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April 6, 2002

Phil Mickelson


TODD BUDNICK: Phil, a 1-under 71 today, 12-under, 204 for the tournament. Why don't we start about talking about today's round.

PHIL MICKELSON: The golf course played very difficult, as you saw. The greens were very firm and I thought I played very well to shoot under par. It was a difficult test. I knew starting out anything around par would be petty good. I thought because of the par 5s, I would be able to shoot a couple under par, but I didn't play them that well. I birdied 1, but bogeyed another and didn't birdie two of them. So playing them even is what prevented me from going low, and I thought that I played well to shoot under.

Q. You're up by several, down by a bunch and you come back a little bit; compromise at the end?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I made a lot of pars today. I made those two bogeys, 10 and 13, but made a lot of pars and only three birdies. So that's a good round for me, to make that many pars. The greens were very difficult. I made countless 4- and 6-footers for pars, and thought that I putted really well. Obviously, I missed one on 13, but for the most part, I really made a lot of good putts and I hit a lot of good shots.

I don't know what to say on 10. I needed one more club and I would have given myself a shot at an up-and-down birdie, but for the most part, I felt like I kept the ball in play and hit a lot of good shots and played well on a very difficult golf course. I was very patient. There's a lot of holes, like 11 and 16, let's say, those two par 3s, where you have a forced carry; you have to carry the bunker carry the water and the pin is tucked five, seven yards over the edge, but the ball is going to bounce 10 or 15 yards, so there's no way to get it close. What you want to do is try to find the best way to make par, and I thought did I a good job of that throughout the course of the day.

Q. On 16 the ball just kept going --

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, well, the green goes away, also. I hit an 8-iron which was a big 8-iron. I took a bit of a chance there because if I come up short in the bunker, it's a very, very difficult up-and-down because I'm faced with the same shot of the green that goes away. So I took a bit of a risk trying to go close and hit a great shot and it still ends up 35, 40 feet. But, I had a good putt at it up the hill. I just didn't make it.

Q. How much about tomorrow's final round, going with Retief?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Retief played an incredible round to shoot 4-under on a day like today, that was a sensational round; and be to 6-under like he was, was even more impressive. I think that for Retief, for myself, for Thomas Bjorn, to win, we are going to have to play a very solid round because there are a lot of guys at 7-, 8-, 9-under par if they come out and shoot 4- or 5-under, which they very easily could do, they are going to put themselves right there to win this tournament.

It is going to be a challenge for us to go out and shoot under par. It's what we need to do win but it's very difficult to do on this golf course and it will require a lot of patience.

Q. After 13, you pulled it together and finished with five straight pars. Are happy you were able to do that? Is that a good score on those holes in these conditions?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought that it was. I thought that it was. 18 is the one pin that I really can't go for, even if I had a perfect lie, which I had a pretty good lie. That's the one pin that you can't go for, so that makes that par 5 very difficult to birdie.

And the other holes were by no means easy birdie holes. So, to make a lot of pars out here is a challenge. It's totally different than the first two days where the greens were receptive because we could get at all of the pins and every hole was a birdie hole and you saw a lot of low scores. That's really not the case now. You really have to wait for the par 5s and wait for 13. So what was disappointing, birdie holes, 10 and 13; I ended up making bogey and that cost me an opportunity to go low. But I parred all of the other holes, which was also a challenge.

I came back right on the next hole on 14 and made another good putt, a downhill, very similar putt, 3 1/2, four feet, that if I missed again was going to go six, eight feet by and there's just not much you can do about it. But I made a lot of good putts today and was very pleased because they are very greasy and it's hard to give the ball enough steam to hold its line without risking running it eight feet by.

Q. Were that you disappointed after 13?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wasn't that disappointed. I knew that it was a gamble. I had a 3-footer downhill and if I -- the green is running away, of course it's going to run six eight feet by, they all do. But I wanted to give it enough steam to give it the best opportunity to go in, which I had done a number of putts throughout the course of the round, and it paid off; that one it didn't.

But on the next hole I gambled again, and if that putt doesn't go in, it's going to roll six, eight feet by, but I hit a good putt and it went in.

Q. How far was the first putt on 13 and how close did you think you could get it?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was 50 feet, and I hit it like I would have a normal 6-footer. It's just that fast down that hill. In fact, the ball tends to gain momentum. I did not think that it was going to stay short. I just didn't think any putt could stay short. But it left me a 3-footer from above the hole and I had made all -- I had made them all through the course of the round up to that point and went ahead and gave it an aggressive roll rather than trying to trickle it in. But that was -- I hit a good drive on that hole to get in position. I thought I hit a good lag putt. Just didn't get it quite close enough.

Q. Coming in, 18, what did you have left there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I had -- well, I don't even know. Bones told me and I said, "Don't even worry about it, I'm going to lay it up." Even if I hit the fairway, I was going to lay up, because there's only about a 20-foot area to hit it, and if you miss it, you can't get it up-and-down. And the water is a very realistic deal. If you go in the bunker that water is a very realistic shot. You almost have to play 60 feet left. I felt like if I were coming up at the pin where I came from, I could get a wedge close and use that backstop to my advantage, rather than as a hindrance. So even if I hit a perfect drive, I probably would not have gone for it because there was no place -- if you go left -- short is water and to the right you can't get up-and-down out of the bunker. I had gone there two years prior, I believe the year I won, and really had no shot to get up-and-down.

