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March 23, 2005

Phil Mickelson


TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson, No. 1 on the PGA TOUR Money List, No. 4 in the official World Golf Rankings coming into this year's PLAYERS Championship, two time winner FBR Open and Pebble Beach AT & T this year, coming off of that dual at Doral that got the fans excited out there, Phil. Let's talk about how you are coming into this week and your preparation.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, after the Ford Championship I was pretty tired. I had six out of seven weeks where I had played, and I took a little bit of break. I went skiing with Amy and we had a great time for a little while there. I knew that the run through The Masters, although the tournament starts tomorrow, for me it started last Friday when we got into town here to prepare for this tournament. I spent Saturday and Sunday out here, went to Augusta Monday and Tuesday and got some good stuff done over there, and I'm trying to get ready for this event and The Masters as best I can, and I'm excited to get the tournament started.

Q. So much is made of the final round at Ford Doral, the battle between you and Tiger. Did you carry that over for a few days? Did you think about it much? I know you liked the excitement of it. Just would you comment on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, after the tournament, because I had played six out of seven, I tried to get away from it. I didn't think about it too much, got away from golf for the next ten days, went skiing, tried to put that behind me because I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me. Now it seems like it's been a long time ago, but I think pretty close, I think, to being ready.

Q. Had you been back to Augusta since you won the tournament? What's it like for you to go back there now knowing that you're the --

PHIL MICKELSON: It's very cool. I went back there in October and played, but it's very cool to go back there as the past champion and be able to go in the champions' locker room and walk around with a green jacket. It's cool.

Q. Other than walking around with the green jacket on for a little while, what did you work on? Did you take a look at anything specific on the golf course?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think most of it I just tried to get a good feel for the course, get a feel for how the greens are rolling and the breaks and get a good feel for short game and just develop a good feel for the courses.

Q. Your wife said that your mail has grown to such the point that you're signing stuff at night in bed. I wonder whether you've been completely blown away by the reaction and some of the stories you've heard anecdotally about how much that win meant to some of your fans.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's been very flattering, thank you, Steve. I've received some letters that are very touching and I've tried my best to respond. I do do my best, but a lot of times I'm just not able to get it all done. But yeah, it does -- I don't mind staying up a little later to try to accommodate some of that.

Q. I know that the TPC stadium course turns 25 this year and a lot of TPC courses are coming up and you're playing a lot of them nationwide. Can you talk about how this design, the vision for this, has changed the face of golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's interesting how controversial it was at first and what a great deal it's turned out to be because we don't have the site fee to pay. We're able to put that in the purse. Our purses have grown wonderfully. A lot of that can be attributed to the TPC courses.

A great benefit to the members of the Tour are that we're members at all the TPC courses, so it's given us an avenue to practice throughout the country. A lot of benefits have come from that, as well as having golf courses that hold spectators so well. TPC Scottsdale is amazing, how many people that holds, 150,000 or 160,000 in one day and they can all see a lot of golf. It's amazing how it's turned out to be such a successful venture for creating great risk-reward golf shots like we have here at Sawgrass, 16, 17, 18, and also great viewing opportunities for the fans who come out and watch.

Q. Had you done this kind of preparation for this tournament before getting here early to scope things out, and what did you learn?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, most of the times I've been playing the week before over at Bay Hill, so I haven't had the chance to, but I've rescheduled it so now I can come here a little bit early. I think I may have learned a couple of subtleties of the course. I'm not sure, we'll see how it translates into score, but as I have gotten to know this course I feel like I've gotten a lot of local knowledge. It's taken me a while before I played well here. Last year I played better than I had in years past because I learned little tidbits about where you want to miss it to certain pins and where you don't and I've learned things that help in the long-term. I want to treat this as the big event that it is.

Q. When you had your practice rounds here, did you do your routine of spending a lot of time at each green?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. I didn't really play it. I didn't hit a lot of shots, it was just mostly around the greens.

Q. How many hours did it take you?

PHIL MICKELSON: About eight or nine a day I would say.

Q. 18 holes?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yeah. I wouldn't really play per se, but I would go to the greens and stuff.

Q. With regard to the No. 1 ranking, I know you're playing a little catch-up from that spell and you're slightly out of the mix compared to the top three guys, but is it important for you at some point to have that? Is that a goal of yours at some point?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it would be, again, a long-term goal that you try to set for two or three years as opposed to a short-term goal, and certainly it's something that I would love to do, but I don't think about it consciously, if that makes sense. I've heard the guys like Tiger and Vijay say that you win tournaments, it'll take care of itself. I certainly feel the same way.

I have a lot of high hopes for this year, for '05, certainly after the start and the way I've been playing, I expect to continue that type of play, and if that's the case, maybe towards the end of the year when I've played well for a two full years, I might have a chance to make a run at that.

