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March 22, 2002

Phil Mickelson


TODD BUDNICK: Welcome, Phil Mickelson to the press room today.

Rounds of 64 and 75 have you at 5-under, 139. It kind of must have felt like night and day out there, I guess.

PHIL MICKELSON: It seems on the card that it was up-and-down, but I started the day today at a under -- I finished 5-under, 25 holes later. I was very pleased with that.

I thought that we teed off this morning in very difficult conditions and I made some birdies, and I felt like to finish the day at even was a very good way to finish. But starting the day, when I birdied three holes and got to 8-under it looked as though I can go a little bit lower. Certainly, I probably could have, but as the round wore on and as the wind started to swirl and it became very difficult, I felt like I did a good job to keep the 75 where it was at. It could have easily slid away. I made some good par attempts, some good up-and-downs, and made a birdie coming in on 16. So I wasn't disappointed with the round at all. I felt like I put myself into a good position heading into the weekend.

Q. You talked about that it is important to control your trajectory here. How well do you think you did that today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I felt like I played very well both rounds, believe it or not. The first round I had a lot of fortune in that I would hit a good shot, it would turn out about the right distance. And today, I hit a lot of good shots that just didn't quite turn out the right distance. They'd come up 10 yards short or long, I hit a good shot on 3 in the second round and it hit just short of the green, spun back, and I made bogey.

I came back on the next hole on 4, and hit a perfect pitching wedge from 150 yards, it just carried a little bit too far, about two yards too far, and I was struggling to get up-and-down. I hit good shots but I didn't have very good -- I didn't have any birdie putts.

So you need a little bit of fortune. You need to hit good golf shots with the right trajectory and need a little bit of luck to have guessed or predicted the wind correctly.

I felt like the difference really wasn't night and day in ball-striking. I felt I hit it pretty well, drove it pretty well, put it in play fairly regularly off the tee, just didn't get the ball close; just didn't quite judge it right or the ball just wasn't landing where I was expecting it too.

I don't know what else to say other than the golf course was difficult, but it was very fair and even though the wind was up I thought it was very fair with the greens being soft and holding soft. We have seen 17 play so brutal in the past, where a ball would land in the middle of the green and bounce over. But that's not the case this year. You hit good shot, land it on the green and it will pretty much stay there.

Q. At a point this morning, you started off with three birdies and finished where pushing it lower and lower might not be realistic?

PHIL MICKELSON: Starting the second round, I thought even par would be a heck of a score. I thought even par to finish the round this morning would have been very nice. I ended up making a bomb on 3, 40-footer, and got lucky on 7, where I hit a good 7-iron and ended up six inches; it almost went in. But it just happened -- I judged the wind right, and I birdied 9 hitting a really, really good shot.

Q. Let's talk about that shot.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was side -sauce, is what I call it, because the ball landed 30 feet right of the ball and it just side spun up the hill, to the pin.

Q. What was that out of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: A wedge. I only had 80 yards, but I had to take a pitching wedge and open the face and then trap it and put side spin on it.

Q. What were you hoping would happen?

PHIL MICKELSON: Would happen. (Laughter) what do you mean?

Q. Let me rephrase that. Did you hit the shot you wanted to hit?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, absolutely. Playing the right side of green because the wind was actually blowing the other way; blowing away from the pin. I didn't have the help of the wind bringing it to the hole. So I hit it right where I wanted to, along that right side. I hit a low-cut and it had a ton of spin on it, just like I was hoping it would. I couldn't -- normally, it would be just a little L-wedge, but if I had hit that I could open the face, and create enough spin. So we saw it was very similar to a shot I holed at Tucson on 11 in the Tucson Open in 1994, 5, where I was in the right trees and hit a big cut from about 90 yards with an 8-iron and spun it sideways about 50 feet and it went in. Very similar shot. It kind of spun the hill, it was cool. It was a really cool birdie. So my point is, that it's not as though those last seven holes were playing easy. I just hit some really good shots and made 3 birdies.

