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April 11, 2004

Phil Mickelson


BILLY PAYNE: Ladies and gentlemen, most eager to answer your questions, 2004 Masters Champion, Phil Mickelson.

Q. You had guys throw down putts on the final hole at the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship. What was it like to actually this time be in charge of your own fate, being able to deliver that putt?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think having, in the past ten years, come so close so many times, to have had putts made on me in the last holes to lose by a shot, to have had good last rounds fall short, to have bad last rounds and fall short, to have it be such a difficult journey to win my first major, makes it that much more special, sweeter, and it just feels awesome.

Q. You won your first event in Augusta at the Forest Hills Collegiate Invitational. How does it feel getting your second win at Augusta?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, something tells me that nobody else looks at it like that. (Laughter.)

But I think that winning this tournament, the reason it's so special, is that now I get to be a part of this great event for the rest of my life. I'll be back here every first week of April, and I will look forward to this tournament every year for the rest of my life.

Q. Can you tell us what you were thinking on 10 and seeing Ernie starting to make a run and you were struggling a bit on the front nine? What was going through your head?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was interesting, that the front nine, I was 2 over par. I felt like I had hit a lot of good shots that led to bogeys. I bogeyed 3 after I hit a good tee shot and a good wedge in there and it was a little long. I hit a good 7 iron into 5 that was long and it led to a bogey. I hit a good 8 iron onto 6 that came up short and led to a bogey.

After the first hole, I drove it very well and drove it in almost every fairway, and I started having birdie chances on 7 and 8 and 9. I didn't have the greatest start on 10, and knowing that I was trailing and knowing that Ernie was starting to make a move, it was a critical par. I had a decent shot out of there, came up short of the green, chipped up to about 12 feet. On 8, I had that same 12 footer and there was about a foot of break, left to right, downhill swirling, and I hit a great putt on 8 that I thought I made and just missed.

When I made that putt on 10, that gave me the momentum, if you will, to have a good backside.

I'll say one other thing, too. When I was on 12, just before I hit, I heard that Ernie had just made eagle. I heard the roar. I didn't know what had happened, but I figured he had just made eagle. I took a pretty aggressive line at that pin. Nobody goes after that pin, and I took a pretty aggressive line at it, knocked it in there about 12 feet and made the putt. I knew I was three back when I was facing that putt; if I could make that putt on 12, all I'd have to do was birdie 13, and I would be within a shot, with five to go.

And so, when that putt on 12 went in, that's when I started to feel like I could make this happen.

Q. I know emotions are hard to sort through right now, but how much of what you feel is just sheer excitement and how much of it is relief?

PHIL MICKELSON: None of it right now is relief. It feels awesome. I'm so excited. I just I have something that I'll remember, I have a memory or an experience that I'll remember the rest of my life.

Q. When you were walking down 18, you looked like you almost thought you were going to win; was that true or you is that just your normal smile?

PHIL MICKELSON: I was very confident today that good things would happen.

When I made that putt on 16, as I was walking up to the green, I really thought that it didn't seem overwhelming. I thought, I'll make this putt and I'll birdie one of the last two. (Laughter.)

I know, I know, but it just didn't seem that overwhelming at the time. And I ended up making that putt on 16. It was a nice putt to make.

But going into 18, with the pin being down left, I've seen a lot of guys birdie that last hole. When the ball comes down you have a nice 20 footer, and all I wanted to do was get that tee shot in play because it's a tough tee shot. I hit 3 wood, I hit a really good 3 wood in the middle of the fairway, and all I had was a little 8 iron from 162, I had a huge margin of error. Anything right of the pin would be fine, it would funnel down, and I was going to have a 20 footer. I ended up hitting about six feet right of the pin and had that 20 footer down the hill.

I think the fortunate thing for me was that Chris DiMarco's bunker shot rolled three inches behind my line, behind my ball. Because it was such a fast putt, I had a great look at his entire putt, every inch of break. I gave it about six inches of break and it just hung on the edge.

Q. When you picked up your little girl there before you went into the scorer's tent, I was thinking back to that moment on the 18th green at Pinehurst. Can you remember what Payne said to you and how prophetic it seems now?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought of it, too. As I was holding my kids, I thought of it, too. It was similar. We both made a putt about the same length on the last hole to win by one. He was very prophetic about family. Yeah, I did think about that as I was holding Amanda.

