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February 27, 2004

Phil Mickelson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes. It's been a long day out there but you made it a little shorter by winning 7-6 in the first match and then you --


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: But it's still a long day, a grueling day out there. Make a couple comments about your second match and then we'll go into questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Chris and I had a very good match. We were both under par and he started out making a 35-footer on the second hole to get 1 up, and he and I have a great relationship. We've teamed up at the Presidents Cup, we've talked about hopefully being able to team up at this year's Ryder Cup, love playing together, so we had a little banter, and when he knocked a 45-footer in on 3, after I had a gimme birdie and he knocked it in there for a tie, I had to rough him up a little bit. It was a fun day. He made a lot of putts. Fortunately, I hit the ball well and was able to make enough putts to end up on top.

Q. Phil, are the greens firmer because of the wind?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, very spongy. Every shot you're trying to take spin off. It didn't matter. The wind didn't affect it as much, in my opinion, because I would have been hitting that same low shot without spin irregardless of wind.

Q. Were they any thicker, the greens?

PHIL MICKELSON: I find the greens to be pretty quick. I'm having a tough time on the ninth hole. All I had to do was two-putt from 12 feet and I ran it four feet by. It's downhill, very quick. You've got to hit it soft and my imperfections in the greens will be -- it will kick it off line.

Q. You've had an obviously wonderful career. Is this stretch as good as you've played in a month or so? Can you look back and see?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that starting the year -- I think that I've been playing better than I ever have, for the reason that I'm driving the ball in the fairway now. I missed three fairways today out of the 26 fairway attempts, which for me is exceptional and imperative given how thick the rough is out here. The other factor has been distance control with the short irons, and I've mentioned it a bunch, but it's because it's very important, and it was very important today.

Q. Scores on the card aren't always accurate, but I think you had ten birdies in 28 holes, but I only counted 2 birdies over your four matches. Which one bodes better for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: I three-putted the ninth. That was an awful bogey, and then I can't remember the other one, but for the most part, because I've kept it in play, the course seems to be so much easier. I think after 33 years I've figured that out (laughter).

Q. As you say, given the setup of the course and they fret about guys dropping birdies on you, on this course, is it a better sign that the bogeys are so few?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a factor. I did not win many holes with pars. I won a couple holes, I think two holes in the morning with par, but you have to make birdies to win holes, but there are just a certain number of birdie holes. Par 5s you can birdie, and if you just hit a couple of good iron shots into some of the par 4s you can make birdies. Consequently, the count -- you're not going to light it up. Nobody is going to make eight, nine birdies really. It's just tough. It happened this morning without any wind, but it's very unlikely.

Q. You make the comment you think after 33 years you've figured it out. Are you hitting more fairways because you've changed something mechanically over the long hall? Is it a mind set? You just decide that it's absolutely essential to hit the fairway?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's been a mechanical change in the off season that Rick and I have been working on that has allowed me to drive it straighter. It's kind of nice.

Q. You're not hitting fewer drivers?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I hit driver every hole today except one 3-wood on 14, but that's also given the course. The course is long and it's wet and so forth, but it's more due to a mechanical change. There were some holes out there into the wind that were just tough driving holes that I was able to hit straight, and in the past I would have really struggled with them.

Q. Was it one of those things where after practice you just finally got it, or was it a long --

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, it's interesting. It kind of clicked right away, but over time as the six weeks -- I've only been working on it six, seven weeks. It seems to have gotten better and better and better. And at first I was just able to hit fades and now I'm able to hit a couple of draws. I think I hit three or four draws today, mostly cut shots, but when I had to turn one over on the ninth hole into the wind and keep it down, I was able to hit one and hit it well.

So it's just been -- just being able to swing more in balance and so forth has allowed me to drive it a lot straighter.

Q. You mentioned this morning after the first match on TV that you wanted to overcome what you had done at the Presidents Cup, and I know that was a question that was put to you. Did you really feel that way coming in, that you wanted to kind of prove something to yourself?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that my match play record in the past has always been very good, Ryder Cup records, U.S. Amateur and so forth, but having such a horrendous Presidents Cup, I did feel like I needed to have some good match play heading into this year's Ryder Cup.

