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February 25, 2003

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: First of all, thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes, especially in this foul weather we're having. We appreciate you making the trek over here to spend a few minutes with us.

Kind of switching gears this week into match play, away from stroke-play. Why don't you make a couple of comments on that, and then we'll go into questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we as players enjoy the change. We enjoy playing this format this week. We don't have a chance to do it very often, and it's understandable, given that most of the drama seems to occur on Wednesdays and Thursdays, where we have so many more matches, so many more story lines. But when you have a number of people trying to follow just one twosome on Sunday, it isn't as accommodating for the spectators or for television. So we don't have too many of these events. But when we do have a chance to play in them, we really relish that head-to-head competition.

Q. You've gone as deep as the third or fourth round, and the last two you were done in the first round. Does it feel any worse?

PHIL MICKELSON: Did it feel worse to -- it doesn't feel good losing in the first round, that's no fun. And especially when you've traveled a long ways, and you've come to -- come here to play well, and you play one round and that's it. That happened to me last year, and it's not fun, no.

Q. Losing, not the long travel, though? The losing happened last year, not the long travel?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, actually we were living here at the time, yeah. Which is even worse, to be at home, watching the tournament on TV. It's just as bad as having to travel a long ways home.

Q. What do you know about Robert Karlsson?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've watched him play on The Golf Channel. He has a tremendous swing. He seems to have a ton of talent. He's not played too much in the states, so I haven't seen him in person as much, but I have seen him quite a bit on television. He seems extremely talented, and to get in this field he has to be a heck of a player.

Q. Would you say that players on the whole maybe are a little more low key this week, because it's a crapshoot in match play. If it works, great; if it doesn't, you get five or six days off. A little more low key this week in that respect?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's an interesting way of looking at it. That's very possible that guys look at this week in a little bit different light, not knowing how many rounds they'll be able to play. But I know that there's two ways to look at it. If you get knocked out early it gives you a lot of time to play for the championship. If you go late, it means you're playing well heading into the Ford Championship. There's two ways to look at it.

Q. Phil, a question off this subject for a future story about memorabilia. Have your practices or attitudes about signing your autograph changed over the years as a result of the growth in the memorabilia market, and do you resent the possibility people are selling things you're signing for them on eBay?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really don't resent it. That doesn't bother me, and I feel as though there are a minuscule amount of people that are trying to profit off of the number of kids and the number of other people that really appreciate it. So to me it's worth spending the time and taking the time. And I think that one of the -- there's a lot of great things about the job that I have, but I think that the one thing that makes me feel the greatest is doing something as little as giving a child a golf ball and watching his face light up. That is a priceless feeling, or signing an autograph for him. And if other people get autographs to profit off of it, that really doesn't bother me, no. I still get that fulfillment and see that reward in that child's face. That to me is worth it.

As far as my autograph style, it changed when we had that policy for one year, where we had an autograph area. And during that year, I believe it was '96, they had a designated autograph area, and the players didn't make it work, because the majority of us would not go there and sign. But I really liked the way that worked out. So what I did was I kind of stuck with that and said that before and during rounds I won't sign, even practice rounds, but if you'll wait until the end, I don't mind setting aside 20 or 30 minutes to sign. And that really stemmed from that one rule that we had in '96. We only had it for one year, because it was our fault we didn't make it work, but I liked the way it gave me a better preparation into the tournament without having to allot autograph time, just do it after the round.

Q. Phil, do you feel that there is more pressure on the top-ranked players in the event, and do you feel that's the reason for some of the upsets?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel there's more pressure on the top-ranked players. I think those in the golf world know how difficult match play can be, and how over 18 holes everybody's equal. When we look at all the tournaments that everybody has won, Tiger has won 35 events. Of those 35 events, I don't know if there was any tournament where he was the low round every single day. I'm sure there were some, because that's just him. He's just that good. But if you look at that, that means that somebody beat him that given day.

And in match play that can happen, and I think everybody in the golf world realizes that, so the top players don't feel as though they have more pressure on them.

Q. You have had a chance to look at the golf course a couple of days, I know you've played a couple of practice rounds. What do you think of the length of the holes and also the flip flop of the 9s?

PHIL MICKELSON: The flip flop of the 9s was tremendous. What a great idea, because we were having matches end at the furthest point away from the clubhouse, and now we're going to see 3, 4, 5 matches all congregate and finish there in those last four holes right by the clubhouse. It was a great idea. The first part of your question was --

Q. The length of the course, some of the holes have been lengthened.

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought -- the only hole I felt there was going to be a big impact was the new 17, old 8, because that hole used to be a driver and an L-wedge, and now it's driver, 5, 6-iron. That is the significant difference. The other holes that have been lengthened means it goes from a 3-wood to a driver to a similar spot, a similar club into the green. But it will be more challenging off the tee. But I thought that the one hole that really had the biggest impact was 17.

