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FORD CHAMPIONSHIP AT DORAL


March 2, 2005


Marty Collins

Wayne Gretzky

Dale Jarrett

Phil Mickelson


DORAL, FLORIDA

TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to welcome Mark Zesbaugh, the president and CEO of Allianz, to present the West Coast Swing award. Phil, of course, his second consecutive West Coast Swing win.

MARK ZESBAUGH: On behalf of the Allianz employees in the U.S. and global, we congratulate you on back-to-back West Coast Swing wins. We think you are an outstanding champion, winning at the FBR and again at the AT&T. So congratulations from everyone at Allianz.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you, Mark. I am pleased now to have won this for the second time. It is really appreciated by the players all that you've done to help strengthen the West Coast.

As you know, for a long time the TOUR didn't start until here at Doral to bring a different strength to the West Coast, purses as well as a little bonus here, which is very nice, we appreciate your involvement. Thank you.

TODD BUDNICK: We'd like to introduce Marty Collins from Ford, and Wayne Gretzky and Dale Jarrett. Marty has a few comments to make on behalf of Ford and the Phil on the promotion.

MARTY COLLINS: On behalf of Ford, I want to welcome everybody to the Ford Championship here at Doral. This is our third year and I think by now, you've got most of the information on really the strength of the field we have here. So by far, this is the best of the three years that we've been here so far and we look forward to a really successful week out here in Miami.

We are really here this afternoon to announce a couple of things. I want to touch base with you on our highly successful promotion we ran in 2004. We ran a campaign called "Phil√ɬĘ??s on the Phone.com" where consumers had a chance to log on to one of our Web sites, philsonthephone.com, and register and win a chance to play with not only Phil here in today's Wednesday Pro-Am but to have a chance to play with two legendary people in their own sport, Wayne Gretzky and Dale Jarrett.

It could not have gone better for us in the last 12 months. We had close to 700,000 people visit the Web site. While they are at our Web site, they are not only finding out about how they can participate in this great event, but they learn a lot about Ford and a fair number of these people go on to inquire about a Ford product, so ultimately it sells us cars. So we could not be more pleased with what happened. Gary Lewis from California, I'd ask you to please stand, you played wonderful today. (Applause). It's really a chance of a lifetime for somebody to come down here and earn the right to play, and Gary had that opportunity this morning and certainly did himself proud.

But what we are really here to talk about now is how we go forward in 2005. When something works as well as "Phil's On the Phone.com" we don't want to change it a whole lot. We'll tweak a few things around the edges of course but we'll continue the same concept. We're going to have "Phil's on the Phone.com" go live today, and consumers will again have a chance to go online and find out more about the promotion and enroll to win.

What we're going to do differently in 2006 is bring 16 people down here in November and they will go through a practice session here with Johnny Miller and they will compete for the right to play in the Pro-Am in the tournament on Wednesday in March of 2006.

We are also going to mix up some of the celebrities because I think that's always important. Wayne and Dale have been fantastic to work with and I think it will be a treat they are able to talk about more a long time to come. But we have Toby Keith who is under contract with Ford and has been a partner of ours for a little over two years. He is going to play next year in the Pro-Am, as well Brett Farve, the quarterback for the Green Bay Packers. We have a short clip of Brett talking about the promotion and then we're going to show you the 30-second ad which begins to run in the next couple of days promoting this campaign which will also be largely led by some print work and digital work as well.

So if we could run that video, please.

(Video played.)

MARTY COLLINS: That TV commercial will begin to run in the next couple of days. Our Web site goes live this afternoon and some print work to support the campaign will also be running in the next several months. We look toward to a successful campaign in 2005 when a lucky winner like Gary is going to have a chance to play with those guys and Phil in about 12 months from now.

TODD BUDNICK: Now we'd be glad to open up the podium for a few questions.

Q. Wayne, is it nice to play golf and not be in negotiations in New York?

WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, you know, it's been a stressful, obviously, year for hockey and the last couple of weeks have been difficult for everyone. But, yeah, it was much more relaxing to be down here. But unfortunately we didn't come to any sort of resolution and that's disappointing for our game and hopefully they can figure out a way to work things out.

Q. There have been previous discussions about the proliferation of power in golf, how the players are becoming bigger and stronger and the trend toward athleticism, can you talk about that and the same for Wayne. I don't know if it's true in NASCAR racing or not, but could you speak to a little bit of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for golf, I think that last year, by sacrificing some yardage from 2003, I had one of best years of my career. It wasn't yardage that I wanted to sacrifice, but it was more of a loss of yardage due to an equipment change to get better with my wedges.

