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April 6, 2004

Phil Mickelson


BILLY MORRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to have Phil Mickelson back with us. Phil, as most of you know, has finished in the Top 10 at the Masters seven times in 11 appearances. He has finished no worse than seventh in the last five years. He's played in 11 Masters and has had a beautiful record here.

Let's begin by asking some questions, please.

PHIL MICKELSON: But no wins. No wins. (Laughter.)

I want what you have. I want one of these (pointing to green jacket). Those are nice.

BILLY MORRIS: What's that old expression? Today is the first day of the rest of your life.

Q. In light of that, as well as you have played here, are you surprised that you have not broken through and won here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's tough. I mean, I certainly have felt in the past ten years, 10, 11 years, that I've had very good chances here, and the last three especially. What I have found is the last three years, if I could have saved a shot a round, I would have had two wins and a tie.

So I spent Monday and Tuesday of last week here with Dave Pelz and Rick Smith trying to find areas where I can just save half a shot to a shot a round. That's all I'm trying to do is just take the experience I've had in the last 11 years, knowing how the course plays, with pin placements, with fairways being cut very tight around the greens and tough to chip, or the hard, fast greens, and try to find ways to just save a quarter of a shot or a half a shot here or there putting the ball in the right spot or maybe getting a little bit better touch or feel on certain shots around the green and so forth to just see if I can get that one extra shot a round.

Q. I don't know if you can put a number on this, but considering how well you have played, is your confidence level as high as it's ever been coming in here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have entered this tournament the last few years believing that I had very good chances.

This year, I certainly feel like I have a very good chance. I think what's been nice is that I've played well week in and week out. I've played very consistently, which is something I certainly didn't do last year but that I was striving to do this year.

The reason I feel that's important is as I enter the tournament, I have a lot more confidence that I'll be there come the weekend or that I'll have an opportunity; that I don't need to that it's not a hit or miss type of situation. I'm playing well enough to get into contention without having to do anything extraordinary.

Q. When it's been wet the last couple of years, people are looking for favorites and they have locked in on the guys that hit it long and high. What should people be looking for this year if it stays this way, chipping?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's hard to say because we haven't seen the course play hard and fast with the new length added. That would make it play a little bit shorter, but still, coming in with 5 , 6 and 7 irons into some of the holes, as opposed to wedges that we've had in the past 14 is a great example, I had 5 iron in today. In the past I've had as little as sand wedge. Same thing with No. 5, that it's hard to really tell what kind of shot we're going to have to hit in. We have not had to hit a 5 iron into No. 5 or 14 with the greens being firm. They have always been soft the last two years since the course has been lengthened. It's hard for me to really say.

I know that you do need to hit the ball straight, obviously, and that with the addition of trees on 11 and addition of the trees on a number of holes over the course in the last few years, accuracy has had a much greater premium than when I first started playing here.

Q. It's easy to quantify by the statistics you are playing better, but can you say why you are playing better or what you're doing different than last year?

PHIL MICKELSON: The two biggest areas I'm doing much better than last year is, one, driving the ball. Even though the percentage is up maybe 12, 13 percent, it actually feels like it's a greater percentage of fairways hit, for the reason that the ones that I do miss are by a much smaller margin. They are much more in play. They might be just a yard or two off the fairway rather than in the hazard or in the trees. I felt like I've kept the ball in play much better.

Also, when I do happen to miss a drive, I have the confidence now from 150 yards in that if I wedge down there I can salvage par maybe or get it back on the next hole with a birdie. Those two areas and driving the ball has been the biggest difference from last year.

Q. Going back to Monday and Tuesday specifically, can you give us a couple of examples on where you concluded to play a hole differently to save a half a shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's not that there are areas that I want to play the hole differently. In some cases there might be. Certain shots I'm going to play differently.

I know that in the past, I have been able to chip on Monday, Tuesday, but when Thursday comes around, as the greens get harder and the fairways get cut lower, I've been having trouble getting the chip shot to check up. A couple of years ago, I had a good chance on Saturday. I was playing a very good round, and on 15 I chipped the ball in the water, and that's a shot that I could have hit in the practice round fine, and when I hit the same shot in the tournament, it just kept going and went in the water, whereas now, I'll end up putting it.

So it's a different style of shot. It may not be the shot I needed yesterday or today or last week, but come Thursday, when the course plays hard and fast, that would be the only option.

And so as the course changes, my shot selection needs to change. I'm trying to adapt to that.

Q. You mentioned working with Rick Smith. So much has been made about Butch and Tiger; how much does a swing coach mean to you? What's your history of swing coaches? Are they essential? Can you be overcoached, etc., Etc.?

PHIL MICKELSON: Which one of those seven questions do you want me to answer? (Laughter.)