Q. Why change it for match play, from driver, L-wedge to driver, 5-iron? Was that smart?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think they changed it for match play, they just changed it to update the course. It hadn't been updated in a couple of decades, and with all the technological advancements in equipment.

Q. Wouldn't it be more exciting if they played the tees they had last year?


Q. Knowing that you've got to make birdie to go on.

PHIL MICKELSON: You still have to make birdie. It's just a little harder birdie now.

Q. That seemed like -- it's certainly not a short par-4, but --

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a short par-4.

Q. You guys are coming in with the lob wedge, for match play, when really you and your opponents -- wouldn't it be just as well to leave it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think there are enough wedges out here. It's okay to have a mixture of long holes. There aren't a lot of long par-4s that require a driver, 5-iron. The only other one would be 14. A 3-wood off the tee, come in with a 4 or 5-iron there. For the most part, with the new tee boxes, we're hitting a 8, 9, wedge into the hole. I didn't think it would adversely affect it, if it was match play or stroke-play. But certainly the hole plays a lot different.

Q. How is your mindset different when you walk off the first tee in this tournament as opposed to the first hole of a 72-hole event?

PHIL MICKELSON: Each shot seems to carry a little more immediate value, because you don't have the luxury of carrying over your good play, let's say, from the earlier rounds in a stroke-play event. You're starting over again. And so the fine alternative of it all, meaning if you lose, you're out, seems to put a little more immediate pressure.

Q. By your own admission at Buick on Sunday, you really hadn't been playing well coming in. You worked this week or last week, where are you now in preparation for this, as well as Florida?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. I have not played well this year. I think that the three top-10s in those four events are a little deceptive, because I haven't had great chances to win, other than in San Diego. I feel as though this last week has been a good week for me where I've worked on some things to the point where I'm pretty close to be where I want to be for the rest of the year, but it's still not quite comfortable yet, so I'm not sure how I'll play this week.

Q. Did you bring Rick in this week or last week?

PHIL MICKELSON: He couldn't make it, but we've been in contact.

Q. What do you make of the fact that the West Coast swing this year, it seems like every week one of the top-ranked players has won? That's a little unusual compared to previous years.

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what to say, yeah. I mean, whoever -- I don't know what to say there.

Q. Do you feel like the West Coast -- a few years ago the Tour felt that they had to start the pool to get more guys out here on the West Coast. Has the attitude toward the West Coast changed?

PHIL MICKELSON: It has changed a lot. And it started, I believe, in -- I want to say '98. I'm not sure of the exact year, when I believe Bank of America stepped up and started the West Coast swing that's been carried on now with -- is it St. Paul? What that did was it increased the purses to an equal or now even greater level than when we start on the east coast.

And for a long time, Doral was always the tournament that seemed to start the year, where you could fall way behind on the money list, but catch up with that purse. And the West Coast has become a very viable spot. Now, all the Florida tournaments that had fallen behind have really stepped it up this year, starting at Doral. They've stepped it up to make it a prominent tournament, as have all the other tournaments in Florida.

So it won't have the same effect that it did in the early '90s, where the Tour seemed to start in Florida, but every tournament now seems to have equal or greater value as each other.

Q. Phil, a lot of talk about Tiger and Ernie. You were No. 2 a very short time ago, does the competitor in you get stoked, fired up, having to read papers now that kind of focus just on those two guys?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've actually enjoyed it. It's been fun.

Q. Phil, along those lines, when you were considered the absolute chief rival to Tiger, say '01 and '02, that was because you guys were paired together or went at it in a couple of majors, like The Masters or U.S. Open or because you were winning more tournaments than anyone else than Tiger, were finishing second on the money list as the next best player. Do you have to go head-to-head to be a rivalry?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I'd have to ask you guys, because you were promoting the rivalry-type hype.

Q. What are your thoughts on it? Do you have to go head-to-head for a rivalry to flourish, or can you get it done by trading off on tournaments and going 1, 2, on the money list?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. Both helps, a combination of both is probably good.

Q. Phil, you say you've enjoyed -- you think it's -- you said you enjoy it, is that presumably from the point of view that you think it's ridiculous to the point that the game boils down to two players?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, because I've enjoyed having not to talk about that all the time. I've had great other things to talk about, it's been fun.

