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February 15, 2003

Phil Mickelson


MODERATOR: Like to welcome Phil Mickelson into the interview room. Thanks for coming by and seeing us. Obviously, you got off to a really great start and then a great birdie there at the end.

PHIL MICKELSON: I played well today and the course was playing very difficult. But I did get off to a really good start. Birdied 2, 3 and 4. And had a chance to go really low. But I let a few things slide midway through the round. I missed a couple of short birdies on six and nine and doubled 12. But then after that, I came back with birdies on the two par-5s on 13 and 18. And finished with a pretty solid round, I thought.

MODERATOR: Can you take us through the birdies starting on number two.

PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. Hit driver, L-wedge on 2 to eight feet. Made it.

On 3 I hit a 6-iron to 10 feet and made it.

And on 4 I hit driver, 6-iron to 12 feet and made that.

I doubled 12. I pulled a drive in the right rough, pulled a 4-iron in the right rough behind a tree. Chipped over the green, chipped on 15 feet and missed it.

Birdied 13. Driver, 3-wood and just over the green in the back bunker. Bunker shot to about 10 feet and made it.

Birdied 18. Drove it in the left bunker, hit an 8-iron out short and a pitching wedge to 15 feet.

MODERATOR: Okay. Questions.

Q. You played well.


Q. Pretty easy 69, especially with the double bogey. You're playing well. You've got to feel good about tomorrow. The crowd is getting what they wanted. Tell us about how you feel about tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a fun day. And it is a fun atmosphere. I really have seen, in the last couple of years, the tournament get a lot of support from the community. We have bigger crowds every year. We have our increased share charitable donations every year. So it's been very successful and has continued to grow.

I felt like because I drove it well it was an easy 69. Because I put the, hit more fairways today than I did the first two days combined. And that gave me a chance to go at a lot of pins, especially with the lift clean and place.

Q. Talk about being paired with Tiger tomorrow. Is that a fun thing for you? I mean, that's what everybody wants to see, the crowd and everybody else.

PHIL MICKELSON: It is fun, yeah. I was thinking on that putt on 18 I would love to get into had a last group, absolutely.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I love the challenge of it. I think that in San Diego's past history the winner has come from not necessarily the last group as much as a few groups before who get off to a quick start, put some birdies on the board and put pressure on the leaders. And because there's such a grouping, so many guys at 7, 8 under par that are right there, those guys are going to get off to, somebody's going to get off to a quick start and put pressure on the leaders. And I love that challenge.

Q. The last guy to reel Tiger in when he held a 4 shot lead was you. You won three times here.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's been awhile though.

Q. Well end of 2000.

PHIL MICKELSON: So three years. Two and a half years.

Q. You got to feel at least pretty good about those odds.

PHIL MICKELSON: You could look at it that way or you could say it's been two and a half years since anybody has reeled him in.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: Well I thought it would be fun. I thought it would be fun to play with Tiger. And he's probably not even a hundred percent, he hasn't played competitively for some time. He's had surgery, he's been rehabing that. And yet he's still a top the leader board, still leading the tournament. So it shows you what a great player he is. And I love the opportunity to play with him and compete against him. Because the more I have a chance to do that, I feel the better I become as a player, the better opportunity I have to improve.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I have said that. And I stand by that. I think that the game doesn't fall a way, but the fine tunement, the feel shots, the wedge shots, getting it the exact distance, getting it close to the hole. The touch on the greens, reading the greens properly, all that little finetune stuff is what takes a little while to get back. And there's a different feeling when you tee it up in a tournament as opposed to when you tee it up with friends. When the rough is a little bit higher, the fairways are a little bit tighter, greens are faster -- although they're not that quick this week because of the rain. All those little variables can be tough to adjust to. And certainly there have been guys who haven't touched a club in a month. I remember in '94 I came back after not having touched a club for a month and ended up winning a tournament to and it was a surprise. So it happens. But I think that at Tiger's level of play, we all know that he's not a hundred percent this week. And yet he's still a top the leaderboard. So that kind of tells us that we have a lot of -- or an area where we need to get better to keep pace.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, there again, that's, it's tough to do that. Especially at the Hope where you have to shoot 30-under par to get in a playoff, and get wedges close and so forth. I had been, if you look at that week, I got off to a quick start, kind of hung in there, hung in there and had a fury of birdies there in the end to win it. And it was just one of those things where, as the week wore on, I started to get more and more comfortable and made a run in the end.

