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May 4, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes in the media center here at the Wachovia Championship. You had an opportunity to play this morning. Why don't you talk a little bit about that, the golf course, and maybe what you've been doing for the last couple of weeks and we'll go into questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's been a nice three weeks, had three weeks off. I'm looking forward to getting back and playing and coming here to Wachovia. It's amazing what they've done in their third year; it's just tremendous.

The golf course is in great shape. The greens are firm and fast and I think playing very difficult. It's going to be a fun test.

Q. Is the golf course dramatically different from last year given the firm and fast?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a lot firmer, a lot faster, but it's still playing long. The greens are very difficult, girl and fast, and I know if we don't get rain -- it's supposed to rain, but if we don't get any the scores won't be low at all because it's very hard to get the ball close to the hole and it's hard to putt and chip with it being so firm. There's not as much rough, which is kind of nice. I like that. We'll have a chance to make some recovery shots.

Q. Can you compare, Phil, the two closing holes here and how they stack up with others, Bay Hill, PLAYERS, only two that come to mind right now, that are back to back?

PHIL MICKELSON: 17 is a tough par 3. I remember last year with the pin back, a lot of guys hit it in the water and a lot of guys came close to hitting it in the water. It's a tough par 3 hole. You think you can bail out right and you can, but it's a very difficult chip the way the green rolls away from you there.

18, what we saw what David Toms did a few years ago, fortunately he was smart enough to have a few shots in hand. But if you drive 18, you drive it in the fairway it's a very easy hole to make birdie or par.

Q. What do you consider to be the toughest back-to-back closing holes on Tour?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think 16 is just as tough as those other holes because it's just a tight drive and around the green is so difficult to get up-and-down from. The last three holes are as tough as any, and 15 is really your last good birdie opportunity, so you really want to make birdie on the par 5 because the last three holes are unlikely birdies.

Q. Is there a little adrenaline this week with pretty much everyone here except Ernie and Retief? This is most of your guys' first run back since Augusta. Is there a little bit --

PHIL MICKELSON: I feel a little bit of uncertainty as to how will I play. I had a couple weeks where I didn't touch a club, so although I had a good practice session, a good week last week, there's always uncertainty when you come back after a stretch of time off. So I'm looking to this week to see where's my game at and how sharp is it heading into the U.S. Open stretch now.

Q. In about five weeks you'll be back in North Carolina for the U.S. Open. Can you talk about Pinehurst, some of the things you like and some of the things you don't like?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm very sentimental towards Pinehurst. It was a very emotional week for me last time we played in 1999. Certainly it was an emotional finish for me, losing by a shot, losing to Payne, who passed away a couple months afterwards. So there's a lot of sentimental feelings that I have when I go back there, not to mention that the day after the tournament we delivered our first child.

So it's a very special place for me. The golf course is one of the best we play, one of the best in the world. What I love playing at Pinehurst is the USGA sets it up where it's shaved around the greens, gives us a chance to let our short game come out as opposed to just the thick heavy rough where they have to chop it out. I love the way Pinehurst sets up for that.

Q. How emotional do you think it's going to be due to the loss of Payne and coming back and playing it again?

PHIL MICKELSON: It'll be very emotional for a lot of players because almost everybody out here considered Payne a good friend. So it's going to be an emotional week for everybody.

Q. During your time off the last couple weeks you did a little media tour, made some appearances on some talk shows. What was your favorite thing you did during your time off and tell us a little bit about it.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I didn't do that much. Last Thursday I did the Jay Leno show, which I enjoy doing. I just find that very interesting. It's a fun show, and I enjoy watching his show. I did PTI, Pardon the Interruption. I enjoy listening to Tony Kornheiser and Michael Wilbon's commentary, and then I did a little bit for CNBC, which was fun.

Q. Do you get used to that element, doing more of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it was fun to do. I enjoyed it, and it was also a chance to kind of get a little bit of word out on the book that Amy and I just finished up with.

Q. You mentioned the U.S. Open run up. Are there certain stages of your game that you look at as you go in? In other words, tournament by tournament are you focusing on one aspect or another?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think when you play tournaments the areas of your game that are weak and that are strong tend to come out. If you start missing fairways, it certainly comes out with driving accuracy, and if you look on the Tour -- the Internet cast.

