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February 22, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thank you for joining us this morning. If we could just start with some opening comments. Great start for the year with two wins, one at the FBR Open and one at the Pebble Beach Pro Am. Start with some opening comments about the week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm obviously very excited about the week, because this course, this tournament has meant a lot to me over the years, and I haven't played in this event as well as I liked to. I played very well last year and lost the last hole to Davis. And I'd like to improve on that.

I've had a great start to the year, it's been really a lot of fun to play well in Phoenix, at AT&T, and I want to try to carry that play over. I've been working a little bit this week and trying to stay sharp, and I hope I'm able to do that.

Q. How much work have you gotten in because of the weather?

PHIL MICKELSON: Actually quite a bit; the rain didn't hit as much down here, and there's a canopy at the test center that I use, that I'm able to hit balls under if it's raining. I've been able to do the normal routine, so it's been nice.

Q. Is this a tournament you look forward to or is it just not because of the venue, but because of the format and the World Golf Championship or is it another stop along the way to the next tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's one that I look forward to more than most, because I love the match play format. It's a more stressful format and a more difficult format, but I love the chance that we have to play this event. We don't get a chance to do this on Tour very much. It's understandable why.

We don't have that many matches on the weekend, it's hard for television, it's logistically more difficult, but as a player I love it. I wish we would have a couple more of these.

Q. What's the secret of it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wish I knew. I haven't won one, I wouldn't know. My Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup record hasn't been that great lately. The Match Play hasn't been that great, and I'm looking to improving that.

Q. You've played Match Play. Just explain how it's different.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's really not any different; you have to shoot the lowest score, the same play in stroke play, the lowest score wins. It's really not any different.

Q. The way your game with more birdies fewer bogeys the last couple of years, do you think it's better suited for the Match Play, the 18 hole Match Play, than before?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it's tough for me to answer, because if I look back on my wins at let's say Phoenix and AT&T, I would have been knocked out the first round half the time at Phoenix and never had a chance to win the tournament. And at AT&T I would have done great all the way through and the last match or on Sunday would have been knocked out most likely.

In stroke play you have more 72 holes you have more chance to showcase your good play. In the match play it just seems like 18 holes, you need some luck to win. You can play well, but you're not going to play well six rounds in a row. We have it tough to do it four rounds in a row in stroke play. You have to get by those one or two matches.

Q. Who should be favored, you because you won the last two tournaments, Tiger, because he won the last two years, or Vijay, because he's the No. 1 seed, or Ernie, because he's not here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it matters either way. I would go by the World Rankings, because Vijay had one performance that wasn't his best at Pebble, but he still has ten wins in almost a year. That's pretty impressive. And the way Tiger has been playing, coming on strong. And I'll tell you, there's a couple of other players I look at, the way Mike Weir has been playing, and probably for a guy that's ranked 6th in the world is probably the most under ranked player. He's playing some of his best golf; that 67 he shot at Pebble was similar conditions to what we have here at LaCosta. I expect him to play very well this week and be one of the toughest guys to beat.

Q. And Darren Clarke?

PHIL MICKELSON: He's perfect for this course; he hits those low shots that come in and don't back up a lot, so he's able to get to a lot of the back pins that are tough for a guy like myself who put a lot of spin on it. Although I've been working on it, it's been coming around.

Q. Price mentioned the other day that he's in the position of being the bottom seed with no one expecting him to win. I wonder if you've ever felt that from the other side, whether you're playing Billy or whatever, that everyone expects you as the 2nd, 3rd or 4th seed to win, if you actually feel that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when you talk about the top 65 players in the world, at that level there's such a fine margin between 65 and 1 or between 58 and 11 that it's hard to have that come out over 18 holes. And I think that because it's just 18 holes, it just evens the entire playing field.

Q. Do you sense that?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, you really don't. As a player you try to and you really do take each match one at a time and very serious, because you know there's the potential to be knocked out.

Q. Your match, specifically, you overwhelmed Ben Curtis in the second round last year just on length alone; now we're on a soggy course and you're playing a guy who

PHIL MICKELSON: Who makes every putt imaginable.

Q. When he finally gets there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, he's had a great start to the year. I was just looking something up and I saw that he was second in scoring this year. So he's playing extremely well. He makes a lot of putts and these greens are rolling very well, and I think he's going to make a lot of putts.

The other thing is that although you say that I'm coming in closer to the green, which will be true, but as you get to the short irons you put more spin on the ball, and it's just as easy, I think, to get a 5 iron close, because the ball hits and sticks, as though it is a 9 iron. A 9 iron I have to hit some of those shots that I was hitting at Pebble, where I was hitting a 9 iron at 99 or at 100 yards, rather than the normal 150 yards. So I'm taking yards off the short iron to get it close. It's not as big an advantage as I hoped it was.