Starting the second round I felt like even par would be a heck of a round, just like I thought finishing the last 7 even par would be a heck of a finish.

Q. You really haven't played that much, you really just -- it just doesn't take much -- when you are home with the kids, you are kind of home with the kids, you don't go out everyday and bang balls and things, do you? And here you are in contention again, does it feel good? I think you are pepped up this year, baby.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I am excited to play right now. I have been working hard at my game, and on the West Coast, I had a difficult time really getting into it, in that -- although I had taken five months off, I really didn't feel totally rested. I had moved into a new house, had the birth of our second child, and was trying to get a little bit physically stronger to accommodate some swing changes. And so when I had a couple of weeks off - not by choice - but where I missed some cuts there on the end of the West Coast, I had a little extra time to get prepared and get hungry again.

When I came out at Honda two weeks ago, I had been working hard and preparing hard and really ready to play. So I felt I played pretty well out there and played pretty well last week and I feel like I have been getting better each round and each tournament. So I have been -- looking forward to this year and playing a little bit.

Now I won't quite say that I am not at home not hitting any balls, just doing nothing and come back out and it is there because that doesn't happen. I do work at it a little bit at home and I have got a great facility to work on my game back in San Diego.

Q. Would you mind if I have another question. You closed out the year, you know, with THE TOUR Championship and to start this one with THE PLAYERS Championship would feel pretty good, won't it?

PHIL MICKELSON: It would. Now, I didn't win last year's TOUR Championship, it was 2000. But it was the last TOUR Championship I played. I think that's what you are heading at?

Q. Right.

PHIL MICKELSON: This tournament is important to me and I haven't played well here in the past so I have been gearing up, or looking forward, to this; mentally preparing on how I want to play this golf course and really looking forward to it. So I am very pleased to have given myself a good shot at it heading into the weekend.

Q. You said something on the outside and I didn't even know the question but something like, "I don't think I have hit a shot in competition that I don't think I could pull off." What prefaced that, what was the situation? Were they asking about last week or what?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I was asked about the -- about all the criticism taken over my style of play, and my response was that I won't ever change the style, my style of play. I get criticized for it but the fact is that I play my best when I play aggressive, when I attack, when I create shots. Just like I did on 9 today. That's what I enjoy about the game, that challenge. And if I were to change my style of play, I won't perform at the same level, nor would I enjoy the game as much. So to win 20 tournaments the way I have, I have had to do it the way that brings out my best golf, and my best golf comes out when I play aggressive and play with creativity.

I have had a number of chances to win majors this year or in the past, and I wouldn't have had those chances had I played any other way. Now I may never win a major playing that way, I don't know, I believe that if I'm patient, I will. But the fact is that if I change the way I play golf, one, I won't enjoy the game as much and, two, I won't play to the level I have been playing. So I won't ever change. Not tomorrow, Sunday or at Augusta or the U.S. Open, or any tournament.

Q. What is your reaction when you hear whispers about that, like what happened on 16? Vijay was in the other day, not criticizing you in a bad way, but in his opinion it was uncalled for a chance in that scenario.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that was a bad example. There may have been better examples in the past. 16, I had a harder shot out to the fairway than I did at the green. So that wasn't the best example.

I didn't have a shot to the fairway to hold that. I could put it in the short grass. I would have loved to do that with my wedge blade. It's very good right now and I feel confident in it. I just didn't have that chance.

Q. When you get criticism like that, like you said, you won 20 tournaments playing the way you play, when you hear criticism like that does it rile you up at all, do you slough it off?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it doesn't. I feel like -- I don't know what to say. I think that I have had good results with my style of play. I have won more tournaments than anybody playing the game right now other than Tiger. And I haven't seen anybody step up to the plate and challenge Tiger the way I have winning 98 Mercedes, winning 2000 TOUR Championship, winning 2000 or 2001 San Diego Championship head-to-head with him. He's the best player in the game and I am not going to back down from him. And I see these other guys wilt and it's just -- it's unbelievable to me that they just haven't been able to play their best golf when he's in contention.