Q. You can answer any one of them.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think a lot of it is personal. A lot of guys require a lot of attention and some guys require no attention and like to do it themselves.

I find that to play well consistently week in and week out, if I have a little thing creep into my swing, I want to have somebody there to see it right away and get it fixed. And so using his video equipment, having him watch swings, we're able to identify little changes in my swing from week to week that cause certain shots or mishits that I'm able to fix much quicker having him around.

Q. Is it possible to be overcoached or paralysis analysis?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, sure. You are the only person that can hit the shot what you're out on the course, but you don't want to have a crutch. You don't want to rely on somebody the whole time. You have to understand your swing and what makes it work and how to fix it if things go wrong. So you could be overcoached, but a great teacher will give you the great knowledge to fix it yourself when he's not around.

Q. Jack Nicklaus said that he was a bit worried about your attitude going into the last Presidents Cup but was then delighted with the way that you fitted into the team and your work ethic, and he thinks now that you are possibly the favorite this week and fancies your chances. Is that good for your confidence when you hear a man like that say that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I loved playing on the Presidents Cup team last year and having him as our captain. I really enjoyed spending the time with him and his wife Barbara and his family. Certainly, for him to say complimentary things means a lot to me as a player.

I hope that he's right. I hope that I am considered one of the favorites or that I'm playing well enough to be considered a favorite.

Q. Do you think the first one is going to be the most difficult, the first win?

PHIL MICKELSON: For me it's been. (Laughter.)

Q. When you're able to make a quip like that or when you open with, "No wins," is that a reflection of your state of mind now regarding majors, and what is it, and how are you able to kind of do that? Why do you make a little joke like that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoy the challenge. I've really enjoyed the challenge of trying to win a major. Although I haven't broken through and won, I enjoy all challenges in my life. It's why I've tried different things. It's why I took up flying. It's why I've tried to take up martial arts. All of these things that I didn't know I could do or how to do at first, it's a challenge. And winning a major, winning a Tour event, sure, it's a challenge, but I've done it now 22 times. Winning a major, I have not done it yet.

It is a fun challenge to play a course that is so penalizing under such tough conditions, to try to shoot the lowest score, manage your game the best, be patient, all of those things that are necessary to win. It's been fun.

I know that I haven't done it yet, but I've been close a number of times, and I think that when I finally do break through, it will be that much more rewarding for going through the difficulties of the last ten years of trying it and not doing it.

Q. How do you play the third hole here, and is that the most precise second shot you've hit into any par 4 here?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's not the most precise shot because there are some holes that are much more penalizing, I feel, than No. 3.

But I play two different tee shots on 3. There's four pins there, obviously. We have a back right pin and we have a back center pin, and on both of those pin placements I hit driver. I'll be about 50, 60 yards from the hole and have been fairly successful in the past on getting that shot up and down and making birdie.

When the pin is front right and the pin is front left that 50 , 60 yard shot, I can't get close, so what I do is leave it back over a hundred. I'll either leave it back 80 and hit an L wedge or leave it 110 and hit a gap wedge, which is a strong sand wedge, so I'm able to put enough spin on the ball to get back near those two pins.

I don't find it to be the most demanding second shot because unless you miss it short, you can get up and down. You can salvage par, and I think that there are much more difficult second shots. I think 11 is a much more difficult second shot, no matter where the pin is, than No. 3. 3 is a short iron in.

Q. With as many sports as you follow, I wonder if the way you look at something like the Buffalo Bills or whatever over the years, because I think sports fans and whatever tend to look at things differently than people who have been close, teams who have been close; and then just kind of, what kind of measure of pride do you take in having bounced back so many times and put yourself in position to win as many times as you have?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't looked at other sports because those are team sports, and golf is more an individual sport. A lot of things that go into team sports are salary cap management, getting the right free agents, getting the right players in drafts and stuff that lead to a successful franchise.

As an individual player, we have nobody to blame but ourselves, nobody else to rely on. So I don't look in other areas.

What was part two of that, bouncing back?

Q. Yeah, do you take any measure of pride in that? Or do you judge yourself harshly that the opportunities haven't turned out the way you wanted them?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't judge myself harshly in the fact that I haven't won one or what have you. I think that as I said earlier, I enjoy the challenge.

I look forward to the opportunity to play here at the Masters or the U.S. Open, British Open, PGA. I don't dread those weeks, I look forward to them. I can't wait.

If I thought that it was a negative that I had not won, I think I would dread those events more than I would look forward to them, and I just get so excited to be here. Tuesday, today, was the fastest, firmest I've seen the golf course in any practice round in years previously. I think we are in for a very difficult challenge. But yet I find that I can't wait for Thursday to start and hopefully have another chance at breaking through.

Q. As well as you've played here the last couple of years in the mud and the slop and everything, how would you assess your game right now with these hard and fast conditions?