Q. When you went out to Augusta, how different was your working before this year as opposed to last year? Did you have to do more or less or was it the same thing? And what kind of subtle differences did you see on some of those greens there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was very interesting to me how over the years I've learned a lot about that golf course, a lot about the pin placements, what holes you can attack, where to miss it and where the real trouble spots are. So I've pretty much known that for a while after playing there for so many years. There have always been little shots, little putts that have given me problems over the years that I've never made certain putts. I went out and found out why, and hopefully I'll be able to translate that into a lower score.

Q. Rick is with you more than the typical coach. Is that something like a comfort thing with you, or are you constantly taking instruction?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that our relationship has evolved to where we're very good friends, and I would say 90 percent of the time we hang out together because we like being around each other. I like him. I respect him. His wife and my wife are very good friends. Their three children are the same ages as our three children. They do a lot of things together. They went skiing with us. We've just become very close friends, and he's one of my favorite people to be around.

I would say that the great thing about our relationship is we know when to separate work and then go put that aside and be friends.

Q. Where did you go skiing and how good of a skier are you? Did you try snow boarding? How much risk do you take when you ski?

PHIL MICKELSON: In '94 I snapped my leg so I try to be more conservative. I don't snowboard, there's too many wrist injuries and I would be novice at it. I've been skiing since I was four so I'm reasonably okay, and I feel comfortable where I won't get injured again if I stay within reason. We went to Vale, Colorado, this year. We try to mix it up, went to Beaver Creek. Amy and I try to mix it up each year and go to a place we haven't been.

Q. What is your stance on the IMG pay-for-pay issue and how it relates to appearance money?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's interesting. I don't really know. I'm going to let the Tour and everybody play that out. That's not really something I want to get involved in. I don't really know what to say there. It's a good question, I just don't really know what to say.

Q. Can you talk about the book, the reason behind doing the book, what it's like doing it, and is it out selling now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been wanting to do this for a while, to come out -- to write a book about some of the stories that have taken place throughout mainly the Tour life but also before growing up and little interesting things that have happened through my parents, with Amy, with our kids, some of the Tour players and so forth, and it either came out the 21st or the 28th of this month, I'm not exactly sure what date was set. But the reason I enjoy doing that is Amy and I sat down and went over all these stories and reminisced for the past 12 years that we've been together and really have had a lot of fun looking back on all those occurrences from how our relationship was before we had kids, how it evolved with kids and the travel and little funny stories that have happened. It was just a lot of fun to do.

Q. There aren't many players who have had two teachers, one for one aspect and another for another like you have done it. You're very close -- both those guys work a great deal with you. How do you separate that, and how do you cope with two coaches instead of one, I guess?

PHIL MICKELSON: The great thing about Dave and Rick is they don't let any ego get in the way. They work well together. We go out on the same days and have a great time together. They like each other, and we just have formed a great -- I guess you could say a great team to where everybody has something very interesting at a different angle to present some information that has helped me evolve was a player and get better and have not only my practice get better but also the scores, have it carry over into the golf course, which is where I really struggled in '03. All the practice I did just didn't translate to lower scores. And those two developing game plans for two totally different parts of the game of golf has really helped me get better in practice but also carried over to the course.

Q. The preparation that you've brought in the last year to your tournaments, the majors, anyway, do you think other players can do that and can go allow that to go on? You've taken basically a team approach, like you were preparing a football team for a game, with scouting, with preparation on course and then coming back and playing. Do you think that will be something that will be commonplace, and can clubs like Augusta accommodate players with that kind of approach?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hope it does not become commonplace (laughter). You know, it's interesting. Everybody has a different way of preparing for events. When I came out on Tour, it was difficult for me to know -- I didn't know what worked best for me, and a lot of it was experimental, and I would play the week before, I wouldn't play the week before. I'd work on driver, work on putting, work on different areas, and I wasn't getting out of my game what I felt I should. Now after last year's performances in the majors and implementing a certain preparation routine, it seems as though I've found my best way to prepare for big events.

This is my first big event this year, and I'm interested, as well as excited, to see how this new preparation continues to carry on. I'm hoping that it has the same success, if not better, than it did in '04 for the four majors, and I've kind of added this as my fifth.

Q. After last year's Masters and a lot of joking, you did some of it, about how left-handers were now going to dominate at Augusta National.

PHIL MICKELSON: Do you think that's different?

Q. That's why I ask. With a year to think about it, any sort of philosophy about how that plays out and how you might approach that in the future?

PHIL MICKELSON: I talked a lot about that. In the book I had written I used the final round of Augusta, the first page of each chapter, to kind of discuss the hole and the shot, and one of the things I discussed was shot dispersion and how a lot of the most difficult holes at Augusta really favor the shot dispersion of a left-handed player, not to say that a right-handed player can't hit the shots because obviously they can, they've won every year except the last two, but somehow the misses might be better for a left-hander on some of those holes.