Q. How far?


Q. Tell us about No. 10?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit 6-iron, and I had to fly the ball 223. And it was the same yardage on a hole earlier, No. 8, 223 and I hit a little 5-iron and the ball took off on me and ran 45 feet by the hole. So, I felt like if I ripped a 6, I could probably fly it the same distance, but have it stop a little quicker and I need about another three more yards of carry to have gotten over the bunker it and would have been perfect. It would have stayed around the hole and I would have had an easy up-and-down, instead going through the bunker I had a very difficult shot. The ball actually rolled back up and came back into a divot; so it was not in a very good lie, either.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was not easy. What I was actually trying to prevent was having it race 60 feet by the hole. I felt like to land it on the green. It would have caught that downslope and ran 60 feet by, which I didn't want. I felt like I was better off leaving it right around the fringe. So I was trying to lay it up about two or three yards short and run it up but it didn't come out as well as would I have hoped.

Q. You say you love this course, little bit more difficult to love it on a day like today? More of a love/hate relationship? And does this really make you respect the course more, seeing how it can jump up and bite you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you gain a lot more respect for this golf course in this condition. I have not played it in like this the last three years because it has been so wet. I love it like this because everybody has got to play and it requires a lot of great shot-making, as well as great course management.

I felt like any round under par, there were a lot of good rounds under par, but there were also a lot of good players that shot over par, too, that I noticed up on the board. So I felt like -- I thought David Toms was going to make a run at it. He was a guy -- I think he was 7- or 8-under par I thought he was really going to make a move because he is a very patient player and has played well here in Atlanta, at the PGA Championship, winning it, and I was looking for him to make a move and he shot a couple over. It just shows that some of the best players in the game can shoot over par when it's under these conditions, and the reason why that's significant is because so many guys are shooting so low on Thursday.

I don't find it a love/hate relationship. I find it as a golf course I really enjoy and always will. I just like the fact that everybody had to play it on difficult conditions. If it were like in in the afternoon and easy in the morning, that's a different story. But everybody played under very challenging conditions.

Q. You talked a couple days ago about being aggressive on Sunday you've used the term "gambling" a couple of times already in your round today. Does that mean you are going to do the same type of philosophy you did today going in to tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, every shot here has a certain risk and a certain reward to it, other than maybe a few tee shots where the fairways are pretty generous. But every shot, you have to -- and that includes putts and chips, what line you are going to take and how aggressive you are going to be.

There was one putt that, on the fifth hole is a good example because it was a very quick putt, and I was just trying to get it close, lagging it up there and ultimately it went in. But that was a putt that if I tried to make was going to go six, eight feet by again. And each putt requires a certain type of gamble because when you have a downhill putt, to keep its line and enough momentum, you have to give it a certain amount of speed; and if you give it that certain amount of speed, you risk running it six, seven feet by the hole.

Now I feel like I'm putting well enough where I can make those come coming back. So I feel confident to take that risk. But what happened on 13 could very easily happen again. I've been putting very well, though, so I plan on being aggressive on 4-footers to give it enough speed to hold its line, and made a lot of them to stay in the round. For me to play well tomorrow, though, I have to capitalize on the par 5s. That's where I feel like I didn't do what I wanted to today. Started on 4, driving it in the water; I made a good par. Made a good birdie on 6. But on 10, that was a hole that I had a mid-iron into and needed to capitalize on and made bogey, and that -- that's where I feel like I got hurt. Not so much the gamble. It's not that I took a risk, but I probably just didn't make -- I didn't take enough club. I needed one club more and misjudged how much help I was getting. Those type of decisions will have certain risks, certain rewards that come along with it.

Holes like 11, the very next hole it was difficult because after bogeying that par 5, I knew that I couldn't go for birdie on 11. The best I could do is 50 feet, and that type of patience is what I'm going to need tomorrow. I felt like I did a good job of that today, showing that on 16, knowing that I could not get to the hole, and some other holes where you just have to be patient and make your pars.

Q. How do you put that behind you when you have -- like what happened at THE PLAYERS Championship, like what happened at 13, it doesn't sound like you looked at this the same was as you looked at that situation as you walked?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel like that did nearly as much damage as the 5-putt at THE PLAYERS because I was putting for eagle, first of all. I made bogey and people are going to make bogeys out there. I was still right there on top of the lead. And I think to be -- what am I, 11-, 12-under, I think that was pretty good playing, especially today to be under par.

I know tomorrow will require a very good round, but I feel like I've played three good, solid rounds, and I'd like to -- I feel like if I can do one more get a fourth good, solid round, I should have a good opportunity to win.

TODD BUDNICK: Let's go through the three birdies.

PHIL MICKELSON: 1, hit driver, wedge on 1 to four feet and made that. That was a good putt. It was a four foot with about three or four inches of break and it was just quick. To make that got me to off to a good start.

Birdied 5, hitting driver and a little L-wedge from about 60 yards to about 20 feet and made a good putt. That was that putt I was telling you I was trying to edge down there close and it went in.

Then I made a birdie on 6, hitting driver, 3-wood in the front bunker, hitting a good bunker shot to about eight, ten feet underneath the hole. I would have liked to have been a little closer, but I made 2 and that was that.

Then we talked about 10 and 13 the would bogeys and then I had 13 pars. So I felt like I played pretty consistent.

Q. Difficult choosing the right club today?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was much more difficult than the first two rounds because the wind was swirling in. Off the tee on 1, the wind is into me and I'm trying it had the a good driver, and I get up to my ball and the ball is downwind, and I hit wedge; and Bones and I joked if I hit a wedge and it's helping, it's going to be good. If it doesn't help, it won't even reach the bunker. So a lot of it is guesswork and a lot of it is being fortunate that the wind doesn't change while you hit it or while the ball is in the air.

So there's a lot of luck involved. There's certainly a lot of patience that's needed to pull the right club, to try to judge the wind, but because it's going to swirl and do different things every minute, it's very difficult.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Phil.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys.

End of FastScripts....

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