagine going through a full round competition, even with the wind not blowing that hard, not hitting a bunker here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there are a lot of them to hit, and that's some pretty stellar play. He's able to take a lot of them out of play off the tee. I think some of the tee boxes will make it more difficult to do that this year because a lot of the bunkers will be much more in play now. But it's still very doable, very possible. And obviously he did it in 2000. He won the tournament, I don't think because he missed bunkers. I think he missed bunkers because he was playing so well and had such control of his golf ball. You have to avoid them. You may as well just put water in there. It's a one shot penalty if you go in.

Q. Generically, could you assess your year to this date?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's been a very good start, I just haven't continued at that pace, the pace that I started through The Masters. And I've only played a few times, really, since. But I guess it needs to get going again. It needs to pick back up here in the last two majors.

Q. Coming into The Open last year, you were pretty much at that point I think the favorite in the majors for the rest of the year. Could you assess your play in both of them? The record's not the same, but I think you played okay at Augusta, didn't you, except for not making enough putts and just one nine hole stretch at Pinehurst, but I wonder playing wise if you're closer than what your record might appear?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's hard to say. I think that I've played well this year and got a lot more out of it earlier in the year than I have the second half. I don't think I've played poorly the second half, but certainly I haven't made as many putts in the two majors, the first two of the year. But I've spent a lot of time working on the putter this week last week, for this week and it's going to be a very critical club, because we'll have a lot of long lag putts, and that's something I'm really trying to spend a lot of time on.

Q. On the lag putting or

PHIL MICKELSON: Speed, making it up from six or eight feet on, and getting them close from outside 30 or 40 feet.

Q. The forecast is for the weather to stay as it is. If that happens, what do you think could be the winning score? Is there anything you can do to defend the golf course?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm sure we'll see some pins that we can't get to that are right over the edge of the bunker. Like 17, we'll see it right over I'm sure we'll see it right over No. 11 bunker, where we can't get to, or No. 8.

I remember in '95 the same pin was basically used right over the pot bunker on the left side, and you couldn't get within 40 feet. So I think that those pin placements could certainly take a lot of birdies out of play. But there are still some holes, such as the par 5s, and probably two holes that are drivable that we'll be able to make birdies on. So the scores will be a lot lower without the tough conditions. And the toughness of the golf course is in the weather.

And that's where the greatness of the course is, because it's designed to play in poor weather and tough wind and rain. And that's when the bunkers and when the swales and the hollows come into play and so forth.

Q. Can you take a stab at the score in good weather?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have no idea. I think it would be close to what we saw probably in 2000, I would guess.

Q. I know you're a betting man. Do you think 18 to 1 is a good prize to win this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm starting to play better, but I'm not having the summer that I had at the start of the year. But I am hoping to improve on it.

Q. I know you're prepared for yourself, preparing your own game, but given this is Jack's last time here, what does that mean to you and what influence did Jack have on you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's a special Open because of that. We remember The Masters this year, because it was Jack's last. We remember The Masters last year because it was Arnold's last. To be able to be in the field is special. I remember the first time we played together. We opened a golf course in Scottsdale. I remember playing practice rounds at the Masters with him and watching him make 15 footers that mattered for a little something that was very impressive.

But I mostly just listened to a lot of things he had to say. I would try to ask some questions about his career and what he did. And he would tell me how he prepared for the majors and how he would do it is very unusual, I thought, because he would practice hard the week before and go out and play as if it was a major. Then he would take three or four days off over the weekend and the first couple of days into the week and then try to build his game back up as the week wore on. I always thought that was very interesting.

We try to enter Thursday playing as great as we can. He didn't look at it like that. He tried to build as the week wore on. I remember a lot of the things he said and I always tried to be real sharp and listen to what he was saying because he made a lot of sense.

Q. I know that the low shot around the green is going to apply, but where you've been practicing, you play the ball down. Are you going to be using that shot, or will you do as others and fly it through the air?

PHIL MICKELSON: There will still be a couple of holes or shots that I will run the ball onto the green, no matter what the wind is, just because it's an easier shot for me. But when I do that I'm basically playing for par and hoping that I get a good bounce or can make a 30 footer. It's not a hole that I would be looking at birdie on. The front nine I'll probably be looking at more birdies and trying to fly the ball close, providing the wind will allow for it.

Q. What did you think of the changes in the Road Hole Bunker?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I haven't played here in five years. And I remember how tough it was and it still is very tough. It looks different. I don't know what exactly is different, but it does look a little different. I thought I played it played very fair. When I was in the front third of the bunker, I had to go out sideways. I felt it was very tough to get it out. But I was able to get it out sideways, no problem. I'm not sure what was changed, though. I know it's different, I don't know what.

Q. You couldn't go out towards the pin?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not on the front third, no.

Q. We've seen a lot of first time winners, here, surprise winners, as well. I'm curious if there's something about this championship that lends itself to that and if you think the bunching in scores could lead to more chances of that happening again?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's very possible. There's a very good chance that a lot of guys will play well and that I wouldn't say surprise because there are a lot of guys that we as players know are very talented. But there might be guys that the public might expect not to play well that does. But I think without the weather conditions I would open the field more up to who could win, sure.

Q. Have you noticed any change in the reception from the Scottish gallery towards you since you first started playing this in whatever year it was, early '90s?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, the people here have always been very welcoming to all players. And I have not ever felt unwelcome at all. I felt like they treat everybody tremendous. Every player has been treated with respect. I enjoy coming here and playing.

Q. Second, I guess it was Jones that told Jack once that a great champion's career is not complete until he wins an Open at St. Andrews. Your thoughts on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we're certainly all trying to win this week because we know that it would be something we'll never forget and a very special moment in our careers. So we're all trying very hard to do well this week. I know that Jack won here, what, twice, and those are events that we still reminisce about, talk about, look back on the highlights and so forth. And the Jones statement may very well be true.

STEWART McDOUGALL: Phil, thank you very much.

End of FastScripts.

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