Q. Let me ask a stupid question, if you can squib an 8-iron from 80 yards or wedge and hit the kind of shots that none of us in this room could ever imagine hitting except by total accident, then how -- I am just trying to -- did you not want to lay up last week? You can hit -- you can do anything you want with the golf ball.

PHIL MICKELSON: I would have loved to have laid up. I had a straight shot to the green and I had trees and a bunker in my way to the fairway, so if I tried to get back to the fairway, I think -- the same thing would have happened to Tiger and Scott McCarron the day before would happen to me - it would have gone right through into the rough. If I hit it low enough to stay under the trees and get to the fairway it would have gone through. If it doesn't carry the fairway, it grabs the rough. I had a straight shot to the green and it was my best play. I tried to catch it thin and I did catch it thin but a little too thin and it cut on me. If I had caught it right, it would have been low, landed in the front part of green gone to the back bunker which is what I was trying to do. That's not a ridiculous play. I wasn't try to get it close to the hole. I was giving myself an opportunity to 4.

Q. Red light green light question. Did I hear you say outside 40% chance is that sort of the --

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think I have ever hit a shot in competition where I couldn't pull it off 40% of the time.

Q. Does that seem like a high number, low number, tolerable number? That seems -- below 50/50 seems kind of risky maybe to me I guess; not to you.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, when you hit a drive off the 1st tee I think it's riskier, I think it's less than 50/50 you are going to hit the fairway. (Laughter). So there's a point where sometimes you just have to hit it. (Laughter).

Q. With all the criticism do you say, gee, maybe I should reevaluate this or does it make you more defiant saying, look, I know I am doing it the right way; I don't care what people think?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have thought about it. I thought about is my style of play, has it been detrimental to my game, and the answer keeps coming up: No. It keeps coming up to me that not only have I had the results that I wanted, winning 20 times and given myself a number of opportunities in majors, but for me to play my best golf, for me, personally to play my best golf, I need to play aggressive. I need to create shots. If I lose that creativity or lose that attacking style, then I will not play the best golf that I am capable of playing. It's just like when a player learns how to prepare for a tournament. Just like I learned to prepare for a tournament I don't -- I don't play well when I practice Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday. I get overly tired and I am not ready and fresh on Thursday. It's the same thing for me to play my best game on Thursday through Sunday, I need to be creative and attack.

Q. Did you experiment with that philosophy at all in terms of perhaps maybe you found that it didn't work for you trying it the other way? Did you ever try it the other way or you found this isn't me, I can't do this?

PHIL MICKELSON: At times and when things didn't go well it upset me so much that I wasn't able to perform my best. Now, if I hit a shot in the water, on a par 5, I can live with that. If I make a bogey laying up, I have a tough time living with that. And I just feel like for me to play my best I need to attack. That's bottomline.

Q. Have you ever selfanalyzed yourself to wonder why that's a fact, what about your personality, what about yourself that makes you only to be able to play your best golf aggressively?

PHIL MICKELSON: I am not going to analyze why. I am I just know for a fact that for me to play my best and bring the best game out that I have, I need to be creative. I need to attack. If I try to just hit fairways with irons hit middle of the greens, it's no fun, I don't enjoy it. I don't play well when I am not having fun. And so for me to play well I have to have challenge in and amongst the round, shots here or there that I try to get close, what have you.

Now I don't think by any means I have played reckless. I have played aggressive, and you have to understand if I change the way I play, I won't enjoy playing the game. And I won't play as well. So the bottomline is, I am not going to change for anybody because I am not going to have the enjoyment of the game taken away for me nor am I going to have my best game taken away from me.

Q. Given that aggressiveness and that style, and you are not going to change, some people called this the most diabolical course they -- what argument would you make to say that an aggressive player who likes to take risk or be imaginative on the course can succeed here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think this is a tremendous golf course for players who are willing to get aggressive. A lot of guys aren't. I think this golf course is the perfect risk/reward golf course. Now I am not attacking every pin. I am not going after the 17th pin into the wind with three yards over the pin. I am not -- I am not stupid. I just like to give myself the best opportunity for birdie. I am still trying to make birdie. I am trying to make birdie from 15 feet underneath the hole. I think I can get it within 4, five yards, distance-wise and I was trying to putt it 15 feet.