PHIL MICKELSON: Compared to last year you mean?

Q. Yeah, compared to the different playing conditions and where you are now. Obviously you've done well in the slop; how much better would you expect to do in this?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I liked it when the course was softer the last two years because I felt I could get irons close to the green. But I also like it playing hard and fast because I've played this event when it's been hard and fast in the past. I have a pretty good idea of where I can hit shots to certain pins and where I can't to save shots here or there. I think that it might be easier for me to salvage a shot or two a round when the course is hard and fast by using past knowledge of having played here.

Q. If you were to win this week, do you think that would mean you were a better player than you were two weeks ago or would it simply mean that you've got 23 wins including a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the latter. I think the latter.

I don't know why I haven't broken through. I've certainly had close calls. I had Payne Stewart making a wonderful putt. I came close in 2001 at the PGA. There were some close calls.

I don't know why I haven't had things go just my way or whatnot. I don't feel if I were to win like I would be a different player. I'd be the same player, but I think that I might be looked at differently which I don't know if it's understandable or not.

Q. So you think you would be looked at differently by us, by the public, but you wouldn't look at yourself any differently?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's correct, yeah.

Q. Could you share a favorite recollection of Arnie?

PHIL MICKELSON: Mr. Palmer, wow. Every amateur when we get into the field, when I was an amateur and everyone that I know of when they get in the field, the first call they make is to his representatives trying to get a practice round with him, and I had the chance to play a practice round with him in '91 when I first played here.

What I remember about that was we had a little competition with our two playing partners, I believe it was we played a couple. One of them was against Lanny and Tom Watson. And boy, on 8 and 9, Arnie made birdies. He made about a 15 footer on 8 and he had about a 15 footer on 9, and he made that thing. He gave it the Arnie fist pump, gave that grin to the crowd, and people loved it. Of course I loved it; he was my partner. (Laughter.)

I think that was a glimpse in his eye of the competitive Arnold Palmer when he used make the charge and win. It was an awesome site to behold.

Q. How much money did you win?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, shoot, I was an amateur. It was like maybe $10. It was an important $10.

Q. You've had a couple different putters this year. You talked about using a different ball from the V1 to the X ball. Wonder what you're going to do this week and if you've made any changes to your bag because of the opportunities here that you see?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not going to make any changes. I've thought about it and what have you, but I just think that I've been playing too well with the ball, with the Titleist Pro V1 I've been playing with, to switch to the X, even though I played well with the X last year.

The putter, I'll end up using the blade. I've putted the last two weeks with it. I'll still switch back and forth between the Futura and the blade, but right now I feel very good with the blade in my hands.

I travel with 17 clubs, so I have to take a couple of clubs out. I'll take the 1 and 2 iron out and I'll probably keep a 4 wood. The reason for that is a couple of reasons. The par 5s, I think they'll have 4 wood in 2, possibly 13, possibly 15. Although it's still unlikely, I usually have irons into those holes, but it's possible. It's also very good out of fairway bunkers, so if I drive into a fairway bunker on 2 or 8, I'm able to get it up and advance it out.

It's not a critical club. The 4 wood, 1 iron, 2 iron are not the critical clubs here. I find that the short irons here are the most critical, between 8 and wedges. So I'll end up keeping those.

Q. You look so forward to the majors, and a couple of players this year are not playing because of health problems. Do you remember what it was like to miss a tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: Do I. It wasn't fun. Missing the Masters wasn't fun. I certainly feel for Jim Furyk. What a tremendous player, U.S. Open champion, and to have a wrist injury that just isn't healing as quick as we all had hoped, to have to have surgery, it's disappointing, especially as well as he's been playing, too. He would love to be here.

With it being a Ryder Cup year and knowing that he's going to be on the team, I certainly want him to have a great year and have some momentum heading into that.

In'94 when I missed this tournament, it was hard, it was hard watching it on TV. I watched it. I enjoyed watching it. I just didn't enjoy knowing that I could be there and I wasn't.

Q. When you say those are nice, those green jackets, when you played your first Masters, I'm sure the desire was intense to have a green jacket, and now you're married with three kids and older and know it's not the end of the world if you don't win one. Has the desire level changed if you don't win it, you move on, you still have three kids and a wife?

PHIL MICKELSON: I never felt as an amateur, as much as I wanted to win it, that it was life and death. I still want to win it. I feel like for my career, for me to feel good about my career, for me to be 55, 60, coming back to this place, I need to win it. If I'm able to win it, I want to come back every year and soak it in, play practice rounds and just be a part of the tournament.

So although nothing is really life and death, unless you're facing a serious illness or such, it certainly would mean a lot to me, yeah, to win.

Q. As your quest to win a major has gone on, comment on how the gallery perception has changed, whether you've become more a sympathetic character or almost a tragic one?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't felt that. (Laughter.)