This year, I haven't really done much to get bigger or stronger or anything. It's just that I made an equipment change and got my 15, 20 yards right back.

When I look at some of the younger guys, certainly they are hitting the gym and getting in good shape and getting strong physically. As long as they may hit it, you still have to put it in the fairway. If you're hitting shots out of the rough you're not going on able to attack pins and play aggressively. You'll have to play defensively if you're missing fairways, so although it's nice to have that distance to be able to use wedges and make birdies, you also need to be doing it from the fairway and I think that's where guys can really get a lot out of their game.

Q. Did you see that in hockey during your career, did you see the players kept getting bigger and stronger?

WAYNE GRETZKY: Well, I think that it's a natural progression, I mean this is with a great deal of respect to players who played in the 70s and 80s, but the hockey players today are much better and much bigger and stronger. It's just a whole different game than when I played in the 80s and 90s.

These guys, it used to be the bigger players were really not that coordinated and now the biggest players are extremely coordinated, extremely athletic, physical size compared to when I played was a huge difference. Players are better today. I mean that with great respect. That's a positive for our game that athletes are getting better.

Q. Phil, is it exciting for you or motivating for you at all that the race for No. 1 in the world is such a wide-open field right now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think it's great for the game of golf that we have so many guys that are competing for the top spot. I see it more than just four guys. I see Retief Goosen obviously is playing terrific and Mike Weir is playing fabulous golf, David Toms is coming on with an amazing performance last week. Padraig Harrington is playing well in the States now. We have so many good players that are competing with the best players in the world and fighting for the No. 1 spot.

For me personally to get that No. 1 spot, I've got to play well for another eight to ten months, because after 2003, the way our ranking systems are, based on a two-year scale and my horrendous year in 2003, it really puts me in a tough spot. I need to play well for the next eight to ten months to even be considered for the top spot.

Q. With so many of the top players here, seeing a lot of different personalities out there, what trait do you think you project or do you want to project on a course when you're playing well?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough question. I'm not really sure what trait. I think that one thing that happens for me when I play my best golf is that things appear to happen a lot slower and I'm able to visualize shots a lot clearer and see the putts, the reads and the break of putts a lot clearer, as well, a lot sharper, crisper.

I think it seems to be a visual trait for me that I just see things a lot better.

Q. The field this week is pretty spectacular obviously in terms of the heavyweights in the World Rankings and all that. We asked Tiger about what could be done to potentially get more guys in more tournaments more often, and he suggested maybe shortening the season. Do you think that would be the way to go, maybe to go with kind of a condensed TOUR calendar? You sort of start a little bit later and throttle down towards the end of the year, and if that is the answer, and you were the Commissioner for a day, how would you find a way to make that work?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Steve, I don't really -- I don't have the answers to those questions. They are obviously tough questions.

Most of the top players throughout history have averaged 18 to 22 events a year and we seem to have 44-plus events. So on a percentage scale we are less than 50 percent; the top players play less than half of the events. If we cut our schedule back to 32 events, now we are playing in two-thirds or three-quarters of events. I think that would be an easier sell for television and our sponsors, just like the Senior Tour, the top guys are playing in a greater percentage of events.

I think that will ever happen because guys internally will fight for shots on those tournaments. Also, the communities we have been going to for so many years and the charitable dollars donated in each community have become relied upon in those areas, so I don't think that will happen. I don't think that we'll see much change.

What I do see happening is a sponsor like Ford taking charge of their event, look at where it was just two years ago and look where it's at now. By making some changes and making a commitment to the purse, increasing the purse, to the conditioning of the golf course and doing little things to get the players excited, like helicopters over to the Homestead Racetrack to give us an experience of a lifetime; driving the guys last night to Joe's Stone Crab for a private dinner amongst just players. Those type of classy things, as well as the Pro-Am on Monday to help get a couple of guys in early, those things can separate an event.

I think we are going to see certain events, like the Ford Championship, like other strong events, start to separate themselves and we'll see different tiered TOUR events.

Q. With all of the top names out here, does this week feel any different than your standard PGA TOUR event, not a major obviously, but --

PHIL MICKELSON: It does.

Q. A World Golf Championships?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it feels a lot different. You look out at the tee times, you look at the pairings, you see that there are a lot of top players. And when you're out on the course, and you're making a couple of birdies, you feel like you have to keep pushing for yourself to go lower because you know that Tiger Woods is in the field and Vijay Singh is coming on strong and wants to show that his last week or two performances isn't the way he's been playing and that Retief Goosen who came so close last week to having an amazing week himself, he wants to turn that into a victory. All of these guys are pushing to shoot lower and lower scores, and when you're out there, you feel it; you've got to go lower.