I think 16 is a wonderful hole where if you hit -- you can attack and make eagle but you could also make double if you knocked it in the water.

18 again, I was trying to -- I will give you an example: On 18 I can make birdie today and I was trying to make birdie but I wasn't trying to fly the ball a foot from the hole. I was trying to fly the ball 20 feet right and use the slope. And I will take advantage of things that are there, but I am still trying to birdie every hole for the most part.

Q. How bad was the wind today? You played in the 1998 British; I remember that Saturday I think was one of the worst winds I have ever seen. In this sort of a golf course, is this as bad a wind that you could have because there's so much water and sand?

PHIL MICKELSON: This was the toughest wind for this golf course, yes, because 17, one of the hardest holes was into the wind. Now, what is interesting was that my round my first round I shot 4 under the par 5s birdieing them all. Second round played them 1-over I did not birdie two when I had an iron into it and I did not birdie 11. In fact I bogeyed 11 when I had iron into it. Birdieing 16 and bogeying 9. Playing those 1-over they are very, very birdie-able all but 9 were reachable so you have three of them are reachable with irons. If you take advantage of two or three of those, all of a sudden I am back to even par. So that was the big difference in my round was the par 5 play, and although the wind is very difficult, it was the easiest for the par 5s so if you have two or three birdies in hand you can go around the other holes 2-, or 3-over and shoot even it could be done, but you just need to be careful on a couple of holes like 17 because it is the most difficult wind.

Q. You mentioned that you have in the past considered adopting a more conservative style. What has prompted you to go into that consideration and how important is the not winning a major in that regard?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought that maybe to win a major I needed to play a little bit more conservative style. But as I have looked back on it, I don't care if I ever win a major. I am not going to play this game without the enjoyment, without the fun that I have right now. And I don't believe that that's the case. I believe that if I continue to play the style of golf I have been playing, I am -- and be patient I will win my share of majors.

Q. Do you think you are a rarity with your aggression? You mentioned earlier that the guys wilting surprise you; surprised that guys don't go after Tiger more and certainly there's a lot of evidence that suggests you are correct.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, week-in and week-out I just don't know whose stepped to the plate. What it's done, it's opened me up to criticism but the fact is that week-in and week-out the style of play that's gotten me there that's given me chances to win is the style of play I enjoy, and it's again attacking and creative. I try a lot of different shots. I don't -- somebody asked me what type of shot do I hit a draw or a fade and the fact is I hit it both ways. Off every tee I am debating which way to maneuver it, shots into the green, I like moving it both ways, so there's not a pin that I feel I can't get to or a tee shot that I feel uncomfortable with, so, that style of play has gotten me in contention; has gotten me, I don't know I guess 20 wins total, but last year I became a much more consistent player with that style of play, and I think I can feel it coming on this year as well.

Q. On the aggression, aggressive style, are there days when you know that your swing is not there and you still attack or do you say, okay, let's just get out of here with as low a score as we can? Do you keep going when your swing is not there and would that lead to some big numbers?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. Sure, I cannot fire at pins when I don't have the confidence in my game but I have been playing well and I feel like I have had really good control over my ball flight moving it, a cut or a draw, I feel like I have been able to control it well as well as trajectory. It's allowed me to go to a lot of pins in the past year and a half, couple of years, but you are right there are days when I -- when I am not firing on all cylinders and I try use my short game as keeping me around par. The short game if I can get close -- the par 5s, short game is my strength if I can get close to the greens (inaudible) I have given myself the best chance for birdie, the best chance for up-and-down.

Q. Given your attacking style and flare, what would you have done in Van de Velde's spot off the tee if you were -- if you hit -- would you have hit driver off the tee?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really remember the scenario on 18 with the water coming in the inlet. I don't really remember. I probably would have -- could have made double, right so if he hits it in the rough he hacks it out short of water, he wedges on and makes 5. Big deal. I don't see why not. I thought the second play was -- the second shot was probably one that I would have considered doing something else.