I think in the future because we have such an influx of great left-handed players, I think there's a great chance that we're going to continue -- left-handed players will continue to play well there. It certainly sets up best for me of all the courses we play. Augusta sets up best for me, and I think my record, I haven't looked back, but I think it's probably the best record I've had of any tournament.

Q. Do you think you and Mike winning it has maybe eliminated maybe a mental block that was there that people didn't think left-handers could succeed there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think there was a mental block, I just don't think we had that many top left-handed players playing there, playing in the event.

I have heard, though, that Augusta officials have been talking about a one-ball rule and they're also talking about making it a right-handed only competition (laughter).

Q. Sunday at Doral you said you wanted to face Tiger playing his best. Have you in the time since then had a chance to reflect on the round, what you may have done differently?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was watching Bay Hill when he hit that shot out of bounds on 9, and I just asked myself where was that (laughter)? I don't want to win like that. I want to take him on at his best because that's the greatest barometer as a player is knowing how he's playing and trying to beat him at his best. That's the goal we all had in 2000 was to try to reach the level of him. We want to reach him. When he was playing his best on Sunday in 6 through 12 holes and he passed me and took a two-shot lead, I wanted that challenge. I actually loved the fact that he made eagle, that he was playing his best and I had the chance to try to beat him head to head. I wasn't able to do it but I came close.

Q. In the last ten years or so, you've been part of the conversation as it relates to the top players, and sometimes against Norman, Davis, we can go through a long list. Can you talk about how the landscape at the top is different now than it was five years ago, ten years ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: It seems not that different from my point of view in that when I look at a tournament five, ten years ago I still saw 10, 20 guys that I thought were going to separate themselves as well as 100 guys that could win the tournament, and although there's been a lot of discussion about the top four players, if you look at the depths of the next five guys or six guys and Retief and Padraig and Sergio and Davis Love and Kenny Perry and David Toms, these guys are just amazing players, and I don't feel it's probably fair to single out four players with the depth that we have in the top 15 or 20 in the world.

Q. Let's say in that 10 or 15, is it a stronger 10, 15, 20 now than it was ten years ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: Very possibly. It's hard for me to say. It's such an arbitrary question. I would say it's very possible, yeah.

Q. I know you're not going to give away your whole game plan how you prepare, but can you put us through --

PHIL MICKELSON: You got that all out of that vague answer?

Q. Do you walk every inch of the fairway, go to places you'd never dream of?

PHIL MICKELSON: Boy, that's a good question, but if I answered it, I wouldn't really be going along with your premise, that I don't really give that away. I'd rather not get into the details. I just try to get a good feel for the pins and the shots I'll be hitting.

Q. When you talk about saving a half a shot now and then, where do you save it here?

PHIL MICKELSON: 17, make the putt.

Q. Are you starting to look forward to any certain aspect of Augusta, like the Champions' dinner? So many people talk about the first time they're able to host the Champions' dinner. Anything that is in the back of your mind at this point in time?

PHIL MICKELSON: I am a little concerned with the Champions' dinner in that the wine cellar that they have is extremely good and that I have to pay for dinner (laughter). I'm going to be working very hard this week to try to cover that tab.

I think it's fun to be able to partake in all that. I looked back on the 12 Masters beforehand or however many I played, and I looked back and I would see the Tuesday night Champions' dinner and see all the guys congregating in their green jackets and it's cool to be a part of it.

Q. I know 15 at Augusta was tinkered with a little bit, the green. Were there some other changes that you saw there and how significant -- are there other pin placements that he --

PHIL MICKELSON: The only two big changes I saw was the front right of 15 was softened a fraction, not much, a fraction to hold a front right pin.

And No. 4 was softened a little bit by the hole on the back right pin. So those two hole placements are a little bit more conducive for the speeds of the greens that they have there.

I think we saw as the speeds have gotten up over the years, we saw the front right pin at 15 kind of disintegrate and now it's a viable spot. A few years ago I chipped into the water from the front right pin at 15, and it is a very good possibility to do that. You've got to be very careful.

Q. I don't know if you saw Sunday at Bay Hill, but Darren Clarke looked like an orange popsickle stick, head to toe orange, Scott Hend, Jesper speaks for itself. What's it take for you to get into hot pink pants?

PHIL MICKELSON: I can't criticize that because Amy has got pairs just like them (laughter).

Q. Hard to follow up on that but we're going to try. It seems like it started with Jesper, but have you seen a clear shift now amongst a certain sector anyway of the PGA TOUR where we've gotten a little brighter out here? Are we seeing a fashion shift?

PHIL MICKELSON: Brighter in talent -- I know where you're going with that.

You know, everybody has got their own style, and I think it's cool that guys use dress to stand apart. I think it's cool. I don't mind it unless I'm paired with them (laughter), but no, I think it's great. It seems as though fashion is always changing, and it's just become a part of golf, which is good.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you very much, Phil, and good luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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