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January 23, 2004

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you for joining us today. Another great round, 64, 195, 21-under, leading the tournament now. Make a couple of comments about today's round and the outlook for the weekend.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thanks, Joan. It was a nice day. I played well today. I hit a lot of good shots. Made a lot of good putts and I'm very pleased with the round.

Q. This has to be the dream start for the season, your first three rounds, 21-under par?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a little -- yeah, it's a nice start. I don't know if I'd say it's a dream start but it's a nice start to the year.

I think what's the nicest thing about it is the work that I've put in the off-season, I can see it paying off. I can see it paying off in fairways hit through better swing mechanics, I can see it paying off with more birdies with wedges because I'm having better distance control. My putting has been much better, and consequently, I've been scoring a lot better.

To have the first three rounds of the year be as low as they were is very encouraging for the time I've put in in the off-season.

Q. You talked about your physical conditioning the other day. Are there ways that you can feel that making a difference?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that I certainly feel better throughout the round. And I feel like I have more strength and more speed in the golf swing without losing balance or control. So it does feel like I'm able to swing the club a little bit easier and a little bit better.

Q. Mentally it's got to be the biggest lift for you to come out here and post these three rounds after everything you've gone through, right out of the gate? How are you feeling mentally?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been so looking forward to the year to start for me for this tournament to come around, that it has not been a huge mental hurdle. I've been very excited about 2004. I just could not wait for the year to get started. I couldn't wait to get 2003 behind me. I'm very encouraged by the way the first three rounds have gone.

Q. 21-under through three rounds, pretty good at a lot of golf tournaments. You've still got 36 holes left to play. When do you allow yourself to think about what's going to happen on Sunday, after tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the way I look at it is that there are going to be a lot of birdies this weekend. A lot of guys are going to make a lot of birdies. I feel very confident that if I continue to drive the ball the way I have been and hit wedges close, I'll make my share of birdies, as well. So I'm not really thinking that far ahead to Sunday yet.

Q. With all of the birdies out here, is this like a home run hitting contest, does that build up your confidence, do you think, because of the way the courses are laid out and everything else?

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. I think it's a great way to start the year. Because you've got four great golf courses, five competitive rounds, great conditioning, the rough isn't too bad so the amateurs are able to play it. Pins are not too difficult the first four days because we want everybody to get around. It's a great confidence-building start to the year.

Q. What are you more impressed with, the short game work that you've done or the fairways, accuracy in fairways?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've seen results with both, so I'm pretty encouraged with both of them right now.

Q. There's not one that outweighs the other?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. Because if I wasn't driving it well, then the wedges would not have a chance to take effect and so forth.

Q. How has your play with the amateurs been, has it been comfortable?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've had nothing by great experiences here last four or five years that I've been coming here. My amateur partners have always been very courteous. They know the etiquette extremely well. They pick up when they are out of the hole. Pace of play has been good. I've enjoyed it.

Q. Did you feel any kind of immediacy to win, more so than any other years past, maybe?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't won yet. But I don't feel so much -- I don't feel a sense of urgency to win, no. What I feel is excitement to start playing better again, excitement to get back to the level of play, the level of consistency that I had in 2000, 2001 and 2002 where I was No. 2 player in the world. Whereas last year, I drove it poorly, wedges were poor. It wasn't a fun year on and off the course.

This year seems to be very encouraging.

Q. You mentioned in your TV interview about your workout regimen with your coach and how much that's helped. Tell us a little about that.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the off-season, I've worked hard, six days a week to get physically stronger, faster, better speed and so forth and stability, and I feel like it's starting to pay off in the golf swing. The mechanics feel much easier to do. I'm able to stay in much better balance, much better control of the golf swing because I'm a little bit stronger now.

Q. Any equipment changes this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing major, no. Probably the biggest change is that because my wedges were not what I wanted last year, I made a change to take away one variable and the variable was I changed balls to the Pro V1x and I went back to the Pro V1. Maybe it's a little softer and may be helping my wedges, but I wanted to remove that one variable.

Q. Do you feel you got everything out of the round or did you leave a couple out there?

PHIL MICKELSON: You always leave a couple out there. I feel like I made only one bad swing this week, and it was my second shot on 18, which led to a bogey and you're certainly looking at birdie there. I had 4-iron in and made bogey.

But other than that, I came back right away with birdieing the next three holes and regaining the momentum.

Q. Is there a point, and maybe it's already here, that the work you've done in the off-season has been validated?

PHIL MICKELSON: I am slowly starting to feel that, yes. I felt it after the first round where I played really solid and had one of the easiest 68s I've ever had without a bogey and that was very encouraging.

As I started to carry it over the next day to day two and the next day to day three, I felt very encouraged that the work I've put in is paying off and is more consistent.

Q. In Vegas, you had five good rounds and I would have to say you were in contention there. This is, from what we can remember, one of the better chances you have to win an event, but you still have 36 holes to go. Are your expectations that you will win the events from how you're playing right now?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really think about the results. You know, there's so many birdieing that going to take place this weekend, I don't think about the result of winning.

It's been such a long time that I've been in serious contention or that I've been up top of the leaderboard that I'm just pleased to have opportunities to win and I hope that I take advantage of it.

Q. It's a long time for you to be off the leaderboard.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it feels like a long time. (Smiles).

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Let's go over your birdies and bogeys.

PHIL MICKELSON: I started on 10. I hit 1-iron, 8-iron to 15 feet and made birdie.

11 was a par 5. I hit driver, 5-iron just over the edge to 20 feet. Chipped up a foot and birdied.

I birdied the 12th hole, the par 3. I hit a hard 7-iron to ten feet and made that for birdie.

I birdied 16. I hit 1-iron, sand wedge to 12 feet and made that for birdie.

Then 18, I bogeyed, I hit driver, 4-iron in the water, then 5-iron for my fourth shot to the green, 25 feet and 2-putted for 6.

Birdied 1 with a driver and gap wedge to 12 feet.

Birdied 2 with a driver, 5-iron to 15 feet two, put birdie.

Birdied 3 with an 8-iron to 15 feet.

Birdied No. 7 with a 1-iron, 5-iron to ten feet.

And I birdied No. 8 with a 3-wood and a sand wedge to 18 feet and made that.

Q. With all of the discussion about mechanics and your workout regimen, does that allow you to be more or less aggressive?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think to win out on the Tour, you have to play aggressive. You have to attack pins. You have to try to make birdies. That's how I won 21 times. I think if you want to win golf tournaments and not just finish in the Top-10, you have to have that approach.

The difference between last year and the previous years wasn't style of play, it was just mechanics. My swing mechanics were way off and I hit horrific shots.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil.

End of FastScripts.

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