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March 5, 2004

Phil Mickelson


JOE CHEMYCZ: Phil Mickelson, a 3 under par 69 today, total 136, 8 under par.

Phil, looked like you had a lot of opportunities to make some birdies today.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I had a good number of putts. The front nine, I think left four or five opportunities from inside 15 feet slide by. But that was a good sign in that I was hitting it well. I hit some good iron shots.

The back, it was okay. I hit a couple really good iron shots, a couple of shots that weren't so great, and it just kind of averaged out to 3 under. It could have been better, could have been worse. But the wind kind of died down the back nine and let it play a little bit easier for everyone.

Q. Have you played with Retief before, or do you remember the last time?

PHIL MICKELSON: We've played a bunch, sure. We've played a lot of golf together.

He's an excellent player, obviously, but the wind seems to affect his ball less than most guys, because he hits so many low shots that are just very penetrating in the air. The wind doesn't affect his ball very much.

Q. How about his demeanor, and describe it for us.

PHIL MICKELSON: Very steady. He's very steady. He won't show you any highs and lows. That makes him a very tough competitor.

Q. You've been playing under such control. The fact that it's holding up in wind like this, how encouraging is it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I am really pleased to see some carryover into the wind, and by that, I mean I've been working on distance control, little half shots that was very effective in soft greens, like AT&T, as well as La Costa, helped me win the Hope.

That lower shot where the spin is taken off it has also been very effective in the wind. The wind has not touched it as much and I've been able to control distances much better. I've been able to hit iron shots better the these last two days and it's very nice to see that there's a little bit of carryover, too, that has helped me play different conditions.

Q. Didn't you come to Honda one year, because you really wanted to work on playing in the wind?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, TPC Heron Bay always been a very windy, very flat course and you have to control trajectory. It was a great place to work on. I don't think until recently I have been very effective in the wind. My record in the British Open certainly shows that.

So, I may be able to improve on that this year.

Q. What are the mechanics of it, the little short shots in the wind; what are you doing differently?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the technicalities of it all, I'd rather not get into. It's just trying to take some spin off it, bring the ball in lower.

It's hard to tell from television the trajectory, but when the ball starts to reach an apex, it looks like on camera, it's in the air and it's going forward but it's just floating.

And the shot that I hit on the 17th hole today was from only 168 yards. I hit a 6 iron and it stayed in the air the whole way. When it came down it fell vertical like a lot of shots that get hit by the wind do. It was still moving forward and released a little bit on the green. Those are the things that I'm looking at and trying to be able to do.

Q. You played for years with a very classic design putter, simple design?

PHIL MICKELSON: Are you saying I don't anymore? (Laughter.)

Q. It sure has a lot of things going on. What is it about that putter that you like?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I seem to make more putts with it is my feeling. I think it's very easy to line up. It's really helped me with short putts.

The physics of it, the back weighting of it, seems to be much more stable through impact and the soft, aluminum face seems to really help me with my lag putting on very quick greens.

So, there seems there's a lot of good reasons as to why I like it.

I certainly spent a lot of time with my blade putter this off season. I putted well with it at the Presidents Cup, putted with it in the off season. But I just was not able to putt as well or as consistently with it as I was the Futura.

Q. When Titleist asked you because your background had been such a simple blade, did you require some convincing?

PHIL MICKELSON: They didn't ask me to putt with it. They never went to me on it. I actually spent time in the studio with Scotty trying to get the specs the way I wanted it on mine. But they never asked me, nor would they. They would never force me to play a ball or a club that I didn't want to play.

Q. It's almost like that putter kind of opened the flood gates, because you see the two ball and all of those appeared roughly the same time, it used to be the simpler, the better and we all had the old bull's eyes' putter which were a piece of metal on a stick and now there's no end to the ugly out there. There's some very, very odd looking you called the Futura "butt ugly" one time.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's not a good looking putter, no. But it's effective. There's two things that can really help you line up. The longer the putter goes back, like the two ball, like the Futura, that line in the middle, that helps you visually line up. The other thing is the longer from heel to toe, the easier it is for you to distinguish if the face is open or shut.

And so consequently Ping has a new putter out that is a huge half moon type design that is very easy to line up, as well.

Q. You talked Wednesday how you put yourself in position to win all year and you wanted to convert a little more. What do you have to do this weekend to win here?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, shoot the low score.

But to do that, I think I just need to get a few breaks on the greens because I feel like I'm coming close, but a lot of the 10 to 15 foot putts that you really need to make to separate yourself from the rest of the field, I haven't made yet. I've made a ton of short putts. I've made a lot of three, four, 5 footers, which have been very difficult in the wind that have kept my score where it is. But I just need some of those 10 , 15 footers to go in and I just haven't had very many go in this week.

Q. Is it because of going to bermuda or something else?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the wind has had the biggest effect, but certainly the bermudagreens have not been easy for me to read. In fact, I've relied solely on my caddie, Bones, to read them.