Q. You haven't enjoyed not being in the position to do it, have you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not being -- not having a chance to win or not winning? That hasn't been fun, no. You're right.

Q. Phil, why is match play the great equalizer? Is it the depth of the field or is it the psychological warfare, when you're right next to the guy?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would equate it more to mathematical odds. 18 holes of golf would be like sitting down and playing blackjack for 20 minutes. There's a good chance you could win. You sit there and play for 20 hours, there's a better chance you'll lose. And if you play -- the more holes you play, the better the chance that the top player will come out. But over 18 holes it seems to negate any advantage that one player might have over another.

Q. Would you play it different, just like you play blackjack different? Would you be more aggressive?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not a blackjack player. I'm just trying to give you something to equate it to.

Q. Are you more aggressive or are you more conservative in match play?

PHIL MICKELSON: It depends on the opponent and what happens.

Q. Would you like to see it changed at all, whether that means the field shortened or the tournament lengthened to get 36-hole matches in, which are a better test?

PHIL MICKELSON: What I wanted to see done -- and I recommended four or five years ago, which for some other reasons was -- it didn't work out -- I thought a good idea was to do what the Western Amateur does, which is to play 54 or 72 holes of stroke-play, and then cut the field down to either 8 or 16 and that what I felt it would do would be to give the top players a chance to have fewer matches, to play over a longer period of time. And then have fewer one-round matches where you start over again at scratch. I felt that -- that's what I thought would be a good idea. But there were reasons with the tournament why it wouldn't work.

Q. Would you like maybe to see 36 holes for the first round?

PHIL MICKELSON: There's a lot of great things we could do to alter it, but either way, the way it is now, it's a fun event. I think that if I were -- if -- I would enjoy viewing Wednesday or Thursday as much as Saturday or Sunday.

Q. What about a double-elimination thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: There's a lot of great ideas, sure. But it all boils down to having one match on Sunday. And that's very difficult to hold a lot of spectators. It's hard to have more than 5,000 people following one group, let alone the 35 or 40 thousand we often get on Sundays or in excess of that number.

In Phoenix, we had 140,000. You couldn't have that many people following one group. It's just tough to do.

Q. I just want to clarify. You're out of the Players, true?

PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing is set in stone. But as it stands right now, my schedule is to play in the Ford Championship, miss Bay Hill, Honda, Players, and hopefully be back for Atlanta, but things have been changing, and I'm not sure what is going to happen.

Q. Which way are they changing?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not really sure. I'm not really sure. If anything, our pregnancies have ended early. And it's been a tough month, three weeks, because Amy's been on bed rest, and she hasn't been feeling the best. And the doctor is a little concerned, because she wants it to go term. So she hasn't been really able to get out of bed.

Q. How hard is it for you to concentrate on golf, when you have that thing to deal with at home with your wife and family?

PHIL MICKELSON: It actually has not been very difficult, because I enjoy -- we have a good little routine, and I enjoy the time that I have with my kids. And it's in the morning when they wake up early and getting -- with the youngest waking up and the oldest getting her ready for school, and taking her to school. And then we have help come, or my mom comes and helps. And then when I get back, I get to have them for the evening and have dinner with them and get them ready for bed, read and so forth.

So we have a good little routine, where I feel when I'm playing for the day, I'm able to focus on golf. When I get home at night I actually get some great time with them, because of that.

Q. Phil, we asked Padraig Harrington this question. The craziest match he can ever recall, even his amateur days, he was six down, and he almost lost to a 5-handicap, but managed to rally to win. Do you have one that stands out, just a crazy, unbelievable match play circumstance?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've actually been very fortunate. I've had a number of fun matches and fun little instances that have taken place in the U.S. amateur, as well as when I would play high school golf. And I thought one of the interesting things was in a high school match I played. I was four down at the turn, to a kid that was four years older than I was. He was a senior, I was a freshman, and he could hit it 50, 60 yards past me. I ended up making a few holes. And we ended up getting to 18 at Torrey Pines South. He had a 6-iron in, I had no chance of getting there. I hit 3-wood. And it looked like the ball went right of the lake, and kind of funneled down into the lake. So he thought I went in the water, instead of hitting a 6-iron on the green, he takes out a pitching wedge, lays up short. My ball ended up 3 inches out of the water. Being left-handed, I chipped it up 3 feet, and made birdie. He didn't get up-and-down from wherever he left it, and I ended up beating him in the playoff.

That was fun. I was a freshman. He was a lot older. But I actually enjoyed some of the amateur matches, U.S. amateur matches a lot better, because there's just a lot of little things that go on there.

End of FastScripts....

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