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April 5, 2005

Phil Mickelson


BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, coming off a well-deserved rest, we're delighted to welcome our defending champion, Mr. Phil Mickelson.

As you know, as of yesterday now, a 26-time winner on the PGA TOUR, five-time member of the American Ryder Cup Team, and very importantly, our defending champion. Phil, we're delighted to have you here.


BILLY PAYNE: Questions, please.

Q. Last year walking up to the 18th for that putt, you were already -- you already had a smile on your face. Can you just walk us through that? That was a pressure-packed put, nervous situation, and you seemed to be at peace or ease. Can you walk us through that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly didn't know what the outcome was going to be. I didn't know what was going to happen but I just really was enjoying the entire day. I enjoyed the entire back nine. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to win the tournament. I enjoyed the challenge of trying to overcome a three-shot deficit to Ernie, and coming up the last hole, I felt very confident in the way I was playing.

I hit a good tee shot and knew that if I could hit a good iron shot I would have a good chance at birdie because I had seen the ball funnel down 18, 20 feet a number of times and I had seen guys make that putt, and I knew a good shot would give me the opportunity to win the tournament.

I was enjoying the moment. I really enjoyed the back nine. I didn't really think about what the outcome or the results, I just enjoyed the walk up the 18th fairway.

Q. What's been the reaction from fans for the past year?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's been very flattering. I've been very surprised at some of the response, but it's been really cool and very enjoyable.

Q. It said on TV that you pulled out a club after the final round yesterday and you switched clubs for the playoff. How often do you do that? Will you do that this week and just talk about the reasoning of constantly moving the clubs around your bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the reason I changed clubs yesterday is knowing once the round is completed, you can change your setup.

I needed on the final shot in regulation a 3-iron and I had to carve a 4-wood in there to get to that pin, but it was a perfect 3-iron shot. So since I knew we were playing 17 and 18, those were the only two holes in the playoff, I knew I would never need a sand wedge. If I laid up it would be a pitching wedge or gap wedge. And sure enough, the second time where we played 18 I hit a 3-iron and hit a good one to the middle of the green. It was more just getting the clubs in that I was going to need for those two holes.

Q. And this week, what will you --

PHIL MICKELSON: 4-wood comes out this week. I don't have need a 4-wood.

Q. Do you do that every week?


Q. How often do you adjust?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have 16 clubs that I travel with for the most part, and I have to take two out each week.

Q. Over the past year, how has last year's win altered your game? To now, to this point now, do you have more confidence coming into each event?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see how winning last year altered my game any. I think what happened was in January I started having a much better direction in my practice, preparation, and my play and scores improved immensely, and now that I've been able to work on it for over a year now, I could feel -- I could keep seeing the progression. I keep seeing the improvement, and I think that's why I've been playing some of the best golf of my life is that I've been able to continue working on the right things and having that practice carry over to lower scores on the course.

Q. Can you articulate as best you can what it's like to be out there between the ropes when mayhem is breaking loose on every hole for two hours and trying to figure out what's going on and what it all means and whether that kind of carries you along, too?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was an experience that we don't get in golf very often as players. I would sometimes wonder what it would be like for a basketball player on the court with 15,000 people yelling, how loud it would be. And it was very loud last year. It was an experience I'll never forget. Bones and I reminisced playing the back nine today, not only about the shots we hit but about walking up 17 when the crowd came in close and just formed a little alleyway, how loud it was, how we could not hear ourselves talk for another 50 yards because it was so loud.

It was just a very cool experience that I'll always remember, and every time I come back here, I'll always relive it.

Q. Yesterday's victory, the significance of it, would it have been better if you could have finished Sunday, or would it matter one way or the other this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Winning yesterday was obviously very nice and it felt great. I was very fortunate to win, given how many guys had a chance to win.