I thought one of the coolest experiences that I've had without winning was the 2002 Open at Bethpage where I made a very good run on Sunday to close the gap and almost catch Tiger. The people in New York gave me one of the most amazing experiences that I've had in the game.

I don't know if anything will top the'99 Ryder Cup, but for me personally, this was very close. I'm looking forward to going back to New York to play at Shinnecock this year and play in front of the New York crowd, because they certainly gave me a thrill a couple of years ago.

Q. What do you do on Tuesday night at the Masters?

PHIL MICKELSON: What am I going to do tonight?

Q. With the dinner going on what's your routine while the dinner is happening?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, you mean the Champions' dinner is tonight? Oh, I didn't know that. (Laughter.) Well, there's good reason why I don't know that. (Laughter.)

I'll end up doing a little practice session here when we get done just to spend some time on the greens. I'll go home, work out, grab dinner, play with my kids, read some books, bathe them and get them to bed and wake up in the morning tomorrow. Play early, play a practice round. Actually I probably won't play tomorrow. I'll probably just hit some balls and practice a bit.

Q. The women's basketball final is on tonight, you don't want to miss that.

PHIL MICKELSON: You're right. (Sighing) (Laughter.)

Q. Do you feel as though if you beat Tiger you'll win the Masters, or has it moved on since that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't thought of it like that, no. I don't know if you can really think of it like that and expect to play well.

Q. Can I just ask your impression of Adam Scott, and would you consider him somebody to watch coming in here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, absolutely I'd consider him somebody. Are you kidding me? He's one of the best players in the world. He's playing some of his best golf he's played. I think the one area of the greatest improvement with his game is his putting, which was very effective on some tough greens at THE PLAYERS Championship. I expect it to be very effective this week.

I'd be very surprised if he didn't have a shot at it come the weekend.

Q. Because this is the only major that's played at the same venue every year and you've had such experience here and you've played so well here, do you think this is your best chance annually to win a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: I actually think that my best chance isn't based on one course or one event. I actually feel like it's how I'm playing coming in. I feel like I've had great chances in the U.S. Open, and historically I would say I wouldn't have a chance in the U.S. Open because I don't drive it straight enough, yet I've come closest in that event.

I don't feel like one event favors the other for me. I feel like I have a great chance at each one. I do like playing this event because I'm able to draw on past experiences, whereas in the U.S. Open and other events, you have to learn the course beforehand. Just now have I been out here long enough to be able to play Shinnecock for the second time and learn from previous performances.

I feel like that goal I mentioned earlier about trying to shave a half a shot or a full shot here or there through the course of a round, I feel is easier on a course that I have so much more history on.

Q. We've all heard about the green you had in the backyard growing up, but I'm curious what it is that makes you such a good wedge player around the greens? What it is that makes you able to hit some of the shots you do? Is it something you see or something in your hands?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well practice was the first thing; being able to grow up with a chipping area in my backyard gave me some creativity to try different shots.

But the biggest thing for me is getting the basic chip, the easy chip inside a small circle, not hitting four or five feet but trying to hit it one or two feet where I know I'm going to make the second putt. To me that's the biggest area to save strokes because I've found that statistically this year from three feet in, I've made every one. But as I get to four feet, I'll get to 85 percent. As I get to five feet I'll knock down to 76 percent or whatever those numbers are, and it progressively gets worse each foot. So that basic chip is what's most important for me, getting it inside that three feet where I haven't missed one.

Q. And secondly, when people talk about the imagination that's required around some of these greens, can you give us an idea of the different shots you're playing? Is it a matter of bumping it on the ground and flopping it or

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the flop shot is out of the question.

Q. Because of the grass?

PHIL MICKELSON: Because of two reasons. The grass is so tightly mown and the ground is so firm and the greens are so hard and fast that I can't get it stopped in the small little areas.

So the flop shot will be non existent for the most part, unless I have to go over a bunker or something like that, but I don't envision where that would be the case.

So to me, the biggest shot is, and I normally chip a lot, I love to chip and hit little bump chips, I can't do that here. They mow the grass away from the green, so I'm chipping into the grain.

Now, normally it's the opposite. So you can hit a little bump chip and the ball will skip and then check up on the green. But into the grain, it catches the ball and just stops it. So I can't do that shot. So the shot that I'm using a lot here is putting it from off the green, and you'll see me do that quite extensively this week.

Q. Have you always done that around here?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I got back there earlier on 15 a few years ago, I tried to chip it, because I normally can chip it, when I come out and play a practice round, the grass is not cut as low and the greens are a little softer and I can hit chip shots that land on the green and get stopped. But I can't do it come the tournament. So I've just been putting from off the green.

BILLY MORRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, thank you very much.

And Phil, good luck to you this week.

End of FastScripts.

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