Q. What kind of advantage do you think it is, you having seen this course over the weekend while guys were sitting in hotel rooms in LA, and what can you tell us about the course? We hear that the rough is bad.

PHIL MICKELSON: Extremely tough, yeah. Well, it was awfully I was awfully fortunate to be able to play this weekend and get a couple of practice rounds in. The course was closed yesterday. And today I'm sure it's going to be soaking wet, too. I at least got a couple of practice rounds in. The rough is brutal; it is really, really tough. And when I did hit a couple in the rough, actually I just threw a few in there to go see (laughter.), the ball just buried. The grass would wrap around it, and I could barely get it out.

It's going to be a huge factor. If you do go into the rough, as long as this course is playing, I don't foresee being able to knock the ball on the green under almost any condition. So it's tough.

Q. And given your early season philosophy where you've been hitting as long as you can, you've been hitting it long, but not always in the fairway, how do you think are you going to play this golf course differently than you might have if it were somewhere else on Tour?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, when I played well at Phoenix Open, there's a huge advantage to hitting the ball long there. The rough wasn't bad, although there was some rough, but the fairways were generous enough and I was able to get enough wedges in to make birdies. But I have been working on not just this last week but all year a little stock cut driver to get it in play. I want to have a shot where I know if I have to get one in the fairway I can.

You'll be seeing me hit a lot of cuts this week, and I won't lose any distance on it as opposed to a draw, because the ball won't roll. And the draw and the fade tend to carry the same; the difference is the draw will run out a little bit. I'll be hitting a lot of normal cut drivers, hopefully into the fairway.

Q. The rough right now, is it U.S. Open style, is it

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I'd compare it to that. Yeah, absolutely.

Q. Is there anything you don't like about match play?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think the things that I like about match play are the things that I don't like about it. And the toughest thing is the anxiety that builds up between rounds. Like right now knowing that I'm facing a tough player in Roberts and knowing that I've got to play well tomorrow, but not knowing what I have to shoot, I think that is the toughest thing.

Also knowing that if I don't play well, I don't have a Friday, I don't have a round 2 to make up ground, like I did at Phoenix Open where I shoot 73 and hang in there, and then come back with a 60, that I very well may not have had a chance to shoot 60 if I got knocked out the first round. That's the toughest part is just not knowing what you need to shoot. But that's also the thing I love about it, the uncertainty of it all.

Q. You talk about Tiger's winning here the last two years, that seems

PHIL MICKELSON: Pretty impressive.

Q. Just given the fickleness of it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's very tough head to head and he has had such a great match play record with his U.S. Amateur victories and his performance in this event. Not only has he won the last two years, he was also in the finals against Darren Clarke a few years ago. He's very difficult to beat head to head. I certainly hope that I would have the chance, because we've never squared off in something like that, to be able to do that.

If that were to happen, we'd both have to play some really good golf the first few rounds to get by. And right now I've got my hands full with Loren as he does with his opponent Nick Price. We both have a couple of first round matches. But I hope hopefully this week, but if not sometime down the line we have a chance to do that.

Q. Did you look at the rest of your bracket?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't, no.

Q. You haven't seen the bracket?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, my Internet in my house got knocked out the other day and I haven't been on line.

Q. If you saw the bracket just for kicks everyone says I don't look past my first guy, but I've got to think everyone just looks anyway, don't they?

PHIL MICKELSON: Probably, probably. But I haven't had a chance.

Q. During the Augusta phone in, the teleconference last week, you talked about last season and how much the majors took out of you, that you were virtually done for the year, you called it an end to the year, the way you felt. Is that something you're going to have to accept in the future or address, because there are big events, Ryder Cup, Presidents Cup?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I don't know how I'm going to handle that exactly, but my schedule will start to change from now on, given my performance after Augusta, but most importantly given the way I feel not Augusta, after August, but given the way that I feel after August, being tired and needing a little refresher. The reason I've played very well on the West Coast throughout my career, and a lot of times it's contributed to growing up in Southern California, but when we play the Hope we have Bermuda grass, bent greens, rye, stuff I haven't played as a kid, and I attribute my success on the West Coast to excitement to get back out and play.

After a nice long break I'm excited and eager, I'm working hard, I just look forward to it, and after August when the PGA is done, my I'm so tired that it's hard for me to get the work ethic in. Rather than fight it, I think I just need to accept it.

Q. Do you blame Ernie Els for not coming here? If you were Ernie Els would you come here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I understand his reasons for not coming, but I still wish he'd be here.

Q. Do you think you would go if Match Play were held in Australia, as long as it wasn't the week after Christmas, you and others?

