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June 15, 2002

Phil Mickelson


RAND JERRIS: Phil, congratulations on a fine 67 today. To get us started, could you walk us through the birdies and bogeys on your card, please.

PHIL MICKELSON: I bogeyed the first hole. I drove it in the rough. I missed two fairways today, one at 18 that had awful lies. I advanced it down in front of the green but hit a poor chip and did not get up-and-down for five.

I bogeyed No. 3. I hit a 5-iron over the green to the right and hit a chip that again came off the green, chipped up to 5 feet and made it.

I birdied 4, hitting a driver, 3-wood short of the green, chipped up to 3 feet and made it.

I bogeyed 5. I hit a driver and a 6-iron over the green to the right, hit a chip 12 feet by the hole and missed it. So bogeyed three of the first five, not off to a great start.

On the 6th hole I mentioned because I hit two good shots and I felt like the swing started to settle in a little bit. I made a par there, I missed a 12-footer. But on 7 I felt like I had the first good break of the week that really turned my round around. And I hit a 3-iron that was leaking a little bit left of the hole, and could have gone in the rough, and I think probably landed in the rough, kicked to the right, rolled down the hill and made a birdie on a hole that I would have been happy to make par on.

That gave me a shot back out of those three bogeys that seemed to turn the momentum around. I followed that with two more birdies.

On 8 I hit a 6-iron to 6 feet. On 9 I hit a driver and sand wedge to about 15 feet and made that for birdie. So that one good break on 7 seemed to turn the round around for me.

I birdied 13, driver, 2-iron 20 feet for eagle and 2-putted.

Birdied 15, hit driver, 6-iron 15 feet and made a good tough putt there.

I birdied 17, hitting a 5-iron just past the pin 25 feet and made that for birdie.

I bogeyed 18, hitting 2-iron off the tee, hitting it in the rough, that was the second fairway I missed today. It was sitting awful. I was lucky to get it out and move it down the fairway. Hit an 80-yard shot to about 12 feet just on the fringe and missed it. So all in all it was a fun day there for the middle of the round when I got things going, but the start didn't look promising.

Q. Could you compare the putt at 17 to the 16th hole at Phoenix, which has been considered the longest hole in golf. And what kind of a feeling you got from that whole scene?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's an incredible feeling making a putt on any of these greens, because the galleries have been so supportive and exuberant for the players. And when that one went in, there seemed to be a lot of people around the 17th green, it was a really cool feeling. It's been a fun week. The people here have been -- the anticipation for this event has been high, and the people here have been supportive for the game of golf. For a player it's a wonderful feeling to be able to experience that.

Q. How does it compare to Phoenix?

PHIL MICKELSON: They're very comparable.

Q. At one point today you were ten shots off the lead. Did you know that and how did you handle that mentally?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I did know that and I was not really excited about being five over for the championship. I knew that I needed to get it turned around, but the last thing on my mind was trying to get in contention to win this tournament because even if I get it back, if Tiger goes out and shoots three or four under par, it wouldn't make any difference. But I was able to not worry about what the leaders were doing, and try to get my round back to even par. That was kind of the goal. And I ended up doing that pretty quickly, birdying 7 and 8, and all of a sudden I was thinking maybe I can make a few more birdies, get it back to even for the championship. And on 15 when I made that, I finally accomplished that, I got back to even for the championship. I made a good birdie on 17 to get under par, and now I was in a good position. I was sorry to give it away on 18.

18 more holes tomorrow on a golf course that if you hit good shots you can maybe make birdies. But if you miss tee shots, you're going to make bogeys. I think that opens the door for the opportunity for lots of the players to maybe make a move.

Q. The way you played the last 13 holes, do you now feel comfortable on this course, do you feel like you've got a rhythm finally, and you put yourself in a position to win this tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the rhythm came when I started hitting fairways. When I started driving the ball in play, it made the golf course set up very easy because I had a lot of irons into the greens, and was hitting the ball solid. So that's what really gave me a good rhythm. I think that spotting the best player in the world two aside is not really the most enjoyable position to be in, but it's a lot better than where I started the day today. On this setup where the rough is so penalizing, if you start missing shots, and the greens are soft enough where good shots can hold and you can make birdies, I think it gives me and other players an opportunity to make birdies to go catch them and the possibility of maybe him making bad shots and coming back, as well.

