August 18, 2001
JULIUS MASON: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. Phil Mickelson, currently in second place at the conclusion of the third round of the 83rd PGA Championship after a 66. Some thoughts on your round and we'll go through the card and Q&A.
PHIL MICKELSON: I started out with a birdie on one. Driver and L-wedge to about three feet and made that for birdie. Doubled 3. Drove it in the left rough. Hit a tree and it fell straight down. Bladed a wedge over the green. Chipped up just off the wedge. Chipped up to three feet and made that for double. I birdied 4. I hit a 5-iron to about 25 feet behind the hole and made that. I birdied 5. I hit a drive in the right bunker. Hit a 4-iron just shy of the green. Chipped up to six feet behind the hole and made that. I birdied 9. I hit driver, sand wedge to about two feet, two and a half feet and made that. I birdied 11. I hit 2-iron, pitching wedge to about six inches and made that. Then birdied 12. I hit driver, 7-iron, that hit a tree and fell short left of the green. I chipped up to about eight feet and made that for birdie. I birdied 14. I hit 3-wood, 8-iron to about six inches and made that. I bogeyed 15. I hit a 4-iron just over the green and hit a poor chip to about 12 feet and then missed that. Came back the next hole with a birdie on 16 where I hit driver, pitching wedge to about eight feet and made that. And I bogeyed 17. I hit a 5-iron over the green. Chipped up 30 feet and missed it. And that was that.
JULIUS MASON: Thank you, Phil.
Q. What were the distances on the two shots you nearly holed?
PHIL MICKELSON: I nearly holed it on 14, and that was an 8-iron from 158. Nearly holed it on 11; I hit a pitching wedge from 157.
Q. Phil, more birdies than pars today. A double-bogey, two bogeys, a lot going on in your round. How would you describe a round like that, that had so many ups and downs?
PHIL MICKELSON: The only poor shot I felt I hit was the tee shot on 3. The two bogeys, I hit the shot as solid and on line as I had any shot throughout the day. The ball on 15 just released over the green and the shot on 17 I thought could come down a couple of feet and it went right over the pin, but it just hopped on into the thick rough; and both times I had quick, downhill chips and was not able to really get it close. So although the score card looks to be more up and down, the play was very consistent. Those two bogeys were not caused by anything that I could have changed. I hit those as well as I could have, and just had unfortunate breaks.
Q. Can we get your general thoughts about the round, and your thoughts on your iron play today, or your approach play, or medal wood play, whatever you're using, because it was fantastic today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thank you. Today I felt like in general I played well and made good shots and ultimately made eight birdies. Certainly, you have to hit a lot of good shots to make that many. But in general, my iron play came around nicely, starting at 9, where I hit a sand wedge to a couple of feet and I started to hit some pretty good iron shots on the back side and give myself some pretty easy birdie putts. In general, I felt good with the way I was hitting it. I enjoyed the additions I made, put the ball in play a lot, and gave myself opportunities to get at the pins.
Q. Earlier in the year, David Toms jumped up and grabbed one away from you in New Orleans that probably should have been yours. Can you talk about your playing and pairing with him again?
PHIL MICKELSON: He played in the group in front of me at New Orleans and shot 64 and beat me. That was something that I still remember, and I would very much like to steal one from him. He's played some incredible golf, to be 14-under through three rounds. I had a chance there where I was a shot or two ahead to start pulling away and just had those two bogeys on the par 3s. Otherwise, would I have been right there with him.
Q. Davis Love said earlier today that after the first round, he thought out his game plan and decided this golf course needed to be played more aggressively than most major setups. Given that circumstance, does tomorrow's round allow you to play to more of your personality than maybe other opportunities have allowed?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would agree with that, as long as the greens stay somewhat receptive. And granted, they were much firmer, I guess, than the first two days. But they were still able to receive shots well, and if that's the case, I feel as though I'll be able to get at a good number of pins tomorrow. I felt like I've played pretty aggressive the first three days, and really, made a lot of birdies today. I think that I'll be able to attack tomorrow, for the most part. But it's more important to get the first shot in the fairway. If you get the first shot in the fairway, you can get at the pins. But if you're hitting it in the rough, you really can't get at the pins; you're just fighting to save par. I had nine fairways I hit today, so that's nine opportunities to really attack the pins, and the four par 3s, although the two on the back were tough, I felt that the first step was to get in the fairway.