PHIL MICKELSON: When it was moved to Australia, they did a couple of things to accommodate it, such as having the following week tournament in Hawaii, which made it a lot easier. So I would probably do that, yes. But in my perfect world, I would like to see the format slightly altered. I'd like to see the first three rounds, 54 holes, Wednesday through Friday, played stroke play and knock it down to the top 8, and then I wouldn't have a problem going anywhere throughout the world to do that because I'd feel with 54 holes of stroke play you can have that first round not be perfect and still get in the top 8. And I feel like it gives the top players a little bit better chance of getting into the match play format for the weekend.

It was the format for the Western Amateur, which I loved. I wish it would go to that. I understand why it doesn't, but I just would feel more comfortable traveling around the world with a format closer to that.

Q. Given the format we've got, are you surprised more guys haven't decided not to come?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's a tremendous event. It's a World Golf Championship and these tournaments are starting to gain in legs, and hopefully they will become what we hope they will be.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't heard anybody else say that, no. That's not a majority view, that's a personal preference.

Q. Obviously you have an affinity for the golf course, with your history here, but do you think that this might be an event that might be moved, if moved around a little bit, even if it was in the U.S. or something like that, taken to different courses?

PHIL MICKELSON: Again, selfishly speaking, I wish it would stay here, and I hope it does. I think it's a great format for the tournament, I mean, a great venue for this type of format. And I think LaCosta, since they've done the renovations is an awesome place. I love the rooms. I love the whole ambiance around here. They continue to make strides to make this a premium stop on the Tour, and I don't want it, selfishly speaking, moved somewhere.

Q. There are a lot of Brits on top of the leaderboard and a lot of Europeans here. I wondered what you thought about that, and I wonder what it says about American golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's really not that surprising given our Ryder Cup performance, is it? That they're up on top, it's not surprising to anyone.

Q. Does it say that the standard of American golf is declining?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the quality of the golf across the world, international golf has improved greatly, not just in the UK, but in Australia and Asia; different parts of the world it's improved vastly.

Q. You're quite happy to see this with this development, you don't mind it?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, no, not at all. I love I'm a fan of the game of golf, not just American golf. I like to see it grow throughout the world, and that's what it's been doing, and it's been evident in the performance of so many international players.

Q. Your idea of scheduling late in the season now, have you formulated kind of a plan for what you want to do after the PGA in regards to some of the bigger events like TOUR Championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: I know what I'd like to do. But what I'd like to do and what I will do are different things. And after the PGA there are other things that are up for grabs; you still have potentially, although last year it didn't pan out, the possibilities for Player of the Year, possibility for Money Title, all those things that need to be considered.

But what happens for me personally is my kids start school at the end of August and it's a lot harder for them to travel, and I'd rather be at home.

Q. So you'd like your season to be over in August?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I personally feel that the Tour schedule is a little long, sure. I think for us to compete against football and for us to continue our season after the PGA Championship as long as it does, I just think it kind of loses its luster; it's just not exciting. I'd love to see I'd love to see a lot less tournaments on Tour, so the top players play in a greater percentage of those events.

Q. THE TOUR Championship would be optional?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'd like to see it moved up. Again, this is all personal preference. I doubt any of this will ever happen.

Q. As it is now, you'd still play in it?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's late in the year, it's anti climactic.

Q. Player of the Year, World No. 1, Money Title, how important are those to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the Player of the Year and Money Title are two feats that I have never accomplished, that I've come close to a few times, and they're certainly goals of mine. I'd like to do them at least once in my career.

Q. How about world No. 1?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a two year scale. Every year you start out fresh; everybody starts zero for the Money Title. With the World Ranking, everybody starts with points pre earned. So that's a little bit different for me, because it's such a bad '03. So I can't really consider or think about that until at least through the summer.

Q. From what you said a minute ago about just accepting that's the way it is through August, that you're spent, do you look forward to the Ryder Cup as much as you did?

PHIL MICKELSON: Very much so, yeah.

Q. Because it sounds like that I'm not going to have my sharpest or toughest game for the Ryder Cup, but so be it.

PHIL MICKELSON: I have to find a way around that. I have to find a different way. I have to accept the fact that I'm tired, but I've got to find a way to bring out my best golf for that event because it's not just me, but the whole team really hasn't played our best golf in that event.

Q. You didn't have it this year, your best, you don't think?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I felt it deteriorated in Akron, the week after the PGA; I started hitting it poorly there and it was just tough for me to get excited about playing, with the only event I had being the Ryder Cup.

Q. But you still approached the Ryder Cup kind of the same way in terms of that eight hour round you had Monday?


Q. It was similar preparation to the major?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I worked hard at it.

End of FastScripts.

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