I didn't mind the fact that it carried into Monday because it gave me a chance to play a competitive round closer to Thursday. But I do feel bad about a commitment I had made to do a book signing on Monday and wasn't able to fulfill that. I didn't feel -- or I felt like the tournament obviously was more important, and unfortunately I had to cancel. I do feel bad about that because I still felt like there was a commitment made that I wasn't able to fulfill.

Other than that, it was very enjoyable to be able to play on a Monday and to be in contention and to play well the back nine when it looked like I didn't have a chance for the playoff. To fight hard, shoot 4-under and get into the playoff, it gives me some confidence and momentum going into this week.

Q. Can you talk about you and Bones and the dynamics of your personalities on the course?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, after 12 years of -- 12, 13 years of working together, we've developed a very good understanding of each other and we work well together and things are very rhythmic between us. It has been a wonderful relationship.

He's been very helpful in a lot of areas, but he is very clutch and comes through at critical times with pulling the right clubs or reading the right breaks on the greens, and I'm very fortunate to have him. He's saved me a lot of shots and has been instrumental in a number of my wins, if not all of them.

Q. You say you like to like to play competitively as close as you can to major. Was that your idea yet, just keep playing and playing and get as close as you can?

PHIL MICKELSON: (Laughing) obviously that wasn't what I was thinking, but I'll take it.

To feel the intensity and the anxiety and the butterflies of a sudden death playoff, that's what I feel every shot, every round here at Augusta, and so to have only two days of a break of that is terrific because when I go 10 days, 11 days without having that feeling, it's much more of a culture shock for me, a lot harder to overcome those first few holes on Thursday.

Q. Did you practice today?


Q. What is your impression of Ryan Moore?

PHIL MICKELSON: Wow, he is some kind of player. He hit a lot of great golf shots today. He was very impressive.

Q. Maybe you didn't think this at the time, but are you of the belief that it takes a couple of years to play here before you really have a chance to contend?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't necessarily say that. I think that if you're playing well, you can come here and win. I do feel as though having played here a number of times now that it's beneficial to know how the shots are to certain pins, where to miss it, where not to. It's obvious for the most part, but there are times where you can put it in a place that doesn't look like from the fairway that you can get up-and-down, and you can, things like that that you just kind of pick up.

I know that there were some putts that I haven't made in 12 years out here and I've got to go out every year and try to practice it and learn it and learn how these certain putts break because they are very tricky. It's certainly helpful playing here a number of times but it's not a necessity to win.

Q. With regard to Tiger and the dominant run he had in 2000-2001, do you feel like he elevated the people around him, yourself, Vijay, and you guys have caught up to him; or do you feel like he might have leveled off as he's changed his swing or done whatever he's done or maybe dropped off a step or two to the point where he doesn't have that dominance anymore as talented as obviously he is?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough one for me to answer. I think that it became very apparent in 2000-2001 that if we were going to compete and win tournaments with a player of Tiger's caliber, we were going to have to improve our game and get a lot better.

So I don't know how to answer. I don't know what the answer is, if everybody's gotten that much better or what. I know that it's been very exciting this year to have a number of guys compete and win these tournaments.

Q. What's today been like, to be back here as defending champion with these people here, and what are the perks that go along with being the defending champion?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, one perk is I haven't heard the question, who is the best player in the world never to win a major (laughter).

It's fun to have dinner plans this evening (laughter).

There's a special feeling to be able to relive a victory walk up the back nine and to be a part of -- not just to be a part of the tournament, but to have those memories of the shot that I pulled in the clutch, and to birdie five of the last seven was just a memory that I'll never forget.

It's something that I enjoy coming back to and reliving.

Q. Did you leave a club here at the Champions --

PHIL MICKELSON: I did. I left the 8-iron here because I used the 8-iron on 12 to make birdie. I used the 8-iron on 16 to make birdie and I used the 8-iron on 18 to make birdie. That was a good 8-iron.

Q. Last year at this time we were asking all of the players about how difficult the back nine had become and was it not as scorable as it used to be, and then you and Ernie just go out and blow up on the back nine and do all of what you did. Was that a function of how well you guys played or is this --

PHIL MICKELSON: No. It was a function of the course setup.

