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April 4, 2002

Phil Mickelson


PHIL MICKELSON: Birdied 10, driver, 2-iron in the front bunker and wedged up to a couple of inches and tapped it in. I birdied the 12th hole. I hit a driver and a 7-iron to -- I am sorry a 3-wood and 7-iron to about six feet, made that. I birdied 15, I hit a driver and a pitching wedge to about 25 feet, made that.

Birdied 18, hit a driver and 4-iron to the back of the green and 2-putted from about 45 feet.

Turned in 4-under on the front side; made three birdies. I birdied the 2nd hole. Wedge to 25 feet, made that.

The two par 5s No. 4 driver 2-iron back right chipped up to six feet, made it. Then No. 6 hit driver, 3-iron, just left of the hole, chipped out to about six, eight inches, made that.

That was about it.

TODD BUDNICK: You have to be real happy with today and of course taking advantage of all four par 5s; got to be big out here.

PHIL MICKELSON: It is. Par 5s are very critical. I was pleased to have played them better, I haven't played the par 5s as well as I would have like this year but played them well today.

TODD BUDNICK: Questions, guys.

Q. Year's past so much rain here and the course played soft in years past. Nice to play kind of firmer and faster...

PHIL MICKELSON: I can see the greens starting to dry out. I think they will be pretty dry come this weekend. It is a wonderful golf course, and I think the nuances or the subtleties of the course seem to come out as it firms up because it is so soft, the ball doesn't continue to roll but as it gets firmer, the subtleties, the green subtleties around the greens start to pull the ball away from the hole making it more challenging and more difficult.

Q. Has more of an Augusta feel too?

PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. Chipping, it is difficult to fly the ball onto green and get it stopped because it is so firm and undulations continue to take the ball an extra six, eight, ten feet, so I thought that -- I could see where it is going to be very difficult and last year, the last two rounds were much more difficult as well. Granted we had a little bit of wind which was the main factor but as it dries up I think it will play very tough this weekend.

Q. Greens tough?

PHIL MICKELSON: They are but as they dry up they seem to be more difficult to putt because they get a little glassy and the ball continues to roll and oscillate. It doesn't hold its line. With them being soft or wet today we were able to be pretty aggressive and the ball would stay on its line. We had a chance to make a lot of putts.

Q. How do you like the way this course has developed over the last few years and from where it started to where it is now?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have only seen it the last three years, and from what I have seen it is one of my favorite sites. It is one of my best venues and I have played very well here. It is always in great shape. It has allure about what great condition it is in. The greens are always magnificent. This year is probably the best I have seen it. Just seems to get better each year, and it is tough to do.

Q. You like to use your driver frequently as you can here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that -- there certainly are lot of driver holes here. The fairways are fairly generous and you can take advantage of length. That's the big factor here. And so I do enjoy that. There are some holes where you need to be a little careful, because driver will get you down into a spot that's pretty tough sometimes if you miss it a little. So there are holes where 3-wood or 2-iron might be a better play, but for the most part you can go ahead and go after it off the tee, I do enjoy that.

Q. All the years you have been coming here, going back it to when you were a junior, have you ever not contended in a tournament in Atlanta? Seems like you have been either winning or coming close every time you have played here...

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know about that. I know that I have played well in this city and I have really enjoyed it. Winning here two years ago was very special as well. Back in the junior golf days I played very well over in Roswell at the old (inaudible) tournament headquarters and really enjoyed my time out here. I played well last year's PGA also although the outcome wasn't what I would have liked. I certainly played well this week -- that week. So Atlanta has been a good town for me, I have played very well and the people have been very supportive of the game of golf. It has been very fun to come out and support this event because the volunteers, we see a number of them out there this week and everyone of them is very supportive and respectful of the players.

Q. Why have you played well here, any one thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing that I can think of, nothing in particular.

Q. I don't think anybody expected to be like 8-under, 7-under every day, it is not that easy a golf course. It's probably going to backup and you know, get a little more reasonable for the weekend I would think.

PHIL MICKELSON: I would think as the course firms up it will play more difficult this weekend. We played today without much wind and one of the more difficult aspects of this golf course is judging the swirling winds amongst the tops of the trees very much like Augusta. And today we really didn't have that so it wasn't as big a factor. I remember watching guys come up 50 yards short on some holes thinking that it was downwind but it actually turned out to be into the wind. That's the biggest challenge around this golf course, with the lack of wind we were able to attack pins, and a lot of the trouble wasn't nearly as in play because we could be more precise with our club choosing of our club.

Q. Did you have a little wind helping on 18 when you went through there?

PHIL MICKELSON: We did have a little bit of help, yeah, that second shot was downwind, and typically that hole can play into the wind or with a little crosswind you are not quite sure if you are getting help or if it's hurting. And hitting it to that narrow area of the green, downhill is always a tough club to pull. Even today, I misjudged it by probably 10 yards. I flew -- I hit a 4-iron, I had 235, and I thought that it would land about pin-high and it flew a good 10 yards past. It's still not an easy shot to pull the right club, but when the wind starts swirling it's much more difficult.

Q. With all that open space (inaudible) --

PHIL MICKELSON: Well you don't really feel it out over the lake. We're kind of in -- a little isolated by the people there, and as the ball gets out over the lake that's where the wind is swirling through and hits the ball about halfway through its flight. Which is why we see a lot of shots that look like you know, we didn't know what we were doing, we were either bailing going way over because it's in the back of the bunker or it comes up 15 yards short in the water.

