April 2, 2003
TODD BUDNICK: Phil Mickelson, 2000 past champion here at the BellSouth Classic, four consecutive Top-10s here including a third last year. Also gotten off to a great start to the season with 4 Top-10s in your 5 starts. You haven't played in the last month due to the birth of your first son Evan. Congratulations to you and Amy. Why don't we start with that and talk a little bit about what you have done the last month.
PHIL MICKELSON: We have been just waiting last month for this pregnancy to be finalized and we were very fortunate last week ago Sunday to be blessed with our third child, a baby boy, Evan Samuel. He was 7 pounds, 9 ounces, 20 and a half inches long and we have been having a lot of fun with that.
Mom and baby are doing well. They are back home and everything couldn't be better.
Q. After a break like that it must be nice to come back to a course where you have had some great success?
PHIL MICKELSON: I love this golf course and I love what they have done to it this year because the greens are the best I have seen them. They are so fast and they should be very firm. They are identical to what we'll see next week at Augusta. We will see a lot of difficulty on the (inaudible) this week.
Q. Variety of conditions, how does it shape up like this compared to previous years?
PHIL MICKELSON: It seems to be a little bit -- a little harder, a little bit faster. The fairways are pretty firm. I expect that if we don't get any rain the golf course will play short but it will play very difficult because it will be hard to get the ball close to the hole and hard to make putts.
Q. Could you describe the three toughest shots at Augusta and why?
PHIL MICKELSON: The toughest shot at Augusta I think is No. 6 to the top right pin. You are hitting a very small area, you have got a huge elevation change and you have got a wind that seems to swirl and doesn't stay the same for more than 20, 30 seconds. Factoring all those elements and the degree of difficulty of an up-and-down, if you miss that small section of the green and think that's by far the toughest shot.
The next toughest shot is the tee shot on 4, par 3 there, because the wind seems to swirl there and it's very difficult to pick up.
And the third most difficult would be the second shot on 15 - the green is so shallow. Again you have a big fall-off -- you have a big fall-off. The difficulty from behind the green getting the ball up-and-down with the water now on the other side makes it very brutal. The reason why 15 is third most difficult is because it's typically a second shot par 5 and you can kind of bail out to the right and assure yourself of a 5.
Q. As you leave the 11th green and walk to 12th tee and you are standing at the tee box, first of all, what is that walk like to the box and then what do you look for as far as the wind and how to play 12 if there is a way to do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the wind on 12 has not been overly tricky the last couple of years. We have haven't seen guys really mesmerized or surprised at what the wind has done. A few years ago the wind was swirling much more, so-- and we were seeing guys hit solid shots that would fall in the middle of the creek; wouldn't even come close. We haven't seen that last couple of years. I don't really have a set way to plan on the wind. Hogan used to say the flag on 11, but I don't really have a set way. The walk up from 11 green to 12th tee is very cool because you are walking right into the gallery. It not as though you are walking along side of them. But into them and they typically give everybody a standing ovation; it's an incredible feeling.
Q. Did you close to maybe being able to play last week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought that I was going to be in THE PLAYERS Championship for sure because we were hoping just to get to March. We thought that we were going to have trouble getting it to March 1 which is why I pulled out of the FORD Championship. Amy had started labor twice, actually three times before that tournament started. The reasons we later found out it was not going to happen unless she got induced. So we went in for inducement on March 23rd. Had it any come at any of those three weeks, had the baby come the week of the Ford Championship of Honda or Doral, I am sorry, Honda or Bay Hill, I would have played THE PLAYERS Championship.
Q. Phil, for some golfers they are needing to play all the time to stay sharp other players get to take off a month or so and come back fresh. Do you feel you are going to be quicker on all cylinders because of the time off or do you need time to get the rust of the way?
PHIL MICKELSON: Probably somewhere right in the middle, I think. I feel as though I am very excited to play. I am anxious to get out here and play, but my game certainly is rusty, I am not going to deny that. A lot of the intracacies of shot-making and hitting wedges and short irons the right distance and getting feel for quick greens, all that will take sometime. Hopefully as the week wears on, I will progress into the week's play and my goal on Thursday and Friday is to just play solid, keep the score somewhat reasonable. I am not trying to light it up the first couple of days, but then hopefully I will progress on the weekend.