Q. Do you think the fact that the end of last year, you sort of opened up about your personal life and what had happened to you last year, do you think that has a lot to do with why everybody out there was rooting for Phil, because everybody has family problems

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I think that for me, personally, it makes it makes the wins so much more fulfilling to have such an incredible life partner and to have three healthy, fun kids to be a part of our life.

It doesn't make everything all about golf, but when things go well today, it makes it so much more enjoyable to be able to share it. And when things go tough, like we had a tough year last year, it's nice to be able to share those moments, too.

Q. When Tom Kite won the Open at Pebble, he came clean afterwards about the relief he felt and feeling tormented and disgusted about that label, best player to not win a major

PHIL MICKELSON: Not yet. I don't feel the relief yet, I really don't. I feel excited, ecstatic, a little disbelief. I was watching myself look like an idiot on the 18th green after I made the putt and didn't really care. It was just so much fun, so exciting.

Q. Sort of a follow up, so many times you have had that label, and we've asked you, as kindly as we could, can you win a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: As kindly as you could? (Laughter.) I'm sorry, go ahead. I'll let you finish.

Q. As gently as we could. Did it ever get to you? Did it bother you? Did you think it was unfair that we would always ask you, can you win a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: When I was asked that, I think I was fairly consistent in my answer about how I really believe that I've got plenty of time; that if I continue to work on things, the right things, that I'll continue to get better.

I think the biggest thing for me was this off season, spending the number of hours and days with Rick Smith and Dave Pelz to give me the direction. I feel like I drove it this week, or this year, or whatever, unlike any time ever in my career.

When I stood up on tee boxes, I just knew the ball is going to go in the middle of the fairway. The 14th hole, just a nice high cut; the 17th hole, nice high cut and out there decent. And having a direction and game plan to work on my swing with Rick is just invaluable.

When I would have a shot like into 14, where it's 146 yards, the hours that I spent with Dave Pelz, getting the yardages down with the wedges, I knew that I had to take 7 yards off of the pitching wedge. It landed right where I wanted to, checked up and ended up a foot for a tap in. Those hours of work and having that proper direction, I ultimately knew or did not ever lack belief that I would ultimately win.

Q. Did it bother you that we kept this label?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was expected.

Q. When did you have the epiphany about your swing changes?

PHIL MICKELSON: The start of this year, off season.

Q. But you did it, you went to work with Dave and Rick in the off season. At what point did you come to the realization?

PHIL MICKELSON: Right when we got started. Right when we got started, I knew that I was on the right path.

Q. When did you decide in your mind that you had to make the changes? That's what I'm asking.

PHIL MICKELSON: After the year, at the end of the year.

Q. Before you talked about how you wanted to save a shot a round, what was the shot you saved today?

PHIL MICKELSON: I saved just enough, just enough shots per round. (Laughter.)

The half a shot that I saved would be maybe No. 3. Even though I made bogey, that shot that I hit from behind the green, that putt up the hill, in years past, it has really given me problems. I haven't gotten within 15 feet. Today I should have saved par. So that's that half a shot.

Q. Would you have used a wedge in other years?

PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. I had been using wedges. Instead I putted up there three or four feet.

I'm trying to think of another spot.

Q. You mentioned 14.

PHIL MICKELSON: That was certainly a spot where I gained a shot, where I gained a shot.

Anyway, it's hard to identify specifically.

Q. But you still had a bogey at 3.

PHIL MICKELSON: I did. That's why I said it was a half a shot, because it should have been a 4, even though it was a 5.

Q. You've always been a big fan favorite, but is this the most emotion you've heard coming from a gallery?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been fortunate to have some incredible experiences. I think that the '99 Ryder Cup is something that myself and my teammates will always remember. And this was such a special feeling because the outcome was what I was hoping for.

Bethpage in 2002 was an awesome experience. I can't wait to go back to Shinnecock this year. But to have the outcome be what I was hoping for just makes it so rewarding.

Q. Did you play 18 exactly the same way today as you had the first three days in terms of club selection?

PHIL MICKELSON: For the most part, yes. I hit 3 wood Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Yesterday I hit driver because there was a bit of breeze in. But it's just a good 3 wood. I think it's 310 to the bunker, and I can't hit that up the hill past 300.

Q. On 18 when Chris comes out of the bunker and you see that ball rest, I know on TV, you were quoted as thinking good things were going to happen to you; is that almost a fateful moment do you think?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it was interesting, I said earlier on our ceremonies that my grandfather collects the flags of the tournaments that I win. And so, I would save the flags. I'd write a little something on there and he would put them on his wall back home. He said enough of these Tour wins, enough of these; I want a major.