I'll let him make the read, tell me what he likes and then I'll try to see that line in my own eye, rather than making an opinion before I hear what he says.

Q. Along the lines of what Craig said, you had talked about being really happy to be back in contention, that wasn't something that you had much of last year compared to other years. Now that you seem to be able to be in contention much more often now and have this momentum going, how important is it to take the next step and convert on that? We heard what it's going to take this weekend, but how important is that to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, let me say this, I want that GT. As does everybody, but I want that GT very badly. And you will see, you will see my right foot pushing that pedal all the way down to the metal because I am going to be trying to get that GT this week.

I have played very well on the West Coast. I had five great opportunities to win and only won once. I think that's a good point. Now is the time to start getting out of a Top 10 type frame or getting contention and trying to take advantage of the opportunities now. And that's another fun challenge. There was a challenge for me to get in contention week in and week out and I feel like after six tournaments now, being in contention, having opportunities to win heading into the weekend I want to have a better than 20 percent win rate, and so I'll be trying awfully hard this week to do that.

Q. Some guys have said making bogey on the 18th can feel like making par, the way the wind has been blowing the last few days. Similarly, if you make a par on the first hole, can that feel like making a bogey the way the winds have been blowing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. No. 1 would be a par 4, No. 18 would be more of a par 5. Although, in the afternoon today with the tees up more than it was yesterday, the wind died down, we were able to drive it past the water and it wasn't playing anywhere near like it was yesterday. Yesterday, we couldn't reach it from where the tees were and the way the wind was.

Q. What did you have at 1 today and what did you hit?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit 9 iron into 1. I had 196 yards but I hit 9 iron into 1, and I had 150 yards on 18 but I hit 7 iron.

Q. Was that a knockdown little wind shot that you were talking about?


Q. How far did you have into 22? Retief said he had like seven yards short of the green or something like that.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I one hopped it in the green side bunker. I couldn't carry it on, but if I could have feathered those three yards right in between the bunkers.

Q. Following up on the GT, did you drive that at Homestead?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. (Smiles.)

Q. What did you get it up to?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there was only a short straightaway but it accelerated to 100 in literally three or four seconds from about 40 to 100.

Q. You fell in love?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when we were shooting those commercials, I sort of commandeered that GT and took it for a little spin around Rancho Santa Fe and received a letter or two regarding that. (Laughter.)

Q. Homeowner's Association? Highway patrol?

PHIL MICKELSON: They didn't care for that.

Q. You mean with a Ford deal, you can't get one of those without winning this weekend?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I'm sure I could. But this is a great way to do it, don't you think? I seem to know the right guy or two.

Q. What are the specs on that thing, horsepower, cylinders?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's real rough, it's real rough. I can't be quoted verbatim obviously but roughly 0 to 60 3.2 seconds, 550 horsepower, 0 to 100 in 4.7.

Q. Top speed of?

PHIL MICKELSON: 210 or 220.

Q. Just what you need on the 405 and I 5.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you take it to the track. You can only use it on the track. You can't even get out of third gear. Fourth gear, you're going 140 and you've got six of those gears. (Laughter.)

Q. What gear did you get it to when you were driving it around the neighborhood?

PHIL MICKELSON: Second. (Laughter.) And they still didn't like it.

Q. Can you remember in your own mind a better start to a season for you than this start?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, '96, I won Tucson and Phoenix back to back. That was a nice start. There was a tournament in between that I didn't play but winning two tournaments was nice.

But for me this year, consistency has meant more than maybe a win. Just the fact that I've had opportunities, I've played at a certain level week in and week out, that's meant more to me because last year's play was so consistently inconsistent I guess. That means a lot to me to be in contention every week.

Q. The times when you didn't win over the last five weeks, when you look back on those, was there a specific thing that you didn't do in your own mind or was it just golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't really feel like I pushed myself for a few extra birdies. I felt like I kind of settled for nice rounds. And to win, you really have to push yourself to the edge to get those extra one or two shots a round if you expect to win.

And so, this weekend, I'm going to try to push myself a little bit harder and see if I can shoot a score that's a shot or two lower than maybe I shot possible.

Q. I don't know how much fun you had last year, but are you having a lot of fun now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. Are you kidding me? It's been great. Family's doing great, playing well. And the other element that people don't talk about, but I feel like I have the most wonderful business relationships and partners. I'm awfully proud of the fact that I'm able to do certain things to help charities, such as the Warrior Fund and to have my relationships call me up and say, we want to be part of it, too. That's pretty flattering.

So to have the relationships that mean the most to me, my family, my career and business relationships all being in good strides, it's been nice.

