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June 16, 2002

Phil Mickelson


RAND JERRIS: Phil, congratulations on your fine play this week, even par for the championship. With Tiger shooting 2 over today, you would have needed a 66 to catch and pass him. What would it have taken for you on this course under these conditions to achieve that.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know what to say. I certainly felt like I played well today and played well for the four days and had a wonderful experience here. I would have liked to have scored lower today, certainly. But I felt that when I -- well, I felt when I birdied 13 and pulled within 2, I thought that I had a very good shot at it, if I could make a couple of birdies coming in. It was a very exciting day, and I was very thankful to have a chance to compete in this great championship in the end.

RAND JERRIS: Birdies and bogeys, please.

PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. I birdied 1, driver, sand wedge for 4 feet and made that.

I bogeyed No. 5. I hit 3-wood, 8-iron over the green, chipped to 15 feet and missed it.

I bogeyed 6, drove it in the left bunker, hit a poor shot out in the left rough, hit a poor wedge shot into the bunker, hit a great shot to 8 feet and made it.

6-iron to 35 feet and made that for birdie on 8.

Hit a driver, 9-iron to 4 feet on 11 and hit a driver, 3-wood and 2-putted for birdie.

I bogeyed 16, driving in the left rough. Pretty good shot into the right front bunker, wedged out to 10 feet and missed it.

Bogeyed 17, 5-iron to 20 feet and 3-putted.

Q. Club the 16?

PHIL MICKELSON: 6-iron out of the rough.

Q. What impact, if any, did the rain delay have?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that it really had an impact positively or negatively either way. When the rain came the wind seemed to die down and the last 6, 7 holes played much easier than the previous 12 holes did. The greens were a little softer. You felt like you could make birdies without the wind. The first 12 holes with as much wind as we had, it played more difficult than any of the three days.

Q. Could you talk a little bit about Tiger Woods. At some point you think of where he's at, the position where you're down; how does that playoff your head or does it, how do you handle that when you know you've got to play well to go by this guy?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was watching how he was playing throughout the course of the day, when he started out with a couple of bogeys I, felt it would be a day he would be catchable, with a couple of birdies and a good, solid round. If he were to get off to a quick start, make a couple of birdies, you feel you don't have a chance, to shoot seven or eight under is not realistic. But to shoot three or four under is possible, and he could be caught if he shot 1 or 2 over. I was within a few shots pretty early.

I'm not concerned with how many majors he's won before. I know he very rarely comes back. When he does get off to a poor start, he seems to be able to turn it around quickly. He made a birdie somewhere on the front 9, I think, to get it back to 4-under, maybe No. 9, I think -- 7? The leader boards were kind of sporadic. But I was watching what he was doing and knowing that I was within striking distance if I could make a few birdies.

Q. Phil, obviously you've had some disappointments on Sundays in the past, but would you say that this was the one you might have been proudest of in terms of your performance. And secondly, do you think that you're gaining personally on Tiger?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know if this is the proudest event that I've played, but I would say this, this was certainly not a disappointing day today. It was one of the most exciting days that I've had in the game of golf. It was very electrifying, very similar to what the 99 Ryder Cup in Boston was. It was an incredible feeling, and a very exciting event to be a part of. And I could feel the electricity in the air. I could feel the excitement stirring, and I could feel as though I had a really good shot at it. Making birdie on 11 and making birdie on 13, I could sense that I was closing the gap there, and it was a very exciting day.

So the people of New York helped me or gave me one of the most incredible experiences that I've had in this game of golf. It's been wonderful.

As far as gaining on Tiger, personally, that's hard to say. I certainly feel as though I'm becoming a better player. And over the last two years, year and a half, two years, I certainly feel as though my game is improving, and my level of consistency is improving, and I feel like I'm able to compete more regularly, week-in and week-out, as well as day-in and day-out for the four days this week. I really had a great time having a shot, competing in this championship, especially down the stretch with the last few holes.

Q. Last three majors you've got top-3's, a 2, 3 and a 2. At some point you just say sooner or later it's going to be my turn to breakthrough?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do feel that way, I really do. I feel as though I'm playing very well. And have been playing consistently well in the major championships, competing in all of them, and I feel as though eventually it will happen. I feel as though in all three of those I've played well enough to win, and it just wasn't my time. But the more I give myself those chances the better the opportunities are. Certainly it's very difficult when you have a player of Tiger Woods' caliber playing at his level of golf, it's very difficult to win. But I felt like I was very competitive this week, and had a very good shot at it and made it exciting.

Q. Tiger's 8 for 8 when he's had the final round lead in a major, but he's never won a major without a final round lead. What kind of conclusion will you draw from that pattern?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he never won on a par-70, or a par-5 on the 12th hole, not the 11th (laughter.) So I think if we could go to another course that has a par 71 or 69, maybe -- I don't know. I don't know. I don't know how to answer that. I think we're stretching a little bit there. He is certainly capable of winning championships, whether he's in the lead or not. But it's difficult to gain ground on him when he's in the lead, because that means he's playing well. When he's playing well, he's just tough to beat. It's tough to spot him five shots like I did today.

