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January 25, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Phil, thanks again for joining us. You started off the year last week right near your home, and that must have been nice. Why don't you just talk about coming back to Bob Hope, a very familiar place for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: I obviously love this tournament and I love the courses and love starting the year here, because it's five rounds of golf on four courses. They have wonderful practice facilities. It allows me to get some of the kinks out and also get my short game started, get up-and-down around so many of the greens. So the opportunity to play out at a celebrity rotation and be on a quiet golf course helps me get my game ready for the rest of the year.

Q. Are you on-site?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm about an hour west. I drove over this morning and dropped my trainer off and then I drove about an hour west to work with Dave Pelz at a private residence course over here.

Q. So you've been working on your short game?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. You saw my performance last week with my short game. That's exactly what I'm working on.

Q. Is that principally what went wrong at Torrey Pines?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I felt like that was the area of my game that has the biggest margin of error or some of the largest misses, I guess. My short game just didn't feel as sharp, my putting in particular, so I'm going to -- I have been spending a lot of time on the putting green trying to get my putting game sharp for this week because we have to make so many birdies this week and we have so many birdie opportunities that I have to get to work with the putter.

Q. Also, could you talk about how last year, how important it was to win this tournament, or at least play well, the way it set up the early part of your year and that enabled you to really get some momentum going?

PHIL MICKELSON: The win for me last year was a huge win because it was the worst year of my career in 03. I had been working with Dave Pelz and Rick Smith very hard the previous week heading into the tournament, and by winning it gave me the belief, the confidence and the -- it showed me that what I was working on was carrying over into my game, and that encouraged me to work harder on those same things.

Q. How hard is it to put five rounds as opposed to four rounds, strong rounds, together here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's very difficult to play your best for five days straight. It's hard to play for four days straight, but the great thing about here in the desert and playing with amateurs allows us the chance to not have the most difficult pin placements, not have the thickest rough, and if we do have our game not as sharp as we would like, we're able to get up-and-down, provided our short game is better than mine was last week, which is why I've been working so hard on it.

Q. The short game being wedges and in, is that what you've excelled at the last three years to play so well, to get the two wins?

PHIL MICKELSON: I believe so. I believe that it was a large factor in my performance. There were really two things, but one was, we talked about the wedge play, the short irons, giving myself closer birdie opportunities than normal, and the other thing was that if I missed a couple of shots I was able to get away with it and get up-and-down.

Q. Three years ago when I won here, Tamarisk was in the rotation. It's back in this year but Indian Wells is out. Does the course rotation or configuration or anything like that mean all that much at the start of the week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel the courses make a big difference, which ones we play, which ones we don't. I like all of them. I like Tamarisk. I like Indian Wells. I love the Palmer course. I think it's a wonderful 18 holes to play the final round, because the 18th hole has so much drama and excitement in the way it finishes with all the holes along the water that we've seen a lot of turnover. Guys knock it in the water and a couple of times it's given me a chance to get in a playoff.

Q. You're playing six out of seven, right?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's correct, starting last week, so five of the next six.

Q. Do you have a game plan for that stretch of time, or do you say, okay, I'll win this week and next week and the week after that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really set short-term goals like that that are result oriented, like win this or win that. What I want to do is get my game sharp and see some low scores. I know what I'm able to shoot here because of the last couple of years, but really what I want to do is start increasing my driving accuracy, driving distance, give myself short irons in.

I feel last year that's how I was able to shoot the low scores and ultimately win, it's because I didn't worry about winning. I worried about getting the ball in play off the tee and hitting my irons close, and that led to a 30-under par that got me in a playoff.

Q. Do you recall offhand what your putting stats were last week at Torrey?

PHIL MICKELSON: They were horrendous. I didn't look at the stats specifically, but I know it wasn't good. It was one of the poorest performances I've had in a couple of years, particularly since I've worked with Dave Pelz.

Q. You talk about coming in here last year off a winless 03 season and building up that confidence very quickly. What is your confidence level now? Is it a big carryover from last year or is it a brand new thing for a brand new season?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't played too much in the off season. I took a lot of time off. The last round that I tried to play of the year was the round I played in Hawaii with a pretty good score, and then I just started practicing just before last week's San Diego Open. But I could feel very quickly that my game is coming around and my expectations are increasing.

Q. Could you chalk up last year to inactivity and knocking the rust off your first time back?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's what I'm going to put it to, because I'm starting to feel pretty sharp now and hoping that the last couple of days and certainly today's practice session, although I have another three or four hours, and hopefully that will get me ready for tomorrow's first round. I have won a couple of times and I'm starting to play much better.

Q. You described 2003 as your worst year on Tour. Was last year maybe your most satisfying?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it certainly was the most exciting for me, even though I only won twice. I won a couple times prior to that in years past. But to win my first major, The Masters, and be a part of that history, will be something I'll always remember. Every year when it comes around I'll think about it, and it made 04 a very special year.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Phil, we really appreciate your time and we'll talk to you tomorrow.

PHIL MICKELSON: No problem. Hopefully I'll see you guys tomorrow. Thank you.

End of FastScripts.

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