I want Hal Sutton, the captain, to have a lot of confidence in me. I want him to play me and I want him to believe that I can help him get points. This year's Ryder Cup match I'm looking forward to. It's at Oakland Hills, which is so much fun. Those events are so much fun. I want him to have some confidence in me.

Q. What was your frustration level coming out here the last few years and never having advanced past the third round?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, because I had won here a couple of times I really expected to play well here, and the fact is that over six matches, seven rounds, you're not going to play every round perfect. You need a little luck. Like the first round match, I think I was 3-under par which is still a good score, but I didn't putt well, and Lee Westwood, if he had a good round, could have passed me. The second round 3-under through 12, I was going to be tough to beat.

Today into this wind to shoot 4-under was a good round. When you play well you're going to win your matches, but when you have lulls you need a little luck, and in the past I haven't had it.

Q. I just want to make sure I understand this. When you got to the Hope, you trusted this change or is it something that once you got it in competition --

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I drove it great at the Hope, absolutely. I waited for Rick to come out the first week of January, the new year. I didn't want to work on anything in 03. I wanted to start fresh in 04 and things have started to click. I spent a lot of time with Pelz, and I don't know if you can tell on TV, it's tough to see the flight, but it's lower and more penetrating with much better spin control. Even today into the wind it was tough to judge and get it right on. It was so much better than it has in the past.

Q. Can you explain how the Pro V1 versus the X works into all this?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure if it's a factor or not. I just know that my best golf was played in 2001 and 02, and 2000, and I wanted to take away the variable, so that was the first change that I made.

So go back to a softer ball because the wedges is the area that I haven't played the best in. Now, I may go back to the X. I've been hitting it on the range and it seems to go the same with the wedges as does the Pro V with distance as well as flight, and given that I'm giving up 18, 20 yards, I probably will go back to it, but right now I just don't want to make a change when I feel like I'm playing so well.

Q. You don't think it necessarily helps you get in the fairway a little more easily?

PHIL MICKELSON: I just don't see how, other than going shorter, but I could hit a 3-wood if I wanted to.

Q. Obviously last year you had different issues which you've worked through now in your game. Is there something in your mind that you're missing going into -- from here on in?

PHIL MICKELSON: From here on in, you mean into the majors?

Q. In your game, or just next week.

PHIL MICKELSON: The areas that needed to be addressed, the most important areas, were driving the ball in the fairway and wedge distance control, 150 in, and I feel like I've addressed them. And the more I work at it, the better I seem to get at it, and so I still want to continue to work hard in those areas because if those areas slide, if I'm starting to miss fairways, if I start hitting poor iron play, my scores are going to slide with it, so those are the critical areas.

Putting is obviously a big area. Putting seems to come and go. I really try to work on it to keep it consistent. But for the most part, those three areas, if you keep it sharp you're going to score well every week.

Q. You went back to a non-Futura.

PHIL MICKELSON: I went to a blade.

Q. Was that just a one-week thing? Were you tinkering at the time?

PHIL MICKELSON: I like the Slade blade, I really do, but the consistency of the Futura I felt allowed me to putt better from six feet in and to lag putt better on really fast greens. So I made a commitment to using the Futura and really working with it this year. And I spent a lot of time in the off season, November, December, I didn't hit any balls, I was just chipping and putting, and I tried to figure out what it was I was struggling with because it swings different than a blade. I figured out what causes me to miss it left and miss it right and get it down to where every putt seems to start on line which has been the case this year.

Q. Anything we would understand?

PHIL MICKELSON: Just ball position. It swings differently. The weighting of it causes it to swing differently.

Q. How does a dynamic of a match change when you are such good friends with a guy? Is it any different?

PHIL MICKELSON: I find it more enjoyable. I find that I like to play guys that I know I get along with because we can keep the match lighthearted and rib each other and have fun with it, which is what Chris and I did.

Q. How did you rough him up on No. 3?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'll tell you later, but it's nothing I really want anybody else to know.

JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us.

End of FastScripts.

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