Q. ShotLink.

PHIL MICKELSON: ShotLink. It will identify if you have a tendency to miss more left or more right, which is interesting, and it will also show you how close you're hitting the ball from certain yardages.

So playing in these tournaments and looking at ShotLink gives you an idea on what areas are strong and what areas aren't.

Q. Joey winning here last year, what kind of -- what do guys kind of think about that? It had been a long time since he had won.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a very popular win amongst the other players because Joey is so well-liked. We consider him to be such an incredible player who has gone through some rough patches with his game surprisingly. For him to come out and win, it was very popular with the guys.

Q. You talked about after the U.S. Open in 99, your first daughter was born. How much have you changed in the past six years, becoming and dad and winning The Masters, since the U.S. Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: Since the last U.S. Open here in 99 at Pinehurst, a lot has changed. My wife and I have had three kids and I've actually been able to break through and win a major, even though it wasn't the U.S. Open. It was nice to break through and win a major. Coming back to Pinehurst is a course that I'm looking forward to playing on because it does incorporate all your game, and it also holds so many sentimental feelings, and just like you said, so much has changed since the last time we were there.

Q. You're certainly one of those people who found their true calling in life, but I'm curious as to what you think you might be doing if you weren't swinging a golf club for a living.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think there are a lot of fun challenges in life. I don't know which ones I would gravitate towards, but there are a number of wonderful things to do for a living, but for me personally, there's just nothing better than to play golf for a living. Most people do this on their vacation, and I get to do it every day. I'm amazingly fortunate.

Q. Did you come away from Augusta, the one thing was your putting that let you down? Was there anything else there that was --

PHIL MICKELSON: I struggled more on the greens at Augusta I think than just about anything. It was the biggest area of noticeable improvement where I need to work on.

Q. Did you do anything while you were -- I know you shut down for a while, but --

PHIL MICKELSON: I did spend a lot more time putting this past week, and it feels like it's coming around.

Q. Given what happened last year at Shinnecock and the nature of the greens at Pinehurst, how close do you want -- do you think they should monitor the setup down there this year, given that --

PHIL MICKELSON: I would love them to have every hole play like No. 7 did last year because if nobody hit any greens -- and that's exactly what would happen. If nobody hit the green, I like my chances (laughter).

Q. To go back to the 99 Open again, I know you would have left if you would have gone into labor and if you wouldn't have been in a playoff at all, but do you think she might have hesitated to beep you knowing that you would leave?

PHIL MICKELSON: One thing that I mentioned when we rehashed that part in the book that we just came out with, we talked about that, how Saturday night she was actually going into labor, and she was ready to deliver, and they ended up stopping it, but she didn't call me. We were both fortunate that it didn't -- that she was able to stop it.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about being a celebrity and whether you're comfortable with that? Tiger was in here a minute ago saying he walks with his head down because people are always staring at him and you're never really used to that.

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really look at myself like that, I guess. When I think of a celebrity I think of guys who are in movies and in Hollywood. I play golf for a living and I've got a wonderful family and we have a lot of time away where we're able to just be ourselves and not be interrupted. I don't consider myself at that level yet.

Q. I've heard some piecemeal stories over the last couple years about some ridiculous shots you've hit with chipping. I wonder if you could talk about any that come to mind as being your favorites.

PHIL MICKELSON: Of chip shots?

Q. Yeah, "can you believe this," and then a follow-up if you can think of it.

PHIL MICKELSON: Get me started.

Q. Something like being able to spin it out of thick rough, downslope and being able to check it, or just shots that other players don't have that you've been particularly proud of.

PHIL MICKELSON: Boy, I mean, it's not like I dwell on them. You'd have to give me something to feed off of. I'm not thinking of any right now.

Q. When was the last time you impressed yourself with one?

PHIL MICKELSON: Last time I impressed myself with a chip?