Unfortunately, he passed away this January at 97 years old, and just before he passed away over Christmas, he said that this was going to be the year. And on that putt, Chris's ball was hanging on that left lip, and when it got to the hole it just fell off. And my putt was almost on the identical line; it was hanging on that left lip. Instead of falling off, it caught that lip and circled around and went in. I can't help but think that he may have had a little something to do with that.

Q. What is his name?

PHIL MICKELSON: Al Santos. His wife, Jenny, my grandma, who is 92, was supposed to be here this week, and on Sunday, when they were leaving, she ended up having a stroke. She's okay, but she unfortunately couldn't be here.

Q. Can you talk about the most difficult part of this journey, and if the challenge was all you thought it would be today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the most difficult part of the journey? I think the most difficult part of this ten year journey has just been dealing with, I don't want to say failure, but dealing with losses time after time. It just gets frustrating. It can wear on you, except that you just can't let it.

What was the second part of that?

Q. The challenge today. You talked about the challenge yesterday.

PHIL MICKELSON: The challenge was that Ernie was playing a very good round. Ernie was really making a move, and this wasn't one of those things that you could just have fall in your lap. I had to go out and get it.

To shoot 31, man, that feels great. I don't know what else to say. It just feels awesome.

Q. Us media types are talking about how you've changed a little bit, more on the course. What's your assessment? Are you a different guy than you were eight months ago, a year ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm certainly happier. (Laughter.)

I had a different feeling playing this week. I had a different feeling entering this tournament. I just had a real belief that I was going to come through this week. I didn't want to get too excited because I had had that belief a number of times before and it never happened. I felt very calm, and last night when Amy and I would talk, we were just very calm. We just felt like things were different. When I was out on the course, I didn't feel the anxiety of is it slipping away, or how is the tournament going or who is doing what. It was, let's hit some shots.

I didn't get off to the best start, but when I started to get to 7, 8, those are holes I could take off. I didn't birdie them, but things started to change. I looked at holes as birdie opportunities, and it ultimately clicked on 12.

Q. How difficult was it with the two or three shot deficit at that time not to slip back into the old mental approach of really being aggressive all the time?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I have much better control now over distance and direction. So when I set up on that shot, there's something that I've got in my swing that we've worked on where I aim at the pin, and I know it wouldn't go right of that, it can only go left. I just try not to have it be too far left.

So I aimed right at the pin, and I just knew that this certain swing was not going to allow the ball to go right. I just wanted to make sure it wasn't too far left, and it went about three or four yards left and ended up 12 feet from the hole.

Q. In terms of staying with the same approach you had all week, as opposed to trying to push the envelope a little bit

PHIL MICKELSON: How tough was it?

Q. Yeah.

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't feel like it was really like I was not pushing the envelope. I was shooting for birdies. I was going after it.

You don't shoot 31 playing for pars. (Laughter.)

I was trying to attack pins. I knew I had to make up ground. When I finally caught Ernie, or so I thought on 14, he ends up birdieing 15, and I'm trying again. And 15 was the one hole that gave me problems off the tee because I had been hitting cuts all week, and I tried to turn that one left to right and I just hang it out every time because I don't want to hook it to the right. I had to lay up again and didn't make birdie.

When I finally thought I caught him on 14, you know, he keeps making a birdie, I keep thinking, well, maybe he'll lose one coming in. No, he doesn't lose one coming in. So I had to go catch him with birdies, and that's why I kept firing at pins.

Q. You said a couple years ago after another near miss, might have been Bethpage, you wanted not just one major but a bunch of majors. Do you think this might help you get that bunch of majors, well, one?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, one isn't really a bunch, but it's a nice start. I hope it does lead to more, but right now I just want to cherish this one.

Q. When you're out there and in the middle of it, could you sense how electric the golf was all over the golf course? Could you hear all of the roars everywhere, and did you know you were being part of something special?

PHIL MICKELSON: It sure felt like it was something special. I could tell through the roars for the most part what was going on. And it was it made for an awesome experience, when the putt on 16 went in.

It was very different than, let's say, the putt on 12, when there's nobody around. And then you have the putt on 16 where everybody, there's a lot of people around. It was an awesome variance of emotions and fan experience.

Q. Your caddie seemed to have engaged you in serious conversation before you walked to 16; do you remember what that was about at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, he did say something pretty important. I'm trying to think what it was. (Laughter.)