Q. Does the wind tend to separate some of the elite players from the rest of the field fires; and secondly, is it safe to say you mentioned continuity of the wind, is it safe to say you want that for the rest of the week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't mind it blowing firm. I think I would really like that. It has caused a bunching, though, of the players. It has been very difficult to go very low. But, a lot of the top guys seem to have played well and come to the top. But there's a great bunching of guys from 4 or 5 under par which are only four or five shots back. Boy, you go out tomorrow and you shoot 3 , 4 , 5 under par the front nine, next thing you know, you're on top of the leaderboard.

What's going to happen tomorrow, because there's so many guys at 6 under, 7 under, 8 under, the guys that go out first are going to come out, birdie 1, probably birdie 2, shoot up on the leaderboard. It's going to be important for the leaders who are playing well to be patient and not worry about the fact that they are caught already before they have teed off.

Q. Beyond winning the GT, you have relationship with Ford, how much does that mean if you were to win a tournament, this tournament, because of your relationship with them?

PHIL MICKELSON: It would be really extra special, yeah. It would be really cool.

Ford, as supportive as they have been in our first 15 months when things weren't great and when I wasn't playing the best, when my family was not the best condition, their support was incredible. I remember last year when I wasn't able to be here, some guys were getting a little bit getting on me a little bit. Steve Lyons stood up and said: Hey, guys, this is exactly why we want him representing us. He puts family first.

Having those type of relationships and that type of support means the word to me, and I would love nothing more than to be able to give back to the Ford family a win here.

Q. We talked to Retief about the field and strength of the field. I think he's No. 1 in this field versus ranking. How much does it matter to you if you won this week who was in the field?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it really doesn't. You have to look at a win is a win. We've had conflicting events that have been the world to player's careers. It really doesn't matter. I think we have a very strong field, even though it's not as strong as it will be in the future with all of the things that the tournament is doing.

Competing with Dubai and having Dubai take Tiger and Ernie has been tough, but I think that we have a lot of quality players. That wouldn't diminish the win at all.

Q. I probably know the answer to this, but you kept your family situation to yourself for months and months and months until, I guess, six, eight weeks ago, why you were struggling on the golf course. You clearly could have explained one by virtue of saying what was going on with the other. Why didn't you why did you keep that to yourself?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there were two reasons. I didn't think it was anybody else's business. And second, I didn't enjoy talking about it. It didn't really feel like I was didn't feel able to talk about it for a while.

Q. Where are you afraid that people might think you were making an excuse?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I just don't like to relive it. Just didn't like reliving it. I still don't.

Q. What do you think when you hear other players, be they young guys or guys your age, what do you think when you hear them complaining about a hole is too long, or a course is too long, it's too windy or the greens, what's your reaction to that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the tournament staff is doing the best they can to set the course up fairly. And every now and then, we'll get a situation, like 18 yesterday, that was really close to the line. We're all human. We can't tell how the wind is going to blow always at 6:00 in the morning. Everybody is doing the best that they can. So, I don't know what to say to them.

Q. As a follow up, Jack Nicklaus used to say he liked that because he thought that meant some guys were beating themselves, and I've talked to a couple of other players and they have echoed that; do you feel like that?

PHIL MICKELSON: We all have our opinions on how the course should be set up and what should be done. We all have our opinions. We all have a chance to voice them. The tournament staff listens.

I haven't felt like somebody saying one thing or another would really really means much. I think we all just want to have an opportunity to compete and play well. I thought the course setup this week has been extremely good. We've taken a couple of hits for 18, but I think given the wind, given the difficulty of the wind, the strength of the wind, I think the pin placements have been exceptional. They have been able to keep it in a reasonable spot when it's straight downwind and so the guys have a chance to get it within 20 feet.

Great example would be No. 2. You can't put that pin just tucked two yards over the front bunker when it's straight downwind wind like that. They didn't. They put it in a spot where you could get it stopped.

I think they have done a great job with the pin placements this week. Just one little deal yesterday on 18 caused a lot of scrutiny but everybody had to play it.

Q. When you said it almost crossed the line, what on 18 in your mind almost crossed the line?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, again, I don't think it did cross the line. I said it went right up to the edge. The fact that it's a par 4 over water that you couldn't reach, was tough.

Q. Do you think if they would have had the hole where they had it today and had the tees where they were yesterday it would have been fair or the tees where they are today and the hole where it was yesterday, that would have been equally as fair?

PHIL MICKELSON: Who cares? Seriously. Everybody had to play it. And the thing is, maybe it's a par 5. Not that you would put 5 on the card but maybe as a player, you have to look at it as a par 5 and look at No. 1 as a par 4.

I made 5 today. I made 5 yesterday. I didn't mind making 5 on the hole. It doesn't bother me. It doesn't feel like I made bogey, per se, like bogey is a bad thing on that hole. I think you have to look at it just a little bit differently, as opposed to : "You're not meant to birdie every hole," Bobby Jones used to say. So the fact that it was tough for everybody, that's fine.

End of FastScripts.

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