Q. Could you take us through No. 3 again? Specifically, your thinking on going for the pin from a fairly dicey place on your second shot; were you thinking at all about going out on the fairway?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would have loved to have chipped out to the fairway. That would have been a great play. I didn't have that opportunity; otherwise, I probably would have taken it. I was certainly thinking 5 from the start, trying to see if I could keep it at 5, I would be able to stay at even par for the round. That was certainly the mindset. But, there were trees in front of me and I didn't have that opportunity. Out of the rough it would have jumped up and tagged the limbs and I would have been in the same spot. So, that's why I chose to try to go a little bit left and use the wind and bring it back. It actually wasn't too far from coming off, but it caught another tree that was up in the air and knocked it straight down.
Q. If we would have told you Monday you would have shot three straight 66s, where do you think you would be in the tournament?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly thought starting the tournament that 12-under after three days would be -- would be leading, but the golf course is susceptible to birdies, and I know the type of player David Toms is, and he's on a mission. He not only wants to win this golf tournament but make the Ryder Cup team. A good finish, even if he doesn't win, should secure him that. I know how much he wants to win and he has the game to win. He had the game to shoot 64 earlier in the year and beat me, and I'm going to be trying to make amends.
Q. Did you feel the galleries were with you? Did you feel an energy from them? Did that buoy you up, their support?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt they were very supportive and I also felt they were supportive of every group. After you saw a great shot, you knew what hole was on and a decent idea of who it was for. I felt they were supportive in general. But this is a very special place for me. I've played well in Atlanta and have some very fond memories of tournament golf, starting back in the junior days and late '80s where I won three AGJA titles over in Roswell, as well as last year's TOUR Championship. So it's a very special place.
Q. You talked earlier this week about wanting to get the cushion. You were not able to do that because Toms shot a great score. Any feeling of a letdown now?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, not at all. To be, really, only two shots off the lead and in a great place to play with the leader the final day, great opportunity to win, that's the ultimate goal. I just need something to keep pushing me. If I am able to keep focusing on it -- in fact, earlier on the back side, that was my mindset, to try to push away. I had one or two hot leads and was not able to do it. We had that three-shot winning swing on 5 and that really hurt the goal. The first three rounds was to get myself in position on Sunday and then see what I can do on Sunday.
Q. It's the second time in a major this year you're playing in the last group. I think you also did it at Pinehurst. What is it like in the final group on a Sunday in a major? Can you describe from the perspective of your experience?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's fun. It's really fun. (Smiles). It's a very intense feeling. I'm very aware of what is going on and having a late tee time is difficult because you sit around for quite a few hours awake, anticipating the round. But I've been able to be pretty relaxed heading into the rounds. I felt pretty comfortable heading into Thursday's opening round, even though I teed off at 1:45 or 1:50. So it is an interesting position, and on interesting opportunity, and interesting experience that not many people have, to play in the final group of a major, but it is a very enjoyable one. It seems as though it is very similar to the way it felt when I was a kid, dreaming of playing in the last group, dreaming of hitting these final shots. It's not too different from what I imagined.
Q. The last four holes today were up and down for everybody. What do you anticipate tomorrow? What makes them such an up-and-down issue for everybody?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, they are tough, that's probably why. They were just great holes, and I don't know what else to say. Then you have a very penalizing finish here in 15 and 17 and 18 with water. I think that 16 is really the last great birdie opportunity, and you've got to hit the fairway to do that, for the most part. But you're certainly not expecting to make birdie on 15, 17, or 18.
Q. You had mentioned about the greens still being relatively receptive, but on 15 and 17, was that at all a case of those greens not holding as they had or was that shots maybe just a touch more juiced than before?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's 243 yards on 15, and I hit a 4-iron, which is, I really can't hit a 4-iron that far, and it flew to the pin. Now, had it flown to where I thought it would be, which is 235 or 232 or so would have caught the middle of the green, right in the swale and released and have been about eight or ten feet, which is what I thought would happen. Get to 17 and it is 215 and I hit a little 5-iron. Again, that's a long ways to hit a 5-iron. I just didn't expect it to fly that far. I hit it very solid and it got up in the air and the ball kept sailing, it's going a long ways. It looked like it was coming down right on the pin but with that much elevation change, it's very difficult to decipher and it flew just a little too far. I don't think it is because the greens were firmer than expected. They were still receptive and held the shot okay, they just flew a little longer than I thought.