The officials here set the course up very difficult on Thursday. We didn't see very many scores under par. When I say difficult, the pins are at high spots where the ball funnels away. And they set it up for an exciting finish on Sunday. They had a lot of low pins. That low pin on 16, that low pin on 13 there, bottom right, there was some pins on the front nine that we could get to. I think that having the pins in birdie positions, in spots you can get to -- back right on 15, that's a pin position a lot of guys make eagle on. I think that allowed for the exciting finish, and we saw a lot of low scores. I shot 31, but there were a lot of other guys that shot 31, as well.

Q. Do you think that makes for great a major championship on the back nine --

PHIL MICKELSON: You're not going to get any argument from me. I certainly enjoyed it (laughter).

Q. In your much-celebrated career, you have your major, you have so many wins, is it a goal now for you to get on top of that World Ranking?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not exactly, no. I think that if you listen to what Tiger has said, what Vijay has said, winning will take care of it. If you win tournaments, the World Ranking will come.

My goal is to try to compete the best I can in the major championships now because last year was really a breakthrough year for me, not just because of the win here at Augusta but because the other three tournaments when I prepared properly and was ready to play, I played some of my best performances in the majors. I had not ever had a Top-10 finish at the British Open and I lost only by one shot, missing the playoff by one.

I think that the preparation that I learned works best for me last year, I want to carry that over to this year and get myself ready for the big four tournaments as well.

Q. You mentioned your dinner plans tonight. How much have you anticipated this event tonight, and has there been protocol about it given to you? What do you know about what will happen?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I know we're having lobster ravioli, but the dinner is a great perk, but it's not something that I've really looked forward to or am ecstatic about. I'm going to enjoy the fact that I can hang around with some of the Masters greats. That's what is exciting. But my mindset is more concerned about trying to defend this championship and trying to win than it is to have dinner. As much fun as it will be, I want to get ready for the tournament. I'll be thinking more about preparation.

Q. What's it like -- you've been the favorite to win tournaments before, but what's it like to come to the Masters finally, you win yesterday and you clearly are the favorite this week? Does that feel any different for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: It feels different to have you say it, yes (laughter).

No, no, not personally, I say in general. It's cool. It's really cool to play well at the start of the year and to be looked upon as a favorite, but that doesn't mean anything. I've still got to come out and hit the shots and prepare myself, not just with my course preparation, course management preparation, but getting my game sharp, too. The greens are treacherous; they are as fast as I've ever seen this early in the week. If we don't get a little rain, I know we're supposed to, it will be a good thing; if we don't get any rain, it will probably be as difficult as I've ever seen them.

Q. When you won here, there was a great fascination with you both on and off the course. An off-the-course question, you were quoted in Golf Magazine recently saying that you made the decision two years ago to stop gambling --

PHIL MICKELSON: I never said that.

Q. The quote that I have here is, "I heard" -- this the question. "I heard you haven't gambled since 2003; is that true?" And your quote here is, "Yes, it is, March, actually." I was wondering why.

PHIL MICKELSON: I just referred to my book, Chapter 13 and I'll do the same with you.

Q. I'm afraid I haven't had a chance to read it yet.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's at every bookstore (laughter).

Q. Well, for those of us under perhaps a deadline before we have a chance to hit the bookstore --

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a 30-minute drive right down the street, downtown Augusta.

Q. Ryan Moore said that he thinks he can win this tournament. How realistic is it to think an amateur can win this tournament or any professional major?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's realistic. Certainly the type of player that Ryan Moore is, I think he's an exception. We haven't seen an amateur player at this level; we've seen a couple -- have some great performances here. It would not surprise me in the least. I mean, we saw a great performance with Ricky Barnes, Matt Kuchar has played very well here. There have been some great amateur performances, and I would not be surprised if Ryan Moore's was any less than anybody that's ever been here.

