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January 16, 2002

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us, we appreciate you driving all the way over here. Great round today, good start for someone that's been off five months.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm excited to be back out and playing, and it's been quite a break for me. But it's been an exciting time. We had the birth of our second child, as you know, and it's been a very enjoyable time for our family. And I'm just excited to be back out playing golf again.

Q. Did you play at all, Phil?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, yeah, I took some good time off, but the last two weeks I've been working hard on my game, trying to get ready for this year, and working certain areas of my game that I felt that I needed to improve heading into this year. It's been wonderful.

I've got great practice facilities in San Diego, at the Titleist Test Center, it's as good a practice facility as anywhere in the world. I've been able to work on my game, and work on those areas. And I feel that it's ready.

Q. Can you specifically say what you've been working on?

PHIL MICKELSON: 150 yards in is the area that I want to improve in. Last year, it was the same thing. I talked about it earlier in the year, how I wanted to improve from 150 yards in. And midyear I added a fourth wedge -- at the start of the year, I guess, or just after the start, I added a fourth wedge. I've been spending a lot of time with the wedges. That's an area that I really need to be efficient at this year.

And I also am working on length off the tee. Just like everybody, we always want to hit the ball farther. But I figure if I can hit the ball a long ways and keep it in play, the wedges are going to be an integral factor this year. Those are the areas I've really been working on.

Q. What was working for you today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I just played well. Like any round there were some streaks, some good streaks, and some tough streaks, but for the most part I drove the ball well, and gave myself a lot of wedges in. And subsequently I made nine birdies today and one bogey and shot 8-under par. Now, we know how the courses here are very susceptible to birdies, and I felt like I drove the ball well, only missing a couple of fairways. And on those holes that I drove it well, I was close enough to the green where I had little wedges in, and was able to give myself good birdie opportunities.

Q. Was there no competitive rust, did you just feel charged as soon as you got out there on the first tee?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't feel rusty by any means. I've been playing and practicing. It's not like I took my first swing today in five months. I've been using this time off as a way to improve my game away from the competitive atmosphere, and today was the first day to see where I was, to see how the improvements have come along.

Q. And how were those? Was there anything specifically that you did today that was a reflection of that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I felt like -- there wasn't anything specific. I felt like I swung well today. I did have four or five swings that I was not able to execute what I was trying to do and subsequently hit poor shots, missed a couple of fairways and missed a par-3 green. But for the most part I felt like I executed the swing change -- I don't want to say changes, but the things that I wanted to in my swing and hit a lot of good shots.

So I didn't feel like it was a struggle or it was a fight. I felt like I had birdie opportunities every hole.

Q. Phil, five months off for a competitive golfer, that's a pretty good break. Did you find out you missed the competitive part of it and could you see yourself taking that kind of break again?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would love to have nice breaks at the end of the year, and I anticipate doing that. I probably won't go five months for the reason that I enjoy playing THE TOUR Championship and I may play one off-season event just to stay somewhat ready. But those weren't really options this year because of the birth of our second child.

But after August, I really won't play too much. I'll probably play three events, probably the Ryder Cup this year, THE TOUR Championship, and that may be it or I may look at one other event.

Q. Do you miss the competitive part of it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've been missing it the last month, yes. But the first couple of months -- you have to understand, I've played a lot, a lot more than normal the first two-thirds of the year. Through August I played my full schedule and played four or five tournaments more than I normally do, which is over a month worth of work, let's say. And because of that I was really ready for a break.

Q. You birdied the first four and birdied 7, 8, and 9. Is there any thoughts that this is going to be low, 60, that type of thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Those thoughts didn't really enter in. I didn't really think about how low it could be or what have you. I made a couple of good putts on the front side. I didn't really hit it that close to where they were tap-ins. I had a couple of short ones, obviously the par-5s, I hit both of those greens, and just had 2-putts. But on my final three birdies, the last two, 8 and 9 were pretty good putts, 20 feet, 12 and 20 feet.

So I didn't really -- it didn't really end that "Gosh, I could shoot 60, 61, 59." I wasn't thinking like that. I felt like the backside is a little bit tougher to make some birdies on, and I just wanted to play a solid backside and see if I could -- I thought I could make another 5 or 6, but wasn't able to get the putts to drop.

Q. I know last year was extenuating circumstances with the birth of your daughter, but generally speaking, you don't really go after those off-season events as much as a lot of other guys do. Is that just because you enjoy the time off?

PHIL MICKELSON: I tell you why I don't play off-season events that often -- is that I feel like when I look back on my career, when others look back on my career, my performance in those off-season events has no bearing on that. I can win every one, I could finish last in every one, it makes no difference. What I look at is TOUR wins and TOUR -- and consistency in TOUR events, Top 10s, per se, statistical categories during TOUR events.

And the off-season events really don't have bearing on one's career, it's just a way to make more money. And I find that I can better serve myself by taking the time off, recharging and getting ready and getting my desire high for the upcoming year. If I don't do that when the next season comes around, I feel like I'm a little stale. Those couple of months off really get me excited to play golf again, and get me excited to be in a competitive atmosphere and frame of mind.

Q. Phil, by taking the first two weeks off, you start the season here, is this a tougher place to start because you have to shoot 64 every day, or is it easier because you know you're probably going to shoot 66 every day?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is difficult to make a bunch of birdies and know that you have to shoot 30-plus-under par to win. That is difficult. But the reason why it's a wonderful place to start is, one, it gives you an extra competitive round, it's five days, it gives you one extra competitive round.

There's four golf courses that have wonderful practice facilities. And by breaking up the spectators, by breaking up the atmosphere, splitting it up amongst four courses, it's a nice way to ease into the year.

Q. Speaking of easing into the year, you're not in the celebrity field this year?


Q. That's got to be easier for you, too?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is easier. By not being in the celebrity rotation, it's a quieter round, and it's easier to get work done after the round, because there's not as much time required after the round to sign a couple of autographs or what have you. It's a nice way to ease into the year.

Q. Have you made any goals for 2002, and if you have, can you share those with us?

PHIL MICKELSON: I have, and I'm going to keep those personal. The last time I shared my mindset heading into a tournament was at the PGA and it didn't go over well. It didn't come across that well. I guess, it wasn't printed that well. So I think I'll just leave goals personal.

Q. Thirteen top-10 finishes last year, but everybody goes back to 0 and 34. Do we make too much of not winning majors?

PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly that could be the case. But I think that the four majors give a player an opportunity to showcase his all around ability, because each major focuses on different areas. The Masters focuses on length and short game; the U.S. open focuses on ball-striking ability and course management; the British Open focuses in on wind play and bump-and-run shots; and the PGA tends to mix it up.

So a player has an opportunity to showcase his all around game in the majors. So to win all four of those I think is the best sign to show an all around, complete game. So I wouldn't say that they're overstated. But I think sometimes we overlook the quality of field and quality of play that goes on week to week on the PGA TOUR, sure.

End of FastScripts....

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