Q. Do you feel refreshed or kind of exhausted?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of both.
Q. Have you kept up with you fitness work while this has been going on?
PHIL MICKELSON: Are you saying I am fat?
Q. No. (Laughter).
PHIL MICKELSON: I actually have been. I have been working out pretty religiously and I have enjoyed it. I have got my trainer here with me this week since my family is not here. I anticipate continuing it each day. So it's been fun.
Q. Mentally not being able to be involved in a big tournament there, especially THE PLAYERS, I know you knew what you were going to do and you knew you were going to do it for a long time....
PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't that big of a deal. I think it would be very hard to miss a major. It would be hard to watch it on TV, but as much as I was excited to come out and play again, it was very hard for me to leave my family. Our family is in a state of transition with the new born and we have three children three years or under, and it was hard for me to leave. I enjoy the time that each one is at. As much as I want to come and play, it was just hard for me to get away from them. It was difficult to leave.
Q. Amy was pretty bedridden there for a while, and was there a danger part at all at any time point?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, there wasn't any danger before the pregnancy and she was just bedridden because we thought the baby was going to come earlier. We were just trying to get to March.
Q. There has been talk over the last year one of the reasons Tiger is concentration is so focused because he doesn't have the responsibility. He doesn't have a family. He can put all his mind into golf. You are combining fatherhood with three young kids and trying to play top level golf. Is there a trade-off there that you -- obviously you accept it gladly, but is there something that they -- if you were just totally tunnel vision on golf would your game be X percent better?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think so. And I think that not -- for someone who has not experienced the joys of finding their life partner; experience the joys of having children and a family of their own, you are really missing out. That's something I wouldn't trade for the world, and I think that although Tiger is not married at the time, does not have children, I think he definitely wants that. I think he will thoroughly enjoy that and I don't think it will affect his golf one bit when that does happen.
Q. Going back to Augusta, two-part question, with all that's gone on leading up to the tournament, can you envision it being different at all for the player participating this year and also just the overall atmosphere there, can you see that being different?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it will be different from a player's point of view. When we get inside the gates and when we're playing and competing in our first major championship of 2003, the field will be the same as it always has been.
Q. What about the overall atmosphere?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly when you get out of the gates and you drive home it will be a little bit different.
Q. Could you please talk a little bit about the difference of 12 at Augusta as compared to 17 at TPC?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the green at TPC is so much bigger, so much deeper that it's a much easier shot. The penalty is a little bit greater for a margin of error, let's say, ten or fifteen yards off-line. But Augusta's green on 12 is so narrow from front to back; in fact, over that middle bunker where everybody aims, is eight yards. That's not -- 24 feet is not a big area. So pulling the right club there is much more difficult and if you go long you are looking at most likely 4 and if you come up short well -- if you are in the bunker you are okay, you could maybe make three or four but the water obviously is a big penalty.
17 at the TPC you have a much bigger margin of error to make par. But if you miss that margin of error you are a sure double-bogey; whereas 12, sometimes you can get a lucky break, you might hit up in the bank and roll back down and you get up-and-down or get up in the back bunker to get it up-and-down. So it might be a little salvage par with a big miss on 12.
Q. Amen Corner when you are playing usually you are surrounded at the greens by fans. What is it like to be in that area where you are really -- there's no one around the greens?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was -- my first couple of years I thought well this is great, you can have conversations with guys and say some things and what have you, and then I realized there was a camera and microphone there, so even though there aren't people there you still need to be careful. Much like the U.S. Open on 18 in 2000 at Pebble Beach, with Tiger said a swear word and got chastised for it. There wasn't a soul within 150 yards of him, but there was a microphone and it picked it up. Nobody would have heard it had that microphone not been there.
Q. You really haven't played under this kind -- if you get some fast --
PHIL MICKELSON: I have played it -- I have played in '99, 2000. 2000 it rained a lot. '99 was pretty fast. Last couple of years it's been pretty firm. It has potential to be really hard. The greens are firm already. If it doesn't rain they will be bricks on the weekend.
Q. When you go have your trainer with you do you go to the fitness trailer?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. No, I will go to a gym offsite. Small room with a lot of guys in.