Q. On Tour.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I mean, that's a tough question. I don't know. The shots that I try, I obviously have seen myself hit or I've hit them before, but I've also -- I'm able to visualize me hitting it, so it doesn't come off as a surprise.

Q. What are some that you've heard were surprising?

PHIL MICKELSON: I know I've had my grooves checked before for spinning it out of the rough.

Q. Let me jump ahead to Pinehurst because one of the things I also heard was that you were able to play like five or six different shots with the same club, and I just wonder if you could talk about that.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when I grew up chipping in my backyard, I wouldn't bring four or five clubs out there and chip with an 8-iron and chip with a 9-iron, so I'd bring my one club, the lob wedge or sand wedge, and I would hit a variety of different shots. I'd hit a lob shot over the bunker or hit a low bump-and-run by scooting it back, so I hit all the shots around the green with the same club, which is why I don't chip as often with another club like Olazabel does. Olazabel is an incredible chipper, one of the best the game has ever seen, and hits a lot of bump-and-runs with 6-irons and 8-irons, and I don't hit that style of shot because I've practiced much more with a lob wedge, even if it is a little knock down bump-and-run.

Q. Do you ever chip with an 8-iron?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I do, just not that often.

Q. Do you ever talk to your daughter about Pinehurst? Does she ever ask anything about that, or was that something that she just doesn't even know about?

PHIL MICKELSON: We tell stories to our kids at night. We either read books or tell stories, and we tell little fairytale stuff about when she was born, about how Amy and I met or about her. So we've talked about it. But I don't think she's old enough -- she has not been old enough to really grasp it yet.

Q. Can you talk about the fans here and the crowds? They're out here early in the week, pretty knowledgeable, just how they help to make this one of the premier Tour stops?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think all the players, myself included, are really impressed with the way the people here in Charlotte support this tournament. It's the Wednesday Pro-Am, and we have some amazing crowds that we don't even see during tournament days in a lot of cities. So it's very flattering and it's great to see this type of support for such a wonderful event in only its third year. Amazing.

Q. When you think back to that last day at Pinehurst, what really stands out the most from that day, just all the things that happened that day?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I have looked back, but I really don't remember much of the round now except the last three holes, and I stopped really rehashing it. The last thing I remember was basically the last three holes, how I didn't get up-and-down on 16, missed a birdie putt on 17 and lost by a shot to Payne's putt on 18 certainly, but he also made a 40-footer on 16 that was cruising by the hole and made a great birdie on 17. So I remember the last three holes better than I remember any other part of the tournament, and that's what -- I wouldn't say one shot sticks out.

Q. Payne speaking to you after the round?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, absolutely. I mean, he's very -- I think I was most impressed with Payne when here he just won the greatest championship of the game and he's thinking about Amy and myself. He's very prophetic, too; being a father is the most fulfilling thing that I've ever experienced in life.

Q. Do you have a copy of -- do you own a copy of that video of The Open at Pinehurst, and if so how many times have you watched it versus how many times you've watched The Masters highlights from last year?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I haven't ever watched a highlight or a recap of the 99 U.S. Open. I saw maybe ten minutes -- I think it was The Golf Channel was re-airing it, and I turned it (laughter). I knew the outcome (laughter).

Q. How many times have you watched The Masters replay?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've actually watched that probably four or five times, yeah (laughter). Of course I knew the outcome then, but it was more exciting for me.

Q. In the four months after Pinehurst, whenever you ran across Payne, what was the conversation like as it related to the U.S. Open?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see him too much except for the week of the Ryder Cup, and when I saw him the week of the Ryder Cup, it was amazing how well we -- how he really captained or led the team that year.

To be able to be on our last winning Cup -- it's been a while -- and to be able to share that with him was really cool. Amy and I have a picture of him dancing on the piano after we won in our room, and every time we come into the house and go, it's one of the first things we see. It means a lot, that we were able to share that, but we didn't talk much about the Open, we were more concerned about winning the Ryder Cup.

Q. Has winning The Masters last year changed your life at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it's changed anything. I mean, it certainly has been exciting to go back to the Masters as The Masters champ. It's been a lot more enjoyable to enter this room the weeks of majors. But it hasn't changed too much other than that.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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