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May 10, 2002

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil, thanks for taking time today to come here. Low round of the day so far, 64. Had two eagles today. Talk a little bit about your round today and then we'll go into questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: I played well. Four sub-par holes today. Two of them were eagles. Then the rest were pars and played well. I eagled 7 and eagled 11. Hit 6-iron into 7 to about 25, 30 feet, made that. I hit driver on the fringe on 11 and chipped in from there. So it was a nice deal.

Q. Usually go for that hole?

PHIL MICKELSON: On Thursday, Friday. Saturday and Sunday there's a lot of television coverage and I get roasted for it. I am kidding. I am kidding.

Q. You know, is it --

PHIL MICKELSON: I went for it today because two reasons: There was left-to-right wind and the pin was back left. If I had hit an iron out into the fairway, I would have had a very difficult shot to get close, having to start out over the lake, over the water, and bring it back. I felt like if I miss my driver long right into the rough or the bunkers, I'd be hitting right back up the green and have a lot of green to work with easy up-and-down. I felt like I could miss it and be okay.

Q. To rephrase the question, have you ever done that before?


Q. Do you think they should one day during this tournament put that tee up where more people go for it, risk/reward hole, a short 4?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not necessarily. I think that the wind is more the deciding factor, and typically it's right-to-left and in. All that would happen is guys would be shooting straight down the fairway and hit the ball a little bit farther and have a little short wedge in instead of having to hit 110 -, 120-yard shot. I don't think it would really do much or make it more exciting.

When the wind is down like it was today, there's a few guys that will go for it. But it was more the pin placement because when the pin on Saturday, Sunday is front right, it's not really a play that you can go for because you don't have a second shot if you miss the fairway.

Q. You guys are playing three majors this year at sites that most of you guys have never seen or played. Does that favor any type of player or is that an equalizer basically across the board?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's certainly true about Bethpage we played in '91. Most guys out here played '91 Open at Hazeltine so they are somewhat familiar. We played Muirfield the year I think Faldo -- did he not when Zinger knocked it on the bunker on 17. That was a while ago, '87 -- that was Cook on 17 who 3-putted. That's right.

Bethpage I think should be an interesting Open because it looks to be a little bit longer course. I am hoping that they won't take the driver out of our hands, that the fairways will be the same width at 207 as it is at 330, and we will be able to use driver on those 480, 500 par 4s.

Q. When you go into a tournament like that that you have not seen, do you think that favors a field player, a good preparer, or do you --

PHIL MICKELSON: It favors the guy who is playing well heading in. It really does. Knowing a golf course isn't going to do much for you. You still have to hit the shots. Typically, they are pretty straightforward. You know where you want to hit it. It's pretty obvious that the grass down the middle is shorter than the grass left or right. The greens, you can pretty much tell the coloration difference, so I don't think it will make much difference.

I think that bunker play will be important because it looks like it's well-bunkered, and given that there's typically not many chipping areas at U.S. opens and the rough is so thick that bunkers will be an aiming point as opposed to hazard. That will be important because it's really the short game -- that's the only short game shot that will allow you to get up-and-down.

Q. There's a rhyme and reason to a USGA setup basically. You can lean on that basically having not seen the course? You kind of know what to expect?

PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. You know you have got to hit fairways and greens, and you know if you miss a green, it's going to be a very difficult up-and-down. You want to be in a bunker instead, and you don't want to shortside yourself. You want to give yourself green to work with. Whether I have played there or not, if the pin is right, I know I need to be left of it. So yes.

Q. Growing up as a kid, I would presume as an American, the U.S. Open was probably your favorite major. Has that changed at all given that the USGA tends to manipulate the course more so than the other majors? Do you still -- that's assuming --

PHIL MICKELSON: I have always liked the Masters because the Masters is an exciting tournament. There's always a lot of drama and excitement that goes on there. The U.S. Open you see a lot of guys just hit irons off the tee, long irons onto the green or mid-irons, and try to 2-putt from 40 feet. I never really got infatuated with that. I never really watched the U.S. Open too much.

Q. Even in the '80s?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. In the '80s I watched all the Masters. That was the tournament I enjoyed.

Q. Have you become disenchanted with the Open not living up to what you -- not that you don't like it --

PHIL MICKELSON: I feel like the U.S. Open should test every facet of a player's game. I have only seen them do it a time or two since I have been out here. I just think that it's the challenge of the USGA or the goal to test a player's full talent level. Not just to hit fairways, but actually to have to hit the ball a certain length and distance. Not just to hit greens, but to have a creativity around the green.

And I thought Pinehurst was by far the best setup that I had ever seen because it was very difficult to hit greens because of the crowning effect and allowed you a chance to be creative with your short game and try to get up-and-down. And I wish that after having such a positive response to that event, I wish they would continue with setups that are comparable.

Q. Have you been -- probably haven't been to Bethpage?


Q. Any plans before the Open week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I am going to try to go a day, but I am not sure I will be able to find time.

