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March 4, 2005

Phil Mickelson


TODD BUDNICK: We thank Phil Mickelson for coming in after 36 holes, 14-under for the tournament.

Phil, you're ninth straight lead after a round on TOUR.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I guess I haven't really thought about that. The only thing that matters is leading on Sunday and that's kind of the goal right now.

TODD BUDNICK: No bogeys through your last 26 holes, that has to be a big part of where you are today.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, today I didn't necessarily hit the ball as well as I did yesterday, but I was able to salvage a lot of pars with my short game and that led to a bogey-free round which was really nice.

TODD BUDNICK: We'll take some questions.

Q. You zapped that guy on your 17th hole and kicked back into the fairway for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, just another fairway hit. I was thankful for the assist, though. I could have used a few more of those today.

Q. Where did you think that was headed as soon as it left your club?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's reachable when it's downwind. I didn't hit it well enough to probably get there.

Q. Cart path, though, I guess.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was only about four or five yards off the fairway. It wasn't ridiculously pushed, but I could tell I really hung it out there.

Q. The television seemed to make a big deal about your tee time there. Were you on the range and got there or --

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, that was the first time I heard about it. They asked me after the round. I don't know, I thought that I went over two or three minutes before I teed off. I was right there by the range, 10 yards, 15 yards away. I didn't think much of it.

But I'd rather hit balls as close to my tee time rather than wait over on the tee for eight, ten minutes.

Q. I guess that was the only drama of the day.


Q. Usually when a guy leads, he talks about the stress, mental and physical but it doesn't seem like it's affecting you at all. What's it like to be on this roll and keep leading day after day after day?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't really thought about it much this week because there's so many good players right there. I just feel like I've got to go out and keep pushing to make birdies if I want to stay there. There's so many guys at 9-under par that I guarantee tomorrow some of those guys will shoot, 6-, 7- , 8-under par and so I have to come out tomorrow firing and making birdies as well. I haven't really thought much about position or about leading because I think I was in this position last year where I was leading and didn't make the birdies on the weekend so I've got to push to go lower.

Q. On the TV -- were you trying to work something out with your driver this morning?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, not really. They were looking at me hitting drivers. I was trying to hit a variety of shots on the range and I'm sure it just didn't look normal to them but I was hitting a lot of low shots, punch drivers, punch cuts, punch draws, high cuts, high draws. So it was a variety of shots that probably looked like I didn't know what I was doing. (Laughter.)

Q. On the course, you did leak a few right there on your final nine; was that something --

PHIL MICKELSON: Right or left?

Q. Well, it would be your left, my fault.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I left a couple out there to the left. I didn't hit very many fairways today. I don't know what it was. Didn't hit very many.

Q. What was the drop you took on 1?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, somebody had accidentally kicked my ball.

Q. Same guy from 17?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it was a member of the media. (Laughter.) I wasn't going to go there until you brought it up. (Laughter.)

Q. You're 71-under for 19 rounds this year.

PHIL MICKELSON: But who's counting?

Q. I'm counting.


Q. That's quite a sustained streak of red. I don't know that there's a question there, just kind of an observation. It doesn't look like there's any end in sight to this from the way these birdies keep piling up for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hope you're right, Steve, that would be great. The big thing is that -- and I've said it time and again, this year especially, I've had a lot of wedges into par 4s, and a lot of that is due to hitting the ball a lot farther off the tee. But when I've been getting my wedges in my hand and I've been spending a lot of time practicing those, I've been knocking them close and having a lot of short birdie putts and that's been the big difference.

Last year I hit wedges well but just didn't have enough of them to make as many birdies as I'm making now.

Q. How many wedges did you hit in today?

PHIL MICKELSON: A lot. A lot. I hit sand wedge at 18. That's a big poke, even if it was downwind.

Q. Your drives look like you had that nice, controlled cut on a couple of them. Anyway, I'm curious toward the end of last year, the September through November type stretch, it looked like the pattern was certainly more wide.


Q. Yeah.

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, that's a very interesting observation that nobody else would have picked up on. I know that you follow us around a lot and the difference, Doug, is that this ball flies a lot straighter. Those deeper dimples makes it fly straighter and I have to adjust that because I'm used to starting the cut further out in the rough and letting it cut back, and now I have to take it closer to the fairway edge because the ball does not curve as much. But it does look different, doesn't it?

Q. When guys talk about being in the zone times, it's almost -- they don't necessarily know what may be causing it, but they almost maybe don't hope that it will land for whatever reason. Do you feel like that's maybe where you're playing right now or that this is more of a sustained thing that you're sort of reaching the most that your potential can be and something that you'll be able to really sustain for awhile?

PHIL MICKELSON: Last year in January when I started working a lot with Dave Pelz on the short irons, he said that after I won the Hope, he said, "Man, you did great and you've been doing this for a month. Imagine what will happen after a year. Imagine what will happen after three years, after five years."

And so, he was right. After a year, I feel like I've gotten a lot better from 150 in than I was ten months ago. So, I intend to continue to work hard in that area to try to get better and better with those short irons and I intend to stay working a lot with Rick Smith to keep the swing sharp so that I get the ball in the fairway, because although I shot 6-under today, I didn't hit it or drive it as well as I know I can. If I stay on top of those two areas, I feel like I'll continue to improve as time goes on, rather than hitting a plateau and playing great because it's having a good stretch.

Q. With the wedges and the lofted clubs, is that a technique thing or is that just allocating more practice time or maybe a little bit of both in terms of the improvement?

