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July 17, 2004

Phil Mickelson


STEWART McDOUGALL: Ladies and gentlemen, Phil Mickelson, today 68, 207, 6-under par, and just two shots off the lead. Phil, are you pleased with where you stand now, wind battering outside and you in the clubhouse?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's nice to be inside the clubhouse with the weather kicking up. We had a taste when I was on 6 and it was difficult with the wind picking up, raining sideways, but it only lasted for about 15 minutes and it went away, the sun came out, it was a beautiful day.

Q. 15, did you hit the same club for the first shot as for the provisional? And what was going through your mind when you saw the ball go in? Did you see it come back?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a very tough tee shot for me, because if I get one hooking with the wind it's a left-to-right wind, the hole dog legs to the left. If I get one working opposite the dog leg, with the wind it blows it right out of bounds. I hit a 3-wood and it holds a little bit, so it doesn't turn with the wind, and when I saw it up in the air I thought it was out, there was nothing to stop it, other than a gentleman's leg.

Q. Did you thank him?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah (laughter).

Q. Did you hit the same club?

PHIL MICKELSON: I held it back into the wind better.

Q. You haven't dropped a shot now for 37 holes, that's amazing out there. That must give you so much confidence?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is nice not to give shots back. I needed to have a couple of rounds like that, given my start. It doesn't feel like they've been overly difficult pars. I had a break with 15 or some up-and-downs. I made a lot of good short putts these past couple of days. The biggest thing is that I've been missing it or know where to miss it and have put the ball there in the proper spot so that the up-and-downs aren't overly difficult. The only times I left myself with a chip with not much green is when it's back into the wind. And so it hasn't been overly difficult.

Q. How close were you to out-of-bounds and could you see the white line? It was difficult to tell.

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't see it, but I knew it was right on the edge. I was standing on the road, so I thought the road was out-of-bounds. There must have been a line there somewhere. But it should have gone out. It clearly was a tremendous break, there's no other way around it. Every now and then you need something like that to give you a little kickstart to keep you up in there. And that certainly kept my round going and it was a very lucky break.

Q. You've made jokes about how your record at the British Open has been not the best. Here you are 6-under, I don't know where you are going to be, 1 or 2 shots off the lead, late on a Sunday, tomorrow, what's the feeling and the emotion? And why do you think you're here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's tough to really pinpoint one particular thing. But certainly this year has been different than in the past in that I've played better and have had some great performances with Augusta and other tournaments consistency-wise. But I also feel that I had some preparation heading in, to where I know where to put the ball to make easy pars.

Even in difficult conditions I felt like if I just put it over there -- I didn't feel like I had to hit every shot perfect to make easy pars, and that's kind of kept me in it.

Q. How strange is it or how fun is it to be in The British Open late on a Sunday? You've never been there.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it is fun. Normally I'm watching it on TV. I've already played and I watch the leaders tee off. So it's very nice to be one of the later groups and have a great chance. I think now that -- now with the -- getting to Sunday the element of the weather, as it turns, won't be as big a factor, because the first three days you can go off early and have great or bad weather and have it change before you tee off.

So today, had it gotten really bad and stayed bad during that stretch we would have seen the leaders coming back and all the guys that went out early and had good rounds be right back in the tournament. Tomorrow that won't be the case. If we get tough conditions tomorrow everybody has to play it and fight it out for the championship. We won't have guys coming up from the pack back in contention.

Q. We're seeing quite a lot of the players struggling in the bunkers over the past few days, how tough are the bunkers and how important is that ensuring that you're still up there tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the fairway bunkers may as well be water hazards because it's a one-shot penalty and you just try to get it out. If it was water it would be easier because we see a lot of guys leave them in the bunker a number of times. The bunker shots around the greens actually require -- they just require a little fortune. If you have a good stance and swing, you can get it over the lips and get it close to the hole. But you can be up against the back or front edge and not have a stance and it can be difficult. The ones around the green you need an element of luck and they might be okay.

Q. You had said at the Masters that it didn't suck that Tiger wasn't in contention. Does it make it more interesting knowing that he's a couple ahead of you, and Ernie and Retief are also on the leaderboard?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's cool how we see a lot of the top players playing well and getting in contention, and we're also seeing a lot of quality players that you may not have thought on Thursday would be there and yet they're in the thick of it, too. There's a number of guys that have a great chance at the championship tomorrow and I think it's going to make for some very interesting and fun, exciting television.

Q. If you look at this, you almost called this round yesterday when you said you hoped that you make the birdies and hang on coming in. When you look at the leaderboard and see what's happening behind you, did that mindset change at all, where you tempted to get a little more aggressive?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I know that the leaders were making birdies on the front nine as I was playing the back. I knew they had the back to go. They're making a couple of birdies, and playing the back is not easy. The back, the only birdie hole I see is 16. You can make birdies if you hit great shots and make a good putt.

16 is only the real hole you think you can make birdie. The front side you feel you can birdie the first seven or eight. You want to, again, just like I did yesterday and today, you want to get a quick start and make a couple of birdies early and play for par on the back.

Q. Can you be aggressive on the backside if you are in a duel down the stretch, as the leaderboard might dictate, or are there places and holes where you can be aggressive and try to go after after birdies and easy pars?

PHIL MICKELSON: For the most part, an aggressive shot will get you 20 or 30 feet from the hole. That would be a really good shot, I think. Obviously based on certain -- the wind and so forth. I think if you hit a really good shot you still have a 20 or 30-footer for birdie. You can make those putts. They're out there. It's not that difficult to give yourself a 30 or 40-footer. It's difficult to give yourself a 5-footer. You have to make some putts if you want to make birdies on the back.

End of FastScripts.

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