Oh, I know what it was. It was that on Thursday when I made double, the hole was 180. The pin was 190. I was trying to fly it 180 and hit a little 7 iron and it took off and flew well past where I wanted it to. That hole for us plays really short. For whatever reason, it just doesn't seem to play to its yardage; it plays shorter than that.

So when we got back there and we had 178, I think it was today, we were saying that instead of trying to hit this little lower shot that kind of runs and what have you, it was just a full shot. We just took a nice, stock 8 iron. It wasn't adding anything, wasn't taking anything off, just a normal 8 iron, because we didn't want the ball to take off.

Q. Champions around here seem to get a break every once in awhile. Do you think yours for the week might have been the shot on 13 on Friday when you turned a 6 into a 4?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I think it was the putt on 18, just having that ball stay up on the lip to win by one, that was really the good break. Having Chris's ball end up three inches behind mine so I didn't have to guess on the read, I knew exactly what it was, that was a good break.

Q. Not only did you win your first major, but you did it on the back nine, 31, one of the most dramatic last days in Masters history, and a birdie putt on 18. How does that feel to have won it that way?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really don't know what to say, to tell you how awesome it feels. It just feels so good. I don't think any Masters will ever compare to the '86 Masters, but for me, this one does. (Laughter.)

Q. From the time you struck the putt to the time it dropped, did you think maybe you had missed? Did you think you had it all the way? What was your mindset?

PHIL MICKELSON: You never know, because the ball is going so slowly, if it's going to go in or not. I thought when it was six feet out on 17 that I had made that putt. When it gets up by the hole going so slowly, it just broke off. On 18, it was on line the whole time. It had a chance the whole time. It just had to hang in there, will it hang in there, will it hang in there, will it hang in there, those last four feet.

I really believe I got a bit of nudge back to the right by my grandfather.

Q. Talk about how good it feels to win this for Bones.

PHIL MICKELSON: Bones is going to have his first child in a another week or two. We've been monitoring the situation to make sure she's not going to go into labor.

It has been a very emotional week for both of us, him especially, because he's expecting his first child. But as a team, and what he has gone through, the highs and lows with me for the last 12 years, since I've been a professional, as well. And I can't think of a better partner to have on or off the course than Jim MacKay. He felt all of the lows with me and he feels the highs. I think he feels as overwhelmed and as incredible as I do. It's awesome to have a partner like that.

Q. Was there one play this week that he was a big part of, talking you into something or talking you out?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, he always has a very good perspective on shots. On 14 today, that was a critical shot for me, because it was an easy pin to get to. It was a shot where if you hit a good shot, it will end up close to the hole. I had to take advantage of that one.

I was thinking, it was 146, and I've got this little shot that I could hit a 9 iron and fly it, it was flying about 142 this week. I thought, oh, it could land four yards short of the hole and maybe release back. He says, you know, if you hit that shot, it's going to come in a little hotter. It could release to the back edge, and get hung up in the collar. Sure enough, right before I hit, Chris DiMarco's ball did that exact thing. He says, we could hit a pitching wedge, hit it a little fuller, hit it higher; we still have to take six, seven yards off of it, but we could hit a pitching wedge, bring it in a little softer, and I think you'll have a better chance of getting close. That was a very good idea.

He had a lot of them. He has a lot of those. He brings a different perspective. I always bounce my club selection off what he's thinking. He's exceptional at that.

Q. What would you have thought of your career if you had not won a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: I had never thought about that. Nor do I have to. (Laughter.)

Q. What is the Tuesday night menu next year?

PHIL MICKELSON: In n Out. (Laughter.)

Nobody knows what that is. It's a burger chain back in California. I'm just kidding. I have no idea.

Q. You talk a lot of times on a Saturday about trying to get into the last group, and obviously, the last 14 Masters Champions have come out of the last group. How much of an advantage was it do you think that you were in the last group and you kind of knew what you needed to do?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the front nine it was a disadvantage, because as things were not progressing the way I wanted to, I wasn't separating myself; I was coming back, it was harder to get things turned around. 7, 8 when the birdie holes came around, I just didn't quite click on those. I hit some good shots but didn't quite get it.

The back nine, where I have the par 5s to come, the birdie holes to still come, knowing what I need to do, it was an advantage, because I had some pins on those last three holes, knowing that you can get to 16, knowing that you can get to 17 and 18, that when I saw that he had made pars that I didn't have to birdie 15. I didn't have to go for an unbelievable shot; I could try to get birdie with wedge, and if not, I could birdie some of the other ones because of the pins and seeing what Ernie had done in front of me, so it was an advantage on the back nine.

