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January 20, 2002

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Five months off. Way to start the new year. Why don't you make a couple of comments about today. You played great.

PHIL MICKELSON: Obviously I'm very pleased with the results. And it was a challenging day because the scores were going to be low, and we knew that we had to shoot low. And I was guessing that if I could shoot 8-under, I might get in a playoff, 9-under might win out right. But again that might not be enough if the leaders got hot. And I was fortunate to win in a playoff.

Q. Phil, Friday's round was the 2-under, still left you at 36 holes to go. What was your feeling after Friday's round?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wasn't excited with shooting only 2-under par at PGA West. I didn't play that well. So I felt like that was going to hopefully be the one bad round out of the five days. And if I could make my worst round be 2-under, I felt like I could have a good shot at winning.

I was looking forward to playing Indian Wells on Friday. And I felt that was going to give me an opportunity to go way under. It gave me a good opportunity heading into today, but there were ten people in between myself and the lead, even though it was only four strokes. I had to go catch them to make up the ground, because all of those guys weren't going to come back.

That's why today was a challenging day. But I'm pleased that I shot 8-under par, and very pleased to have won.

Q. You said the other day that this is a tournament that was a good way to ease into the season. Is this beyond what you had expected after five months or what do you do when you're not easing your way in?

PHIL MICKELSON: The reason I like starting the year off with this tournament is because it does give me an extra competitive round. I enjoyed that. And I was also able to do it in an arena where the tournament was broken up over four golf courses. So it gave me some practice facilities that were a little quieter, and I was able to work on my game this week and get it sharp.

But as far as the five months goes, yes, I haven't played a competitive tournament in five months, but I felt like I used that time to get myself ready for 2002. There were a couple of swing changes that I wanted to make heading into this year that I needed to get physically stronger to be able to accomplish those.

And I felt like I used the time, those five months, to accomplish that.

And I feel like my golf swing is making the progress that I had been hoping that it would. I've spent a lot of time from 130, 140 yards in, which certainly paid off this week. And it really came into play today -- as we saw the last few holes and what have you.

So I'm very pleased to have won. But I don't feel like it was a surprise and out of nowhere. I feel like I've been really working towards the start of this year. And it's nice to see some results.

Q. Can you talk about the holes coming in, Phil, 16, 17, 18, the first time around.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I knew I needed to try to get to 30. I didn't hit the best drive on 16 and had 106 yards, which I could have hit a sand wedge, but I hit a gap wedge, which is a weak pitching wedge. I hit a good shot at 10, 12 feet. It was breaking two or three feet off the slope off the ridge, and it went in. And when that putt went in I felt like I could get the last two.

17 is a pitching wedge and granted I didn't hit the best wedge, a little breeze came into me and it came up short, 25, 30 feet. I made a very good putt there, too. After I birdied 17 I was thinking, "Gosh, if I could hit a good tee shot, I might have a shot at 3 on 18," with the pin being in that low spot with a backstop.

The ball was above my feet left-to-right and the wind was right to left, and I hung a 4-iron out. I was very lucky it didn't go in the water. It stayed up. I actually caught it very solid and I think that's why it was enough to carry, but it just didn't have the right line. And I hit a good lob shot to about four feet and made birdie.

It wasn't the easiest finish, where I had a bunch of tap-ins, but I felt like I was able to get it done, and that's what I'm pleased with.

Q. The second shot on 18 the first time around, did you think it might be in the water when you hit it or when it hit?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought there was a good chance it would stay up because I hit it flush, I just didn't hit it on line. It just hung out there. And I didn't see it bounce back into the water, so I figured it was okay.

Q. Can you talk about the 18 the second time around, the playoff?

PHIL MICKELSON: The second time David hit a wonderful drive. And I hit a good drive up the right side and it just kept drifting a little to the right and caught the bunker, and I was right up against the lip. I didn't have a choice to go for it or not. I hit a 7 out and left me with exactly 80 yards. I felt like I was going to need to get up-and-down to make birdie to tie, and move it to the 10th hole.

And even when David hit it in the water, though, he still had a short iron in with a backstop. Very good chance he's going to make five. I have thought I needed to make a 4 to win the tournament. And I was fortunate to do it because I did hit the L-wedge a little bit farther, I carried it about 2, 3 yards farther than I wanted to. But it still caught enough of the hill and brought it back to the hole.

Q. You were talking about trying to get physically stronger. Did you work with weights?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. Yes, I lifted a lot.

Q. We're talking arms, shoulders, the whole shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Back and hips, primarily.

Q. Phil, you talked about one of your goals this year was to improve the winning percentage when you got in these situations. Is this a good for the psych I kind of thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is. And I'll tell you why. When I was on the 16th green, as I was surveying my putt, what went through my mind was this was the position I had been in a bunch last year, and I had just kind of finished nonchalantly and finished 2nd or 3rd a bunch of times. And I thought this was a chance to me to try to make something happen. And when that putt went in, that's where I got the feeling as though I could do it.

Q. You have a very -- I think your record is 5-1 in playoffs. You obviously feel pretty comfortable when you head back out.

PHIL MICKELSON: I do have a good record in playoffs, but I would say playoff records, a lot of it is luck because it's -- it really doesn't give you a chance over 18 holes to display who is the better player, what have you. We both obviously played well, David and myself, to finish 30-under over five rounds.

But a lot of luck is involved in playoffs. And I feel very fortunate to have won, because I know the type of player David is. He's a wonderful player, and I think he's going to be a teammate with me shortly in some Ryder Cups, President Cups, so I'm looking forward to that. He's a solid player. When he hit a good drive I felt he was going to have a good shot at possibly 3, if not 4.