Q. Hard to get a seat in there, so guys say it's hard to get a seat in there now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, there's a lot of guys in a small room, yeah, it's tough.
Q. (Inaudible) hardest shot at Augusta, has your opinion changed over the years when you first went there and you had watched the television previously, talk about 12, the famous shots you saw on television?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the biggest surprise that I had when I first played Augusta National was the elevation changes. I couldn't believe how severe the elevation change was on 10. Couldn't believe what it was on 15. Amen Corner was actually what I expected except on 13, I did not realize how severely pitched that fairway is. It does catch balls from going through into the rough, but you have the ball so far, in my case, below my feet; other players above their feet with the water to the right, which means you have to start the ball out over the water and have it come back to the green to hit a good shot. I didn't realize how difficult that second shot was.
Q. Bunker 5 is a place to avoid now, must be huge from everything everybody has said?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I have seen the pictures.
Q. I heard it is like it will be an only sky pretty much?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't played it yet or seen it in person but I saw the pictures and they protruded way off the fairway and they looked very deep, right. Have they move the tee back?
PHIL MICKELSON: They moved 4 green up then.
Q. No, just moved the bunkers down the fairway.
PHIL MICKELSON: They didn't move the tee box back?
Q. They just moved the fairway 80 yards or 60 yards --
PHIL MICKELSON: They had to move 4 green up --
PHIL MICKELSON: The tee is in the same spot forces you to go more right to play 20 yards longer --
Q. Five yards back (inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: Because they were talking about moving 4 green up and 4 tee back obviously, and moving 5 tee back to where the back right pin on No. 4 would be.
Q. With all the technology changes, clubs and balls, how much distance have you gained since this new technology?
PHIL MICKELSON: A lot.
Q. In yardage is there a way that you can --
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, in '93 I was 25th in driving distance at 269 and last year 25th in driving distance at 289. So there's 20 yards there from the same spot. This year, with the new X ball and new 983 driver I think I am well over 300.
Q. Any disadvantage to that gain in length? Is there a disadvantage to a ball flying further?
PHIL MICKELSON: In the past there's always been a disadvantage because you sacrifice control with the short irons, you sacrifice control chipping and putting. You even sacrifice some aerodynamics in the ball. That's not the case. Those issues have all been rectified.
Q. Can the changes in the balls be detrimental to the game of golf, do you think?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see how. I look at it as though there are players in the game that have competed many years ago, Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer, they are able to come out on Tour and play these golf courses that we're playing, at an incredible age. It's great for the game that these guys are still able to play and I don't know if I want to say compete, but to be competitive -- to play a respectable course, make the cut, what have you, guys in their 50s on the SENIOR TOUR can play very well out here. And I think a lot of that's due to the fact that we have such great technological advances that you don't have to swing hard to get the ball up, get it going, with the lower center gravity drivers gets the ball up; the distance now on the ball allows guys to hit it that far further than they did when they were in their prime. That allows them to keep playing at a great age which is great for the game that we still have their presence at tournaments.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think the links style golf is affected by the wind. And when the wind blows 20, 30 knots like it usually does, all the quality of the golf ball are not going to have that huge of a difference. When you are at sea level and the ball is getting hammered by that wind, it plays very similar.
Q. (Inaudible) lifetime exemption --
PHIL MICKELSON: If I could ever win those would be my -- they would see me every year. I think as an amateur one of the great things that every amateur does is call up Arnold Palmer's office and tries to set up practice rounds. To have him not be present would be a huge detriment and an experience that many amateurs and many pros that would really miss out on, watching these guys play the practice round and talking about stories, that's stuff that would severely damage the tournament. I think that it showed a lot of -- I think it's really cool that somebody like Hootie Johnson can admit here that they made a mistake and rescind their decision. I hope that I am fortunate to win that tournament because I would love to come back every year.
Q. Working on anything? You had a session with Butch Harmon. Are you and Butch and Rick working on anything specific in your swing? Just as a point your average driving distance to date is 308 yards?
PHIL MICKELSON: On the monitor back in San Diego at sea level my average carry was 304, 5, so that would be about right. I don't know how much roll we have been getting; some lot; some little.
As far as instructors are concerned Rick is my guy and that's really all I can say on that.
Q. Leading into a major right now, (inaudible) --
PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing really specific that I'd like to go into, no.
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