Q. The 2-iron (laughter) from the tee box over there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I mean if I just had to make 5-- I probably would have 7-ironed on, wedged on, and made 5. I don't need to win by two or three. I am okay with winning by just one.

Q. Jack Nicklaus has been known for winning major after major by playing conservatively and letting other players make mistakes. Have you ever weighed that in your thought process on strategy?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, and I don't play my best when I play that way. I just don't play my best. I don't know what other example I could use, maybe a certain car runs better on such and such gas, well, Jeff Gordon maybe winning on some type of other gas but maybe that's not the best gas for my car, so for me to play my best I can't play the way Jack played. I can't prepare -- he actually told me how he used to prepare for majors and tournaments. I don't prepare well that way. I tried that and it didn't work for me. I found the way that I need to prepare for events to get my best performance that week, and I have found for me to shoot the lowest scores and for me -- which is really all that matters - how do you post the lowest number, I need to have fun playing the game, I need to be creative. That's my strength is creativity.

Q. Old Palmer highlight reels must turn you on.

PHIL MICKELSON: Very much so (laughter).


Q. Has there been a circumstance where you did second-guess yourself and wish maybe you had pulled back and/or hit a more conservative shot or do you always feel like the play you made was the right one?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have not ever hit a shot where I thought that that wasn't the best shot to hit. If I am second-guessing myself over the shot then I have -- I know I am making a mistake. I may not execute it the way I wanted to but that's a whole another topic.

Q. When a guy wins as much as you do and hasn't won a major, the question inevitably comes up: Does this guy have what it takes. Given that this is called the fifth major and the course and the strength of the field if you were to win this do you think that it would answer some questions?

PHIL MICKELSON: Probably not. Probably not. I thought Akron was a tournament that was much like a major the World Series of Golf in 96 and that -- it's got to be one of the four although most every one of the players considers this on the same level as the four majors, I don't think anybody else here in this room does, and until -- when -- until I win one of the four I will continue to be asked those questions, which is fine. But I am not going -- I don't feel like if for me to win a major, changing my style of play will be advantageous; I don't feel that would give me the best chance to win.

Q. I wasn't asking you to.

PHIL MICKELSON: I know. I am just saying that -- I am just saying that my style of play, if I am going to win here this week or a major, still would need to be aggressive and even if I were to win this week playing aggresively, I will still hear, gosh, will it work in a major.

Q. Your mentioned top 4 on TV (inaudible) --

JACK NICKLAUS: I said Top 5 later just to be safe. Because I knew I was going to get hit with that. What is the one that's out. I don't know. I just -- it's one of the five I would most want to win. Sorry about that. (Laughter.)

Q. Arnold Palmer was obviously mentioned. Do you have other heroes that you admired for the aggressive way -- not necessarily golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I just -- I respect a lot of players and the style of play that I most enjoy watching is Arnold's and it's also the style of play I most enjoy playing. I enjoy watching Jack Nicklaus play. I just don't enjoy playing that way myself. I think that Bobby Jones was a player that I used to read a lot about and watch a lot of video on because he was almost a mystical figure to me because he had passed away before I was born; never had a chance to see him in person; same thing with Hogan and I never met Ben Hogan so those two figures are almost mystical, like they weren't really human, like they were something other than that, as though all the tales about them were mysterious and so forth. So those two gentlemen I enjoy hearing a lot about. But again I don't know -- I think Bobby Jones was a pretty aggressive player. I don't think Hogan was that aggressive.

Q. Have you ever talked with Palmer about his style of play and your appreciation of it and discuss maybe how you played this way and how you don't play this way?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't had a conversation with him about that. No, I have read a book or two talking about him and going for par 5s or going for shots and so forth, and what his thought process was and it's the same way for him as it has been for me. It has won tournaments that he probably would not have won and it probably cost him some tournaments that he probably should have won.

End of FastScripts....

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