Q. Is it important, you think?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. I think so because I don't play practice rounds the week of the majors. I will play maybe once, but they are very difficult. They are by far the hardest rounds of the year. They last six-and-a-half hours, and you got guys hitting 30 shots from around the green and it seems to be an autograph session 18 different times, just a very difficult round to play. So I will play one at the most, so I'd like to see it more than once before I play a competitive round.

Q. A lot of success here and over at the Colonial. Any rhyme or reason having --

PHIL MICKELSON: No reason other than I like the golf courses and they are very similar greens as far as types of grass and speed and undulation, so it's not a big adjustment to go from one course to another and stay in the same location, makes it very easy to play well for two weeks. Travelling Sunday and Monday can sometimes take you out after rhythm of playing. But I don't really know why or have really a great explanation other than I enjoy the two weeks I enjoy being in the same area and both tournaments do a great job of giving the players something to do off the golf course whether it be go to a Rangers game, Maverick games, Stars' games are typically in the playoffs. It is a fun couple of weeks that we look forward to.

Q. What have you been able to do this week as far as sporting events?

PHIL MICKELSON: I went to the Maverick's game last night. I will go to a Rangers' game tonight and that's about it.

Q. After the big move you have made today how do you feel about the next -- obviously Saturday is next, but how do you feel about these next two rounds?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have to play the same way I did today if I expect to win for two more days, and I am very pleased with the fact that 6-under got me back in contention because if the scores stayed the same as they did yesterday you'd see 12 or 13-under par leading, and 7-under would be about tied for 12th. So to be in the Top 5 presumably and within only a couple of the lead is a great place to be given the first round conditions, being in, I don't know, 55th place and only 1-under and guys going low, I thought I needed to shoot 6-under just to keep pace, just to gain a one or two shots on the lead. So the course played a lot harder and I am going to need to play the same style of golf given the fact that there's so much depth in the field and so many players bunched up.

Q. What would you say the state of your game is now compared to this point last year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, I don't really remember where I was at last year. I was playing well last year, was I not?

Q. Yeah, I am just thinking you had a few blips early in the year, Pebble and San Diego, I guess....

PHIL MICKELSON: Missed cuts, yeah.

Q. Since then it seems like it's back -- you seem to be contending every week which is a lot like last year --

PHIL MICKELSON: It feels very comparable. It doesn't feel like anything is better or worse. Just feels like it's about where I was last year, maybe slightly better in that I seem to maybe hit a couple more greens this year than I did last year. Seems like my greens in regulation are little bit higher. I am not sure if that's accurate but it feels that way.

Q. Anything that you felt like -- I mean a couple of years ago you were talking a lot about the 150-and-in shot.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's what I have been working on.

Q. More of a continuation, anything after last year saying, okay, this specifically is what I must improve?

PHIL MICKELSON: More of a continuation, no, and it's more of a continuation. 150 is the critical area. I need to drive the ball well. What has been interesting is a lot of courses have done what they did here and that's they have tightened the fairways up immensely, and they have necked it so that you can't really hit it past 285. So what is happening is that I am now having to hit more shots between 135 and 175 as opposed to 110 to 150.

Q. Hitting fewer drivers?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. I know. It sucks.

Q. You are -- that was a question; not your opinion...

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I am agreeing with you, yes. I am.

Q. Do you think the conditions warranted lift clean and place today?

PHIL MICKELSON: It probably wasn't a necessity. I think they were concerned that if it continued to rain that the latter groups would have a problem and that is why they did it because you can't just do it for the last half of the field. It probably was not a necessity. The course was much drier than I expected. They did a great job.

Q. When did this bottlenecking at 285 trend start?

PHIL MICKELSON: It seemed to have started back on the West Coast. Look at Torrey Pines how tight those fairways got, and the rough was decent and we saw that last week -- last week New Orleans, we always see it at Harbour Town just seems to be the trend. Even Augusta moved their first cut or second cut or the cut in.

Q. Following up, how would you summarize this year so far?

PHIL MICKELSON: Interesting. It's just -- it's been an interesting year. I have enjoyed it. I have enjoyed the year. I have played well. And I feel like I am working on what I feel is the last little hurdle. The last little hurdle for me is turning those third-place finishes into first-place finishes. It can include a variety of things, from mental approach and focus throughout the round to making or keeping one or two bad swings, from getting away and going into a hazard, to maybe not attacking one or two pins and hitting 15, 20 feet, to trying to make a couple more putts, to lag putting more efficiently to save a shot. Whatever it is maybe chipping around the green, trying to save those last couple of shots to get me those last two spots. That to me is the challenge that I feel like I am going through now. And it has been fun. It has been a fun challenge.