I think that sometimes you need a good break to win a championship like this. And that break can come in the form of a bounce. That break can come in the form of tee times or that break can come in the form of just a good lie. And you just need a couple of good breaks to win the championships, and I think that if I keep putting myself in these positions I think I'll get one of those breaks to fall my way and come out on top, whether I start from behind -- whether he's leading or not, going into the last round.

Q. Second, third and second in the last three majors, is that satisfying or frustrating?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's tough to answer. I think that it would be much more difficult to handle had I not even been in contention. I love to compete for these championships, for all championships, no matter what tournament I play in. I love to compete with my wife at gin or whatever we play, I just love to compete. And these championships provide the greatest opportunity for competition. And to be a part of it, to be able to have a shot, compete in the end was very exciting and very -- well, today was a wonderful experience, even though I didn't win. The people here made it in an incredible experience. So it would be much more difficult had I not even had a shot at it. But it doesn't take away the disappointment or feeling of lost opportunity.

Q. I had read quotes where you suggested your go-for-it style had helped you win so many tournaments hurt you in majors, because the conditions were more severe. The way you played this course, was it part of the new philosophy or was it strictly the course dictating it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think this is very similar to the way I've played. I've certainly played the U.S. Open the last five or six years now very well. I mean my scoring average, I don't know what it is, but I know it's pretty good, because I've had opportunities to win, and I've had good performances, pretty regularly. So the most difficult, most defensive style of golf that we have here is the U.S. Open. To play that well the last five or six years would kind of hinder that or take away from that theory that I'm overly aggressive and can't play that style of golf, because on the most defensive track that we've probably played in an open, which is here at Bethpage I was able to play four rounds at even par.

Q. Obviously everybody will be gunning for Tiger the next two majors, trying to stop him. Do you feel by making a move today, putting a little heat on, that you got a little bit closer to being the guy to do it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Very possibly, very possibly. I feel as though as a player looking extrinsically, looking outside in, I feel as though I'm getting much better. I really do. I really feel the last two years I've made significant strides in my game. There were huge steps to catch up with Tiger. The guy was shooting 18 under at Augusta, 16 under at the U.S. Open at Pebble. I don't know what the par was there, but it was -- he was quite a few under par on an incredible track. So there was a huge gap. And as a player I feel like I'm improving very steadily. I'm driving the ball much better. I'm becoming much more consistent with my irons. My short game is getting better. But just in general my scoring is getting better. And it's difficult to compete with a player of Tiger's caliber, but I've been able to do it the last year or two. And I haven't been able to really win as much as I would like, but I'm closer. And certainly I need to lower my score that I set. Heading in I thought even par would be an incredible score for four rounds. I was able to accomplish that. I have to raise that if I'm going to win tournaments with Tiger in the field. I'm starting to realize that, and I'm continuing to work harder in all areas of my game, not just the facets of the game that I discussed, but also getting physically stronger in areas to support those type of swing changes that allow me to strike it better, as well as better strength to be able to hit shots that might not normally be able to hit. All areas I've got to improve on to compete at the highest level. And I'm enjoying the challenge. It's challenging and I love it. If it wasn't, it wouldn't be as rewarding when I finally do come out on top.

Q. Obviously earlier in the year you got a reputation for gambling, but you played smart this week; are there lessons there for other courses and other contexts that you can take over from here? Looked like you spent a lot of time with Bones on clubs and discussing and playing pretty smartly there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly can understand why you would ask that question now given what happened the last three or four months or discussions that we've had the last three or four months. But I feel as though discussions we had a few months ago weren't necessary, because the style of golf that I played this week I feel is very consistent to the style of golf I played three years ago in '99 at Pinehurst to have a shot at winning. And similar to the style of golf at Southern Hills last year. That was a difficult challenge because the driver was taken out of my hand on a lot of holes. And that got to be frustrating, whereas here everybody had to hit driver because it was playing so long. I feel as though I have been able to play the style of golf I played this week, and have been doing it for the last five or six years. Now, it may not come across that way, I don't know. But to answer your question, I guess, that I don't know if there's any -- I don't think that I picked up any one thing this week that -- where I had an epiphany to play a conservative style of golf. I wasn't playing conservative, I was playing very aggressive. I felt. I made aggressive swings. I was able to keep the ball in the fairway, and I attacked pins and made birdies. I made a ton of birdies, I don't know how to stack to the rest of the field, but I think it was high up in total number of birdies. You can't do that unless you attack pins. I played an attack go style of golf.

I had better control and better execution. I wasn't hitting it very long off the tee, I was hitting a controlled cut, something I've been working on to take off a little bit of distance, but still keep it in play. The reason is these fairways were so tight that I didn't want the ball to run. I wanted it to come in and hit soft. If you noticed a lot of drives would hit and not really roll. That was kind of the goal to help me keep it in play. But I had been doing that for a few years now, too. It was not like that was anything new, either. I would like to say I enjoy the challenge that these style of courses present, that the U.S. Open presents.

End of FastScripts....

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