Q. You've had a lot of experience defending. Is there any difference defending here, more distractions, less distractions, and how is your preparation compared to where it was this time a year ago, given the weather and all of these complications?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was very fortunate in that the plan that I had for preparation, which is to come in a couple of weeks early, was very helpful this time because I got all of my work done before the tournament.

My schedule had Monday off, so I was going to take the day off. As it turned out, I was obviously playing the final round in Atlanta. It was very helpful to not have to come here and do a lot of course work and map out a game plan and hit all the shots from around the greens that I was going to hit. So I had all of that ready so I was able to come out today and play an enjoyable practice round and get a good feel for the course and be ready to go for Thursday.

Q. Defending here, is it any different than the other times you've defended a championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that, no. I would say it's a little bit different than some of the other championships I've defended, but it's a good different, and it's a good challenge, a fun challenge. It's exciting for me to be on the premises this year, because we get excited when we drive down Magnolia Lane, and to have this tournament on the brink starting Thursday, it's just exciting from a player's point of view. We've looked forward to this for months since the PGA Championship. This major has the most anticipation because it's the biggest time slot between majors.

Q. Are you more confident this year at the Masters compared with last year, because of the deliberation you went through last year?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that it might be -- it's never easy to win a major championship, but it might be a little bit less. It might not be quite as difficult this year now having won a major championship than last year with the uncertainty of if I'll ever be able to do it.

So being able to come through when I needed to gives me a little bit of extra confidence, yes.

Q. The transition from 2003 to 2004, can you just talk a little bit about the conversations that you had with Amy and with Rick and Dave, and do you look back on that perhaps as a pivotal change, direction change in your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've given a lot of credit to my game being turned around by the direction from Rick Smith and Dave Pelz, but the best advice I ever got was from my wife Amy, who at the end of the year said, "Look, let's put this behind us." End of January 2003, I had not touched a club for weeks, and we developed a game plan, we're healthy, we're all doing well, let's put this behind us and make it a great year, and we were fortunate to be able to do that.

Q. Do you feel like it's a new direction that you've taken to some degree?

PHIL MICKELSON: Very possibly. Hard to say, but very possibly.

Q. Too early still?


Q. Jack is here trying to put something behind him. Your thoughts on him playing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we love it. As players, we love to have the greatest player of all time compete, and it adds a lot to the field. I hope he's healthy enough to play for a long time because he certainly has the game for it. He has the game to make the cut and compete, I believe. '98 he came in 6th, and that was very exciting to see him up on the leaderboard. I hope he's able to come through and have a good week, because it would really do a lot for the game.

Q. Jack was in here earlier and he talked about how length has become such a factor, not only here but on the Tour with you and Vijay and Tiger and stuff. How much of the game is power these days and can a moderate-length hitter win out here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think Fred Funk winning THE PLAYERS Championship answers that. There's a great importance on accuracy.

There might be a couple of courses where we can get away with some wayward drives where maybe it didn't rain enough and the rough isn't as thick. But for the most part, the last two years especially, the rough has been brutally tough. I don't know where guys find any accuracy saying that it's an all-bombers' game and there's no rough; that's ridiculous because the last two years the fairways have cut in at 280, 290 yards, 18-, 20-yard wide fairways, and the rough is as thick as I've ever seen it. THE PLAYERS Championship, I don't think I've ever seen rough that thick except for maybe a U.S. Open.

I just feel like accuracy is every bit as important as it always has been and will continue to be the same. I think that the PGA TOUR and the major championships continue to place importance on driving accuracy.

Q. What did you take from your duel with Tiger at Doral?

PHIL MICKELSON: A loss (laughter).

But as I said then and I'll say it now, I want the opportunity or I hope for the opportunity to compete against him at his best. I came up a shot shy at Doral, but I enjoyed the competition, I enjoyed playing him at his best. He was 6-under through 12 holes and I feel like he was playing his best. I enjoyed the challenge.

I came back, worked on a couple of things and I think that I should be ready for this week, and hopefully we'll have a chance to compete head-to-head and we'll both play well.

