August 9, 2001
GRAND BLANC, MICHIGAN
NELSON LUIS: Thanks for joining us. Obviously a good start for you to this tournament, important week for you. Why don't you give us some of your thoughts on how it went out there.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well obviously it went well today or I wouldn't be here tonight. I felt like it was a good day that I struck the ball well and hit some good shots; made some good putts, shot 7-under. I think that the golf course is playing wonderfully. It's in beautiful shape. Obviously we have had a drought. I think that the golf course is much more difficult than the scores are showing. And the reason is it's set up about as easy as a course could be because the fairways are dry, but the greens are holding. So it is playing short, we are having a lot of short irons in, but the greens are allowing us to get the ball close to the hole. The scores are just lower than I thought that they would have been. As a player that's great because every hole provides a birdie opportunity. It is very enjoyable. The greens are in perfect shape. They are rolling true. The fairways are immaculate. So it is very enjoyable to play -- it is just playing easier than I remember it playing.
NELSON LUIS: Questions.
Q. (Inaudible) off the tee well. On the front some big drives. (Inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: I wasn't trying to do anything exceptional but I hit two good drives on the par 5s on 1 and 7 was able to hit 6-irons into both and 2-putt birdied those. I birdied two other holes on the front side hitting a sand wedge to eight feet on No. 4 and hitting a pitching wedge to three feet on 6. So that gave me a good start on the front side. It is not as though as I was trying to crush it off the tee. I was just trying to keep it in play but again with the fairways being firm, the balls just bounding down there and the course is playing much shorter than I remember. I used to not be able to reach 7. It was a marginal hole for me to reach, but with the wind switching being an opposite wind, so it is downwind, the fairways being firm, I was able to get there with a 6-iron.
Q. Maybe the only guy out there today that had a gallery. Was that inspirational to you, people were applauding you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it is certainly a warm day to come out and watch golf, and we tee off at the height of it. So it is certainly flattering that people stuck around and watched the golf and watched our group. I thought it was a very enjoyable day. Yes, it was warm, but it seemed as though the breeze made the day pretty bearable.
Q. Looked -- (inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes and no. It's certainly difficult. It is a difficult psychological point of view to overcome knowing that having you hit a shot and you are 8 shots behind that's certainly difficult. But it's also part of playing the Tour. Something that we have to deal with, and something that what I try to do is just be patient, give myself all 18 holes to maybe make up that ground or maybe 36 holes or 54 holes and sometimes 72. Again, you can't win a tournament on Thursday but I feel as though a number of players, myself included, have put ourselves in good position and it is nice to have one good round already in the bag. Tomorrow is an important round for me because it provides me the best opportunity to go low with the greens being in great shape. Hopefully the wind has been a little bit calmer in the morning and I think the fairways will maybe not be quite as fast, which will allow balls to stay in the fairway and it will be a bit easier so tomorrow morning is the day that I really want to go low.
Q. You just answered my question about your 7:47 tee time or real early in the morning, does this course help you prepare for next week at all in terms of the way it sets up for you, the tree-lined fairways more like a PGA or U.S. Open type course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I try not to look at this tournament as being a warm-up for next week. I think that that kind of undermines the importance of this event and it is also not the mindset that I have. I am trying to focus in on this golf course, how to play it best and hit the shots that are needed here. I just -- I found that for me to play well or play my best in a major, I don't want to have 10 or 14 days without competitive golf. I find that having only three days without a competitive round keeps me a little bit sharper and when I tee up on Thursday, I am not nearly as anxious before I play or as nervous and so, I want to play the week before. But I certainly am not right now trying to think about Atlanta Athletic Club. I am thinking about Warwick Hills.
Q. You mentioned there was a time when you wouldn't think of reaching 16 in 7 as easily. You played here last year. Did you learn anything about this golf course last year because the ball's going further and these holes are getting shorter suddenly than you knew before last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing in particular. I just played a little bit better last year, and had a good round on Saturday that put myself up in contention. I think Rocco ran away with it there on Sunday. They started going low. I just couldn't -- just couldn't keep up. I think to me the way to play this golf course is you have to take advantage of the 4-par 5s and you have to take advantage of 12 and 14 the reachable par 4s. Right there are 6 very strong birdie opportunities. The holes that are not easy, such as the par 3, 8, such as the par 3, No. 3. Even 17, those holes and No. 15, some of those holes you have to be patient on and accept par. It is not the easiest thing to do when you see the guys are shooting 64s, 5s and 6s like it is nothing. So you have to capitalize on the holes that are set up for birdie and be patient on the other ones and accept par.