PHIL MICKELSON: I guess it really would not be technique. I've never worked with Pelz on technique, but he's really helped me get my short game out. You know, I felt like I was able to hit these shots but I wasn't doing it and he gave me the guidance and the game plan how to work on things, what to do and it's been paying off.

Q. I didn't really look at the book, but your tournament schedule, is it around 22, is that your target?

PHIL MICKELSON: It will probably be a little less this year I think because I'm going to take some more time to go to major sites.

Q. Just curious, you got here this morning, I don't know, as early as 9:45 for sure?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it was 7:30. I was out on one of the other holes. It's been a long day.

Q. On which course?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was on the Blue Monster No. 3 before anybody was playing it. No, I'm kidding. That would be illegal. (Laughter.)

I don't know which course, I just went off in the corner and did some work with Rick.

Q. That is a long day.


Q. I guess if your schedule was longer, I would think this would wear you out.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's why I take a lot of time off. That's why I'm going to take the next couple of weeks off. I want to be fresh and ready going into the three-week stretch heading into Augusta, starting with the PLAYERS. I'll be getting in five, six days before THE PLAYERS Championship starts to spend time there at Sawgrass. I want to treat that like it's a major, to go to Augusta a couple of days and I want to be fresh and ready. Because you're right, I have been putting a lot of time into it that it's tiring and that's why I'm limiting my schedule a little bit more.

Q. Would you have done this if this were Friday at the BellSouth Classic?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, absolutely.

Q. That's not too much, three weeks in a row of showing up at dawn at No. 3 on the Blue Monster?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I actually really enjoy practicing before the round. I get a lot more out of it than practicing after the round when I'm tired and I have a lot of other things to do. It gives me a chance to take care of a lot of post-round obligations and I can get ready before the round started. I love the later tee times and taking that time.

Q. What were you doing on that hole wherever you went to?

PHIL MICKELSON: I went to the short game area, hit bunker shots, chip shots, hit short iron shots from 150 in. Then I had not hit a full swing until I came to warm up, did a bunch of putting, 100 putts and all that stuff.

Q. So you played a different course and this time you won't get ripped for it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't play. I just stole one of the holes for a few hours.

Q. Will you do that tomorrow morning?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I'm a little tired today. I won't do as much, no. I kind of felt it the last five or six holes that I was a little tired.

Q. Just out of curiosity how many wedges are you carrying?


Q. There was a time when maybe two or three years ago where you put an extra wedge in your bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's about when it started two or three years ago.

Q. So that's a constant since then?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, and sometimes I take some of them out. AT&T I took the sand wedge out because the greens were so spongy I would have to chip a little gap wedge anyway. I travel with 15 clubs and I have to take one out. This week, it's been -- today was the 4-wood. Yesterday it was like the 3-iron. It just varies from day-to-day. I like to keep my four wedges in on courses like this where they are so important that I have a lot of them.

TODD BUDNICK: Your birdie on No. 12?

PHIL MICKELSON: Birdie on 12, I hit driver, 3-wood to 80 yards and hit it to three feet. Made that for birdie.

16, I drove it in the front bunker again. Wedged out to six feet and made that for birdie.

18, hit driver, sand wedge to 30 feet and flew it well past the hole but made it, made a good putt. It's a good thing, it was rolling way too fast, too. It was going to go way by.

On 1, I hit driver, 3-wood in the front bunker. Chipped up to a foot and tapped it in.

2, I hit driver, sand wedge just off the fringe about 15 feet and made that for birdie.

I think the next one was the last hole, No. 9 I hit a little 7-iron in there about eight feet and made that.

Q. One more, before you go, just curious on your recollections of Seve; did you ever play with him at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. In fact, I played with him my first practice round ever in a PGA TOUR event. I was a big fan of Seve's. In my book, I think you got to copy, the guy that I told my mom "I want to be him," was Seve, walking up 18 at Augusta in 1980, I believe, he had a few-shot lead.

Q. Just because he was winning the Masters?

PHIL MICKELSON: Just because of -- he had a lot of charisma. I just really enjoyed watching him play. Then in 1988 I played my first PGA TOUR event in San Diego, and Ernie Gonzalez set up a practice round on Tuesday and it was awesome. We didn't keep score, I wish we had. He didn't like to keep score then, and I remember watching him how tight his ball flight was on the 11th hole, that was such a hard par 3 for me. He hit the prettiest draw 4-iron, then takes out a 3-iron, hits the prettiest little cut 12 feet from the hole; I remember being so impressed.

Q. What was the most spectacular shot you've seen in person or on the tele?

PHIL MICKELSON: When we played at Augusta a few years ago, probably about nine, ten years ago on No. 10, he drove over into 18 fairway and he hit this cut shot through the trees and got it into that bunker that's 80 yards short. He kind of fatted the sand wedge to the front left corner and the pin was all the way back left. He had about a 100-foot putt and made it for par. That's what I remember. (Laughter.)

Q. Ever any doubt?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I had doubts but he didn't. (Laughter.)

Q. When you get to the first tee on those days when you don't have your swing and you don't feel comfortable with it, how do you find a way to get around the course that day without shooting the high number?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you just miss it in the right spots, I guess. It's very -- I would not say it's easy, but you get to the point where you control your misses. If you have trouble left, you can make sure you take the left side of the course out of play. If you can do that with your swing, you can miss your way around the course.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Phil.

End of FastScripts.

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