Q. You talked about putting pressure on your opponents tomorrow. With the crowd in mind, if you can get on a roll at any interval, two or three birdies in a short span of time, can the crowd have an impact on you tomorrow, and also play a role in how your opponents approach their round?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's very possible. I would have, score wise, I would have liked to have been in the last group. But on the lines of what you said it's also an opportunity being the group in front where if I can go out make some birdies and make some noise, it puts a little bit of pressure on the players behind me and it's more difficult to make birdies on a U.S. Open golf course setup when you have to make birdies. When you can make pars and the other players are falling back, it's actually easier to make birdies, because they seem to just happen. But when you are trying to make birdies and force them, that's when the bogeys seem to come. It might be a good opportunity.

Q. Follow up on that final group concept. Is there also an advantage that you avoid the distraction that Tiger's galleries can sometimes produce on the final day in a major?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't find that to be the case. I find the spectators that follow Tiger's group to be in line and not disruptive to any other players. I don't find that to be an issue. I would have liked to have been in the final group just because I didn't want to bogey the last hole. I wanted to be as low as I could, and not give a shot away. But it may be a plus.

Q. Is golf a better game when it's surrounded by this level of enthusiasm and noise, even if there's a little bit of trade-off with distractions?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that this has been a wonderful Open championship for the game of golf because there are so many people out here who have played this golf course and love to see such a prestigious event on a course they're so familiar with. It seems to create more interest in the game. And I'm hoping that that will continue, and that the other four courses here at Bethpage will experience a renewed or increased fan participation or golfer participation. So, just in general, it seems to be a plus for the game to have the type of support for such a wonderful event makes us want to keep coming back. And rightfully so. I think we're coming back two of the next four years.

Q. Prior to your round, you appeared to be working very hard on your putting today, you were out there working for a long time before you teed off. You obviously putted very well today. What kind of affect did that have on you, the practice beforehand?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it had a positive effect. I didn't get off to the greatest start with the putter, missing a couple of putts that I felt I should have made. And I probably did not have the best speed on the greens, because I might have made a couple more had I had better speed. But the ball was starting on-line, and that was something that I was saying the first two rounds it wasn't happening. So I was able to see the line and get the ball started on-line. It made making putts a lot easier, because the only variable that I had was the speed. So I ended up making a lot of putts that were difficult putts that were longer putts than I've made in this championship. And I think a lot of that was due to a little extra time on the green before the round and I'll probably do the same thing tomorrow.

Q. Yesterday you talked briefly about a target score, and you corrected me in saying it wasn't a target score in terms of a total score, but for each hole. I was wondering how close you came to the target score on each hole, did you achieve the overall goal?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I came very close, because I birdied most of the holes I felt I could birdie. I had 7 birdies today, and there's only 9 or 10 holes that I feel like are really birdie holes. So I made a good number of birdies today, and given that I had such a poor start it was very needed, it was much needed. So I think that a target score, the way I played, I felt I probably could have shot five or six under, but with that start that nullified any opportunity to get there. But to get back to under par was a very good score, and I think anything around 1- or 2-under was a wonderful round today. That's a total score, per hole again it's kind of 9 birdie holes, 9 par holes. And how many of those can you better.

Q. Chances are the tournament will be decided tomorrow on 15, 16, 17, 18. How do you rate them as a foursome and is that the toughest four holes as there are?

PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly, but those four holes also provide birdie chances. And it will be very interesting if that is the case. If we are able to make a move, close the gap and make it exciting the last four holes, I think that they'll provide an excellent finish to this championship, because when we say you never know what may happen, those four holes are the epitome of what we're talking about. If you spray a drive far off line, you can get in that deep heather and make double. But if you hit a good drive, you've got a short iron into 16 and 18, and you might be able to make birdies there. 17 you're going to have to make a putt, and 15 you'll have to make a decent putt. There's a chance where you can make up a lot of ground there with birdies and bogeys. The leaders may lose ground as you make up ground.

End of FastScripts....

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