Q. I think statistics will show that 15 played easier than it usually does. Is there a reason for that?
PHIL MICKELSON: It played a lot shorter. I was downwind, it is typically into the wind; fairways were firm, we had opposite wind today than what I remember it being.
Q. You didn't exactly (inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: I was a little surprised it's this warm. I don't mind the heat at all. I definitely play better in heat because my muscles are looser. I am able to go out at it a little bit harder; balls fly better in heat than it does in cold and it flies a little straighter. Not only does it go farther but a lot straighter as well. So I don't mind the heat.
Q. As good as you are with the wedges, is driver a good gamble for you at 14?
PHIL MICKELSON: 12 and 14 I am -- I will hit driver just because I want to get as close to the hole as possible whether I am chipping out of the rough in the bunker or putting, I feel as though getting in it as close to the hole as possible provides me the best possible chance to get up-and-down. Sure, the middle of the fairway 60, 70 yards nice shot, not too difficult if you hit it 8 or ten feet, you think well, not a bad shot in, I am 30 feet off the edge and I hit it 8 or ten feet, I have hit a bad shot. I think it is easier for me to get up-and-down the closer to the hole I get.
Q. On what holes and what part of the course did your round mentally turn into a good one for you today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't think there's any one point. I felt like it was pretty patient round. I shot 4-under the front. I was 4-under the back until 18. I didn't do anything exceptional, have a hot run in there. I had just took advantage of the par 5s and birdied those 4, and birdied No. 12 which I was talking -- which was my fifth birdie; was able to get three in there elsewhere on some of the shorter par 4s. So it more just taking advantage of the par 5s, driving it well on those holes is critical. If you do that, you are already at 4-under, now you just need to be patient and shoot 66, 65.
Q. You mentioned earlier (inaudible) three days likely to get -- three days between competitive rounds, you played last week in Colorado, a lot of travelling, yet you still go low today. Talk about that.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was a lot of travel, and I actually played a par 3 tournament just prior to The INTERNATIONAL and so I played a lot the last two weeks, especially, and it wasn't the easiest thing. But I was able to get some good work done yesterday and felt as though a couple of changes that I made paid off today.
PHIL MICKELSON: Just it's hard to explain, but -- I don't know, a little shorter maybe, or just keeping a club on plane a little bit better as opposed to having it cross the lines, just --
Q. (Inaudible) when did you get here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Late Tuesday, I guess, Wednesday morning, Tuesday evening.
Q. Looking at the book the last few outings doesn't seemed like you have played very well, 71st at The INTERNATIONAL last week. How encouraging is it for you to get off to a good start here?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well it is nice because I didn't finish The INTERNATIONAL where I wanted to. I got off to a good start at The International as well, was playing well; then Saturday I played very poorly and I knew then that I needed to get some work done. So I was fortunate to spend sometime with Rick. He is from around here, he drove up, and what was nice to see some of the work pay off, and right now I am trying to get rhythm, get tempo down so that both my upper body and lower body are working together. That has kind have been the thought to having get in sync again and I felt like I hit some good shots today. I certainly had some shots that I didn't want, but I hit a lot more good shots than I probably expected.
Q. I know you said you are not viewing it as a warm-up to the PGA. How critical is it for you to go in next week on a roll, feeling good?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how important it is next week for me to play well or to not play well here. That is-- there's a plus to both sides. If I play well, yeah, I say I am going in with momentum. If I don't, I say I have a couple extra days to work on it and get comfortable. I don't know how important my performance -- in fact I don't think my performance here will have any effect on my performance next week. But what I am trying to do is get into a good mental frame of mind as well as a physical -- getting my physical game sharp, getting my short game sharp, putting sharp and ball-striking sharp. But if I do that well then I should be able to be in contention on Sunday.
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