Q. I know they're just numbers, but any special significance to being a 20-game winner, so to speak?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's just a nice round number. It just seems to get off the odd number of 19, I guess. I really haven't thought much about it. I feel very fortunate. I've played the PGA TOUR now for, I think this is my 10th or 11th season, and to have won 20 times, and to play golf for a living, which is what most people do on vacation, as my job, is great. I'm lucky to play golf and I'm lucky to have the success that I've had.

Q. There's still a lot of golf to be played, obviously. But judging from a result like this, and a way to get off to such a good shot, do you think this might be Phil's year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that this year is a year that I've been very much looking forward to and that I've worked hard for and I feel like my game has slowly evolved to get where it is today. The reason I'm so excited about winning this particular tournament as opposed to any others in 2002, is what I specifically set out to work on and get proficient at is from 120, 130 yards in, and that's the area or range that we had mostly throughout the week.

And to be able to hit those shots the way I wanted to and give myself a number of good birdie putts and really not have too many wayward wedges or bad wedge shots, I felt like I became more consistent from 130 in, and more efficient. And that's why I'm excited to have won the tournament, because what I've specifically set out to work on paid off this week.

Q. The third shot on the 18th, first time, how difficult is it, and are there any options? Could only you do that?

PHIL MICKELSON: The backing -- the wedge up?

Q. Yes.

PHIL MICKELSON: No, the steepness of the hill was going to bring any wedge shot back, for the most part.

Q. 18, the first time?

PHIL MICKELSON: The lob shot. It was a good shot, yeah, it was a good shot (laughter.) It was sitting fluffy.

Q. How far from the water?

PHIL MICKELSON: A couple of yards. It wasn't that close. It didn't affect my stance. It was a slight uphill lie, which was going to help it. I felt if I didn't carry it almost to the hole it could hit the downslope and race eight feet by or so. So I wanted to fly it over the ridge and land it as close to the hole as it could.

It ended up landing about a foot by the hole and only rolled about a total of three and a half, four feet. It was a good shot, given the situation. It was a shot that the lie was pretty conducive to it. It was not like it was sitting up, but it was sitting fluffy enough so that I could get a nice L-wedge underneath it.

Q. What percentage of your approaches this week would you say you used some kind of wedge? Was it a lot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that's a tough question to answer, but it was a reasonable amount for just about every par-4.

Q. How many today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I could go through them for you. 1 was a sand wedge. And I count the par-5s as L wedges, too, because just like 18, I felt like that was a short game shot. So I counted that.

I hit No. 2, par-3.

The par-5s, 6, I was just off the fringe and 2-putted.

8 was a sand -- a little L-wedge.

10 was a wedge.

11, par-5, I hit that in two.

13 was a long par. The par-5 -- on the last five holes -- 14 was a little gap wedge. It wasn't the best, but it gave me a 10 -, 12-footer, it was a good miss.

16, 17 and 18 were all wedges. So I guess, what, six, seven shots, six, seven holes; not quite half, I would say. But most of the par-4s were wedges, especially at Indian Wells or Tamarisk.

Q. Did you have more of those this week than you normally would have?

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. For a couple of reasons. The other courses are shorter than what we normally see on Tour. The rough was kept down, so we could hit drivers on a lot of holes. And so the other courses, primarily we were able to hit drivers and have a lot of wedges in.

Q. Given all of the practice you went through, as well as you felt like you were hitting the ball, did you still surprise yourself in any facet this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not necessarily, no. I really felt sharp. I had spent -- I spent time with Rick Smith two weeks ago, got the fundamentals down, got the changes we wanted to implement in place, and I felt I was able to support them with some increased strength.

And I came early to spend time at the Dave Pelz short game school, and got my short game sharp, putting. I had to rely on my caddy, Bones, for reading the greens this week, because he grew up on bermuda, I did not, and he has a better read for them.

Once he gives me the line, I'm able to see it. But he's got to give it to me because I see two or three different lines on every putt. So I give a lot of credit to him, not only did he pull a lot of great clubs this week, but he read the greens this week.

Q. (Inaudible.)

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't feel like it. I was excited to get back in competitive golf. I don't feel like I was that far removed. It's only five months. It's not that long. I've played golf for 29, 30 years. It's not like I'm going to forget how. I just had to get sharp and I felt like I put in the time and effort to do that.

Q. Is the player that can't drive it 280, 290, 300, is that player getting left behind in this game now as courses are getting longer?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that he's left behind. I think he's at a severe disadvantage. It won't really show in certain events. It won't show in the U.S. open, let's say, where you can only hit it 265, 270 before the fairway cuts off so, that won't really make a difference.

On a lot of Tour-quality courses we'll have holes where if you can carry 280, 285 you might be able to hit to a little wider fairway or you'll be able to have wedges in. And that's pretty much the goal right now is to drive the ball long and straight so that you can hit wedges out of the fairway. You're going to be able to attack every pin.

If you're hitting 5 -, 6 - 7-iron, you can tuck some pins and not be able to shoot at them.

Q. Are you ready to play with Justin Timberlake next year?

PHIL MICKELSON: We'll see. I'll probably request to stay off of the celebrity rotation and do what I did this year, which was to get some good practice in and get some good work done. I don't know if I'll be able to, as the defending champion.

Q. The last guy to win was Miller, a long time ago, since the guy has repeated?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a year from now, I'll worry about it then.

JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Congratulations again, and thank you very much, Phil.

End of FastScripts....

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