Q. A lot of players come here and talk almost civil about the need to play one shot at a time. I've never heard you use that phrase. You talk about the big picture what you want to accomplish. Does that reveal something about your personality and how your mind works?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's just that I'm trying to say something a little different, because you hear it from everybody. I hope that's appreciated. (Laughter.) But I just try to say it in a roundabout way, a little bit different way. (Laughter.)
Q. You had a couple shots from the fairway today that was a little rolly, could have both gone in the hole. Another guy hits a shot on the par 3 that stays in the hole. At some point do you feel like the golf gods have to start shining towards you?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I feel better today than tomorrow. It's better that that stuff happens today, than tomorrow.
Q. If I may, going back to your great iron play, is that a result -- and so often overlooked by everybody else, is that a result of a great communication between you and Bones and the great preparation he does before each round; and what is setup yardage-wise between you guys?
PHIL MICKELSON: Bones is an incredible caddy. He does a great job and a great job of pulling clubs. Certainly, getting the right club for the great yardage is a challenge. The reason I feel I've been able to get the ball close to the hole is I've worked all year controlling trajectory and spin rate and if anybody would actually have the opportunity to go out and watch a round you would notice different trajectories of shots coming into the greens with different spin rates, and it's tough to pick that up on television. You just can't -- you can't decipher it because you can't just see what the flight is doing, you can't see how penetrating it is and at what altitude it is. The reason I've been able to get at a number of pins, for example, 13 where the pin is back and I knocked it eight or ten feet was because into the wind I was able to drive the ball and penetrate it and take some of the spinoff. Previously would I not have been able to do that. I would have thrown it up in the air trying to land it behind the hole in that four-yard gap and possibly airmailed it over the green and had a tough up-and-down. Consequently, I would have played 20, 25 feet short. So being able to work from underneath the hole, being able to bring the ball in lower with less spin and having it release back to the pin or more penetrating into the wind has allowed me to attack a number more pins.
Q. Did you hear the roar on 15 after David's hole-in-one, and did you have any idea what was going on when you heard the cheer?
PHIL MICKELSON: I heard the roar. I figured that it was something like what happened to me at 14, where the ball almost went in, just didn't. It certainly was loud, but it didn't sound like a hole-in-one roar.
Q. What is the state of your game now, compared to when you went into the final round of the Masters? How would you compare it?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's tough to say. I don't know. It's not -- it's not a tournament I want to dwell on right now.
Q. How often do you and Bones play baseball toss before?
PHIL MICKELSON: Quite a bit. We do. We bring our gloves to every tournament we go to.
Q. You've been coming in here on Saturdays a number of times over the last couple of years. Is that part of what starts to wear on you? Is this getting harder and harder each time for you to come and do this and answer the same questions over and over?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes and no. The longer it goes on, certainly, the more difficult it could be; but also, I know what to expect and I'm able to anticipate it, so it doesn't come as a shock or a surprise.
Q. You are two shots back going into the last round. It seems like in majors guys have tended to do the better the last day being a shot or two behind as opposed to being in the lead. Are you happy about where you are and not worried about having the onus going into the last round?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would much rather have the lead. There's no question I would much rather have two shots to work with rather than be trailing by two. There's nothing I can do right now other than prepare for tomorrow's round and see if I can attack, which is what I need to do, and make some birdies and catch David, because the way he is playing, he is probably not going to make bogeys. And even if he does, there are guys right behind myself that have a great opportunity to catch us, so it's important to get off to a good start and it's important to be patient throughout the 18 holes and try to make some birdies to catch David.
Q. A baseball follow-up question. Is that just to relax and get loose? Is that the reason you guys do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. It loosens up my rotator cup cuff. Plus, I've been working on my fork ball. (Laughter.)
Q. On TV they said you changed putters for this round. Why, and what made you do that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I did. I have 2 putters that I use, and just one putts a straighter roll on it and 1-putts more of a hooked roll. So if I'm hooking the ball a little, I'll go back to the putter that straight rolls it a little bit; and if I'm pushing it a little bit, I'll go back to the one that hook-rolls it. I just interchange those two. The blade tends to square up more easily so it has more of a hook roll, whereas those face-balanced, perimeter-weighted putters tend to go through more stable or straighter and give it a straighter roll.
JULIUS MASON: Thanks, Phil.
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