Q. What's it going to take to win tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: The lowest score. To have the lowest score tomorrow? It's hard to say. Look how low the scores were yesterday on the South compared to today. The tees were back, the pins were tucked, and it played a lot harder. It just played a lot harder. Some of the holes out here are some of the toughest that we have on Tour.

That 12th hole, last year we never played it from where we did today. It was, I don't know the exact yardage, but it was over 500 uphill into the wind if you lasered it. And 15 now, which used to be a birdie hole is one of the tightest driving holes of any course that we play and one of the longest holes in general. So the back nine, which used to see quite a few low scores, it's played a lot different today than it did the early days where they had the tees up. So to say what score, I've got to say based on where I saw most of the pins are going to be, I've got to think 3- or 4-under par is going to be another very good score and I would set the winning score to be at right around 15, 16-under.

Q. Looking back to 2000 where you had a great battle here with Tiger, back and forth final round, what was the game plan when you came out and birdied the last three or four holes, how does that rang for you as far as stepping up?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Todd, certainly I enjoyed the finish, I enjoyed birdieing four or five or whatever, four of the last few holes. But I also felt as though I didn't take much solace in that because I felt it was a tournament I should have won by more shots. I had a seven shot lead on Tiger and he ended up catching me. I shouldn't have let that happen. And through better play I made two doubles, I believe, and let everybody back in the tournament. I'm certainly glad I closed it out there in the end, but I want to be able to do what you see Tiger do quite a bit. When you get a lead, increase it. And that's tough to do out here with the level of play.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I like to think that my success here isn't just due to local knowledge. But reading the greens has been different. It's been challenging. And I had not putted that well because of it. I missed a lot of putts. And I feel like I really haven't, obviously, I haven't felt comfortable on the greens, I switched putters this morning because I just haven't been getting the ball roll and a lot of it is because I'm not seeing the brakes and reading them properly. But they roll very true and so when guys do read them right, whether they played here in the past or not, they seem to make them because the ball is tracking that well.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: It will be important, because two shots is enough of a deficit to try to overcome. And I certainly don't want to get down four or five. But I have to kind of play it by ear. The way I'm looking at it, the fairways are very tight, but I'm hitting drivers because if I, when I put it in the fairway like I did today, I'm able to get at a lot of those touch pins with the hazards because I'm hitting eight or 9-iron in. If I have to take something off the driver to keep it in play because I'm not hitting fairways early on, then it's going to be tougher for me to make up ground. But if I can find fairways, even if I get down a few more shots, it is okay, because I'll be able to make birdies.

MODERATOR: Phil, thanks for coming by and good luck tomorrow.

PHIL MICKELSON: Wait, one more.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a tough question, because you don't mind playing behind him, but if you're behind him that means you got a lead. So that's a good thing. But watching him make birdies in front of you is, can be difficult. My success has been or when I've had success not necessarily against Tiger, because not too many people have, but against other players, it's typically easier to go out in front, make a run, and force them to keep pace. And I realize that I'm in the last group tomorrow and it will be a challenge to overcome, but I wanted that challenge, I wanted to have the opportunity to play with Tiger and if you ever watch him or compete against him when he's in the final group and playing pretty good, he's very impressive. And I enjoy that challenge to try to keep up and catch him.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't watch him, I don't really watch him swing, to be honest. I say watch him play and so forth, I think it's more what I watch is kind of his management, his ball striking, the way he rolls it very effectively and very well on the greens. That to me is what's impressive. I don't watch him swing it because it, his rhythm is different than mine and it seems to throw me off when I do that.

MODERATOR: Okay. Thank you Phil, good luck tomorrow.

End of FastScripts....

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