Q. Some guys talk about being in contention, being mentally draining. You are in contention a lot. Do you -- are you ever worn out by being in contention? Do you find it more fun that you are not worn out?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do get worn out. You are right, and so what I found for me to allow me to play my best each week is I need to take some time off. So Mondays I don't touch a club and I try to play consecutive weeks three, four weeks so get in kind of a groove or rhythm where my golf swing stays consistent that I don't have a big layoff. Take Mondays off and try and spend it with my family. Have a little bit of downtime on Tuesday where I practice for a couple hours and enjoy the day and Wednesday when it starts up again, pro-am, spend a couple of hours practicing, try and get ready for the event. After Sunday it is a difficult time, draining four days, five days even if you count Wednesday and the preparation that goes in, and so I try to have a little downtime. That allows me to be fresh come Thursday.

Q. You have kind of developed a reputation for knowing a lot about other sports. Do you ever see yourself like in sports radio, talking about basketball, football, baseball?

PHIL MICKELSON: You mean be on the other side of the chair?

Q. Yes.

PHIL MICKELSON: What is interesting is that I always have to be a little careful of what I say because I always run into some of the guys that I talk about, and I don't necessarily want to be too negative. I am sure we have all experienced it, so to answer your question, no, I don't want to do that. I enjoyed it last year, being on the Dan Patrik show. It was fun. I love talking football. I thought this year's draft and free agency was interesting. It is every year. There's always some interesting turn. It seems like in the NFL everybody knows the two or three stars on each team. You can go right down the list. Everybody here does.

But to me, what makes the difference in the NFL is that 9, 10, 11 player on both sides of the ball. How much depth do you have? Those guys that are the low-salary guys, those guys are the guys nobody cares about or knows how much they make because it's typically minimum and that, to me, is the interesting part of football. There's too much depth that's required on both sides of the ball to be effective. That's why I feel like or I get enjoyment out of learning about the rookies or the second- or third-year players and what their strengths and weaknesses are and why the front linemen from Nebraska went in the second round as opposed to the first because they run-block and they are afraid the pass blocking might not be as effective, and if you start lunging guys, just would put your shoulder down and you are done and he gets to the quarterback. Learning about that stuff is interesting to me, that's all.

Q. So the NFL is your game more than any of the other leagues?

PHIL MICKELSON: Probably, yeah.

Q. Can you breakdown the Cowboys, please? (Laughter.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought they had a great draft. I did. I thought that it was Roy Williams that they picked up, was it not? Thought he was -- he's going to be a great acquisition for their secondary, but they need to have a couple more good drafts and couple more acquisitions. The thing to me is when you get a guy like -- when you get some good players like the two linebackers from Florida State who went to the Rams. When you get two guys like that that are rookies, you need somebody to come in and teach them a little bit like London Fletcher did, so I think losing him is going to hurt them because now they are second year players and they learned a lot but I don't think they quite know as much as they are going to eventually learn. You get a guy like Aneas Williams come in and all of a sudden Dray Bly (ph) is a stud again, Dexter McCleon (ph) is much better too. So they feed off of each other. Like in baseball when Andy Ashby and Kevin Brown pitched together in SanDiego, remember that, they pitched their best year together. Because they were good friends, they fed off each other, talked about pitching all the time. It was in their mind, worked on things together and all of a sudden they split up and Ashby goes to Philly and Brown goes to L.A. and they don't pitch as well. Ashby went to Atlanta, I think, and didn't pitch well. Now that they get together in L.A., I think they are starting to show up again. It's just interesting how it's not just your own game like in golf, it's having guys to talk about your sport and so forth.

Q. Who is your No. 1 pick, who do you pick?

PHIL MICKELSON: Julius Pepper.

Q. Why?

PHIL MICKELSON: Because I think he can build a defense around him just like Jevron Curse (ph) He was drafted 12, 11 or 12th. That was ridiculous. The guy is a stud. Now all you have got to do is just stuff the middle a little bit and you don't know which way he's going, outside, inside, I think that type of speed, power is something that you just don't have very often. Personal opinion.

Q. Who is your idol Jack Nicklaus or Mel Kaper (ph)?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do enjoy that show. The other show I really enjoy is -- I guess it's -- the Edge NFL matchup with Ron Jaworski (ph), I love listening to him because he's X's and O.'S and talks a lot about the certain players and who is doing what, and so forth. So I really enjoy that show the most.

Q. Anyone else on Tour who matches your appetite for all of this information or conversation?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, probably not in sports, but in other areas, sure there are a lot of guys that know a lot of stuff out on Tour.

Q. Not like NFL?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's not really what I am into right now. I mean I haven't really -- I just read the sports page, that's it. That's where I get my information now. Not like last year, but it's not even the season. I am in other stuff right now.

Q. Who is the biggest sports junky on Tour? Are you right up there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think I am a junky. That's kind of a negative word. Who is the biggest sports enthusiast?

Q. Yes.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I would think I would be Top-10.

Q. What is --

PHIL MICKELSON: Guys like Dudley Hart love hockey. Big Panthers fans. It's been hard for me because I am a Charger fan, that's probably my favorite sporting team, I have been living in Arizona so it has been tough.

Q. Hockey?

PHIL MICKELSON: I like -- I don't know much about hockey. I like watching it but I don't know much about it.

End of FastScripts....

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