Q. Can you give some advice to people who have had a goal and it takes a long struggle to get there, people who maybe who have not achieved a certain goal like you have achieved now? What advice would you give to people?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's not really my place to give advice to anyone. But I would say that when you finally do achieve that goal, the harder the struggle is, the greater the reward.

Q. You talk about all of the work that you did with Dave Pelz on the short game, the putting rather than hitting the wedges. Is that something that you file away for next year or is it something we'll see more often?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I think that it works especially well here, given the mowing patterns and the speed of the greens and so forth.

I don't know what shots we'll be practicing and working on for the upcoming majors, but I know we have scheduled practice rounds well in advance of this year's U.S. Open to work on the shots that I need to and give myself enough time to practice them properly heading into the event.

Q. Ernie's stature in the game made this all of the more special, didn't it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that it didn't matter it didn't matter to me who I ended up passing on the leaderboard and beating. It just feels good to have this thing. (Pulling on green jacket).

Q. What odds do you put on the Grand Slam, just for fun?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, geez. Come on, man. (Laughter.) No idea.

Let me just cherish this for a little bit. Give me some time. We're just an hour or so.

Q. What size jacket?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it was a 43 long that we went with.

Q. If it's printable, can you share your very first thought when the putt dropped in?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think I yelled out, "I did it!" I think that's what I yelled out. I looked at Bones and just gave him a hug.

I just think that it was just a great feeling to have that.

My first thought was, "I did it. I finally did it." I knew I could, but I finally did it.

Q. One of the fans following you today said after everything you went through in your career, they felt you deserved to win this tournament. Do you think after everything you've gone through that you deserve to win one finally?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that the game of golf owes me or that I deserve anything more than what I've already received from it.

I get to play this great game for a living, and most people do that for vacation. I'm just very lucky to be able to do what I do. I have not ever felt that a tournament or something owes me. I don't feel that at all. I just feel very fortunate to be this year's Masters Champion. I hope I represent the club and the tournament well, and I know that they will be seeing me every year and I look forward to it.

Q. Can you just give us a little bit of the moment of when that bunker shot didn't get out of the bunker? Because that could have been quite a pivotal

PHIL MICKELSON: It was really frustrating, because the hole before I had a bunker shot and the sand was pretty tight and I had to go in after it to get it. I had to really drive the club underneath to get it.

I get to the next hole and I was trying to thinking that I had to do the same thing, and I went flat out underneath it. I never even touched the ball; it barely even moved.

And so, I think what happened was on that bunker on 5, there's a little more sand to stop balls that land in it from going through the bunker on into the trees. I think it's there to slow balls down, although I didn't really know it or adjust for it.

Q. Did you think at that time?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I didn't. I just thought, let's get it up and down and keep it a bogey.

Q. It was an easy up and down?

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't that hard. I had to make an adjustment for the sand, obviously, and then it was all right.

Q. Can you describe what you were saying and feeling when you embraced your family at the end?

PHIL MICKELSON: I had a great chance after 18 to share with my wife and kids something that we go through together and share as a family. Amy goes through the highs and lows of my game and career as much as I do. It's the same for her, if not even worse, because she doesn't have control over birdies and bogeys and hitting the shots.

So, it's just an emotional time for us, and it feels great. It just feels great to be able to share this with each other.

BILLY PAYNE: Why don't you go over your score card.

PHIL MICKELSON: I birdied No. 2, hit a driver in the fairway, cut a 3 wood way left, wedge just over the green to 18 feet and made it for birdie.

I bogeyed 3. I hit 3 iron, pitching wedge just over, putted up to four feet and missed it.

I bogeyed 5. I hit a 3 wood off the tee, 7 iron just over the green in the back bunker, left that first bunker shot in the bunker, hit out to five feet and made it.

I bogeyed 6.

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit an 8 iron that landed up top, trickled back down, wedged up to two feet behind the hole and missed it. So I turned in 2 over.

Birdied 12. This is what I enjoy talking about. I birdied 12. I hit a little 8 iron to 12 feet and made the putt.

13, I hit a cut driver around the corner. I had 195 and hit a 7 iron to 20 feet and 2 putted for birdie.

14, I hit a driver and had 146. Hit pitching wedge to a foot.

Birdied 16.

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit an 8 iron to about 15 feet.

I birdied 18. I hit a 3 wood off the tee. I hit an 8 iron to 20 feet and made that for birdie.

BILLY PAYNE: Phil, ladies and gentlemen, a great week, a great Champion. Thank you very much.


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