Q. Your preparation for majors and such has evolved over the years and now you kind of go in early and map out the short game and things like that. Can you just sort of talk about how that has evolved, what it used to be, what it is now and why you think it works for you and sort of the stages along the line of that progression?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Steve, each player is different and needs to find out for themselves what preparation allows him to play their best golf. When I first came out I listened to Jack Nicklaus how he would take the week off before a major championship and I tried that and it didn't really work that well for me. I felt that there was too much of a gap between competitive rounds. So I changed to start playing competitively the week before, playing the tournaments the week before. I also found that when I would come into a tournament and play practice rounds, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, I would get very tired and fatigued when Thursday came around, I wasn't quite fresh and ready to go.

So I started to come in a week or two beforehand, study the course, get ready for the event, and that way I'm able to take those couple of days off before the tournament and get ready, get fresh and not have to do my practice rounds right before the event. That seems to be working well for me, but it doesn't mean it would work well for other guys. Each person needs to find out what gives them the best chance of winning events.

Q. You just kind of felt like the taste of live fire the week before was advantageous to you in terms of the vibe and the energy and all of the other salient parts?

PHIL MICKELSON: Pretty much. I felt Thursday of a major championship, the fairways are tighter, the rough is thicker and the penalty for a miss is greater. When I haven't hit a tee shot and I haven't hit a golf shot in competition for 11 days, it seemed to be even tighter, the rough even thicker. If I play the week before like Atlanta, or if I play the Booz Allen Classic this year at Congressional the week before the U.S. Open, I'm used to hitting shots in tight fairways. So before I get to the U.S. Open, I'm only three days removed from competitive golf, and it doesn't feel like it's such a difficult shot.

Q. When you shot the 59, did that open a door that made the 60 possible, a 62 possible, that just made you think lower scores are more possible?

PHIL MICKELSON: Close. It came when I made a big change in September. That's when I noticed the difference because I was able to make a simple equipment change, get my 15, 20 yards back, have better distance control. Before I made the change, I did extensive testing with the help of Dave Pelz and Rick Smith, and the distance control with all of my short irons was immeasurably better and my distance and driving accuracy was immeasurably better as well. That's what happened, why I was able to hit Spyglass Hill and hit drivers that are going longer than I've ever hit it and I'm able to hit wedges that I've never been able to hit; and it happened at Spyglass; it happened at Phoenix Open and at TPC Scottsdale, but we first saw it in Hawaii.

Q. Because of that when you go to a course like here, are you seeing a lower possible number in your head than what you might have?

PHIL MICKELSON: The way I approach each hole has had to evolve and change over the last year. Bunkers I'm able to now carry. Water that I'm now able to take out of play, let's say. I look and strategize each hold slightly different given the fact that I have a little bit more distance now.

Q. On that front, you touched on this maybe at the Bob Hope, but none of the guys, the top four guys in the World Rankings or last year's Money List were in the Top-10 in fairways in reg. I think you said distance probably right now is undervalued versus accuracy. I was wondering, is that a good thing for the game or is that just --

PHIL MICKELSON: Statistics are going to be deceiving, first of all. When we get into a U.S. Open, when we get into a lot the of shots out here today this week, you'll see me hitting little chip drivers that don't go very far to keep it in play.

Statistically I'm going to be at a huge disadvantage because when I play the 16th hole here and I drove it into the front green-side bunker I'm not going to get a fairway hit even though I hit it within a couple of feet within my intended line. When I play the second hole and I get a little bit of help off that tee, I can drive it into the front green-side bunkers. So I won't get a fairway hit, even though I drove it perfectly.

So there are a lot of fairways that I'm not necessarily hitting to that statistically, there are one or two of those a round, and that's going to skew the statistics.

But Vijay Singh last year was the straightest driver on the TOUR. He may have lit less fairways but drove it straighter than anybody. His degree of flight off-line was better than anybody. It just so happens he's driving it 320. Other guys are driving it 280. And he'll go into the first cut of a lot of fairways, but who cares if he's hitting wedge and everybody else is hitting 6-, 7-irons.

Fairways do matter. You have to put it in play, but the first cut counts as a fairway in my book. And if you can have it within wedge distance, within sand wedge distance or you can put it in a fairway bunker, that's a big advantage over a fairway hit.

End of FastScripts.

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