Q. You were talking on TV about practicing at University of Georgia. How many days were you out there and you were saying that the green -- putting greens are a lot like Augusta?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, they have a chipping green and putting green that are very undulated, fast, bent grass greens, and I spent a little time there yesterday after the pro-am to just get my short game sharp. It's very difficult to find a good chipping area with greens similar to Augusta, very few places and university of Georgia is one of them.

Q. Got a pretty good track record over there, somewhere along the week visiting over in Athens not a bad thing to keep it going?

PHIL MICKELSON: My caddie lives over there, and so it's easy for me to go and stay the night, and then come back in the morning, so it's a very quaint town, very enjoyable town, and I do have some friends that live there, so it's a fun place for me to get to.

Q. Great practice area.

PHIL MICKELSON: Really is. Partly why they have such a great program there year in and year out.

Q. I know you have made a big point in the past of making sure that we don't look so far to next week, that we kind of lost focus where we are because of the people that are involved here and everything. Obviously the momentum factor is huge, and anything you do this week does carry over usually.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there are those cases. There are also the cases similar to what happened with Vijay missing the cut at THE PLAYERS Championship coming back inspired and winning in Houston. So I wouldn't put too much stock into the outcome of this week, but I would say that players who are hitting the right shots here effectively will have a much easier time next week - the bump-and-run around the green, having to land chips just short of the green or bring them in very high to get them in some of the those shorts are required here as they are next week. The Players that are hitting those shots primarily around the green that's what I am looking at, if you can do that, you are -- that's the momentum that you want to carry over into next week. Baseball striking can come and go any day. You can be not hitting it well and find it the next day. But short game is really touch and feel and it's not a hit or miss type thing. It's not like you can just find the feel. Your technique has to be right; then your touch has to be right.

Q. Do you find yourself, Phil, how do you block that out next week and do you find yourself thinking a little bit about next week even while you were out there on this course?

PHIL MICKELSON: When I am playing I really haven't been looking ahead too much. Even during the tournament I have not been looking ahead although that's the tournament that we're all trying to gear up for, but what I look at is this is a tournament where if I can play well, if I can work hard on my game and get it ready, perform well this week, that's my best way to prepare for next week.

Q. I think it was last year after The Masters you finished double digits under par; had a great tournament someone else did a little better. How have you dealt with those in the last year; how has your game progressed in the interim?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I felt like last year was a big year for me because I played at a consistent level week-in and week-out. When it came down to on Sunday I had a couple of swings that I wanted to do over and a couple of misses and I felt like I have addressed that with a little bit of practice with Rick, and a little bit of finetuning in my equipment that I have been able to eliminate certain miss shots. So I feel like I have -- towards the latter part of the year I started to play even better than I did the start of the year.

So this year with the golf course being the way it is, I am much more confident heading into Augusta than any year because I feel like there are a handful of players that have a distinct advantage of being able to hit the ball past certain dog-legs, and I may not be the longest player out on Tour, certainly I can't keep it up with guys like to Tiger or Daly, but I feel like I have enough length to get it around the turns on some critical holes and have a reasonable iron into the green to get the ball stopped. Those greens have a tendency of getting so firm that when you are hitting anything more than an 8-iron, it's very hard to get the ball high and soft enough and get it stopped. So if guys are hitting 3 -, 4-, 5-irons into some of the greens and I am able to hit seven or eight, I feel like I have a distinct advantage.

Q. Do you feel like that if you keep putting yourself in position to win that inevitably it's going to drop off and lay in your lap as far as the majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do feel as though if I -- in a sense that if I continue to put myself in position it will eventually happen. The way I looked at it the last year I put myself in position to win a lot of tournaments and did not push myself to go low enough on Sunday. My conscious thought this year is that when I have a shot at it on Sunday I am going to do everything I can to win the tournament. Whereas -- and I thought that was evident at the Bob Hope where I birdied the last three holes to get into a playoff. I tried to push the throttle all the way down, whereas last year, I felt like I was getting myself in position, but I wasn't really pushing myself to finish it off. I felt like I was a little bit passive towards the end of the tournament and this year I am trying to make a conscious effort not to do that, to be -- to try to finish it off the way I was able to at the Hope and the way I tried to at Bay Hill even though the outcome wasn't what I wanted. For the most part that's what I am trying to do this week, so that if I do get in that position in a major, I am hoping to be able to get it done.

Q. Your last 3 rounds at THE PLAYERS weren't what you wanted. Was it important for you to get a low round in today, a low number like today?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't really put too much emphasis on it. I certainly wanted to play well. I had been playing well heading in. I knew I had worked on my game and I knew I was ready to play. I think it's more important to play four consistent solid rounds than it is to play one great round, so although I am off to a good start I don't feel like by any means I feel -- that comforts me. I feel like for me to be really confident I'd like to play four solid rounds.

Q. When you were talking about the wind and judging the wind, is there something about the terrain here that makes that more difficult than other places or is it always a challenge?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's always a challenge but when we have open space without tree tops, it is easier to identify what the wind is because it's more consistent but as we get tree tops with these tall pines and different heights on the pine trees the wind tends to swirl and we have down-draft and up-draft, and the wind seems to come around in circles and so that's what is the most challenging part because it's not a consistent wind where you can adjust and play for it. You have to judge it right, guess it right, and even then it's not a sure thing, there's no way to guarantee that you judged the wind right which is why No. 12 at Augusta has always played so hard because you can't really feel the wind where you are teeing off and the ball reaches its peak or apex, that's where the wind is swirling the most.

TODD BUDNICK: Thank you, Phil.


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