Q. Jack earlier today was talking about how we write a lot about you and Tiger as rivals and we used to write about him and Arnie. He said we go too far in writing about you two, whether you actually like each other. Do you consider him a rival, a friend an acquaintance?

PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of all three.

Q. If you walked over to the clubhouse and he's sitting at one table --

PHIL MICKELSON: Let's not deal with hypotheticals. I enjoy his company. I enjoy playing with him. I enjoyed the chance to play with him at the Ryder Cup. I don't know if we'll have that chance again (laughter). I think we both wanted to play together. We unfortunately didn't play well and lost our matches, but had we won and had we played well, things would have been different.

I enjoyed it. I know that that has not been what's written, but I think that we have a really good relationship and that there's respect and we enjoy each other's company. We enjoy each other's company in the Ryder Cups, the Presidents Cups and the times we see each other. Obviously we live 3,000 miles away, but even if we didn't, big deal, it's nice to be on the golf course and have that head-to-head competition and off the course be able to enjoy each other's company.

Q. Did Chris Riley ask you as many questions about winning the Masters as we have, and what was the best one today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there's a reason why everybody loves Chris Riley; he's just a terrific guy and very enjoyable. We had a fun day today. He asked a lot of interesting questions, too, not necessarily about the Masters, and I enjoy being around him. I enjoy watching him putt. He's an incredible putter.

Q. Was there one thing about the Masters he asked you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing specific, no. We had a fun day today.

Q. Yesterday we talked about how it's different here than the other majors; what is the feeling like in this event compared to the others?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's certainly different. It doesn't feel different Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. You feel like, wow, this is fun, this is easy, and you stand up on the first tee, and all of a sudden, you start seeing all the trouble on every shot. It can sometimes be overwhelming and difficult to get your train of thought focused on the shot at hand because you have so many interesting things going on and memories from past tournaments, and so much history has taken place here where the other majors you have those butterflies and that feeling but you don't have that sense of history like you do here because we play here every year.

Q. So is there more pressure do you think?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I would say that, but it's different.

Q. Is it possible for you or Tiger or any of the top players to have a stretch like he did, to win seven majors out of 11 or have that kind of dominance?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously it's possible, he did it. It's very possible. I don't know if any of us are going to want it to happen again, if I'll be in a position to win those tournaments. I don't know if it will happen again. But it happened a few years ago so it can't be all that --

Q. I'm getting into the context, so many other players are playing well --

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we had that just before he went on the tear, too, so you just never know.

Q. Obviously it was you and Tiger, but since Doral, it was also great leaderboard beyond that, Goosen, Furyk, Vijay; do you enjoy that kind of competition coming down the stretch, or does an opponent in the cast not matter to you at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that we all know the difference in opponents and I think we all enjoy being able to play against the best at their best. That's what we all want.

The final round at Doral seemed to be more of a head-to-head showdown because we were able to get four or five shots ahead of everybody else, and that's why it was more of a head-to-head. But we are always looking at what Vijay is doing and Ernie and Retief, what he's doing; and we are always watching what the guys behind us are doing, whether or not they are making a move. We were just able to separate ourselves a little bit and make it more of a head-to-head tournament.

Q. A couple years ago, you led the driving statistic here and then last year --

PHIL MICKELSON: For which one, accuracy? No. Distance, okay. (Laughter).

Q. Last year you scaled back a little bit and won the tournament earlier. In the season you said you wanted to get some of your distance back this year; is the plan this week to go full-bore?

PHIL MICKELSON: It always is. Here at Augusta, I go at it as hard as I can. I'll still be hitting cuts because most of the shots set up better for me right-to-left, but I'll be swinging as hard as I can. In fact, I probably don't ever swing harder throughout the year than I do here at Augusta because it is a very long golf course, and it is such an advantage to have shorter irons into these greens that I'll be going as hard as I can at it.

BILLY PAYNE: Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. Phil, good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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