April 7, 2001
P. DAN YATES: We have Phil Mickelson with a great 68 and I'm going to ask him, as usual, to say a few comments before you all have a go at it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I ended up shooting 3-under par today with a few mistakes, but I was able to off-set with some birdies and I'm looking forward to having an opportunity to play in the final group tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about coming back from a couple of those bogeys, the putt on the last hole and how important that was?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I knew that heading into 17, I needed to birdie 17 and 18 to get in the last group and I felt like that would be important, because I did not want to have what happened to me at Bay Hill happen again, where he knew what he had to do with a couple holes left and ultimately came through with a birdie. I wanted to be playing with him, and know where we stand and not only that, know where the rest of the field stands, because there's a lot of guys who potentially could win this golf tournament.
Q. On the double on 14, you yesterday, you said, well, I'm glad it happened early and something I could recover from -- today was -- (Inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: When I'm playing I'm not really thinking about if I have enough time or not. I'm just trying to get the job done, no matter what it takes. I am just trying to get the score in. I ultimately birdied 17 and 18 to do that. Certainly, it's not ideal to make double-bogey. That's not my plan of action. But I feel as though there are enough holes to recover, and tomorrow will be an important day. I don't really have too many opportunities to let slide away like that. If I'm going to come out on top tomorrow, I don't really need to play any different. I just need to reduce the mistake a touch. Turn the double into a bogey. I'm going to hit bad shots. I'm not perfect and I'm going to miss putts. I will make bogeys. But if I can just reduce it and take a 6 into a 5, I should be able to overcome that much easier with a birdie or two.
Q. You talked about reducing mistakes, you've talked about that autumn week. In hindsight, if you could play the third shot on 14 again -- I know you are as good as anybody at the lob shot, but would you change that? (Inaudible)
PHIL MICKELSON: I would say to answer the latter part of that question, the miss-hit shot does not have to be very big. That shot on 14 was a foot from becoming somewhat close to the hole or having a pretty easy par. It looked like it was going to stay up top and it didn't and it came back down and all of the sudden I've got a very difficult 4. Would I hit that shot differently? Looking at it, if you look at the shot, there was a ridge, and if I went left of the ridge, it is going to being right back down and if I go right back of the ridge it is going to go 30 feet by. I had a 30-footer anyways up the hill. So I felt like the shot I played was not an unintelligent shot. It didn't come off that badly. It just was 30 feet and I 3-putted. It is going to be a difficult four that I thought I could have made a 4 no problem. To be honest with you, I was expecting to miss, with as hard that ground it; I expected to miss a little bit long. I did not think I could get underneath it.
Q. Can you talk about what it will mean just for your confidence and your mental state tomorrow to know that you are one shot behind Tiger at the TOUR Championship and went on to beat him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I certainly have a lot of respect for Tiger as a player and as a person and what he goes through day-in and day-out and what he has accomplished in the game of golf. With that being said, I've been able to go head-to-head with him and come out on top a few times. I do have confidence that I can prevail tomorrow. So, I'm looking forward to the challenge. Not only that, I feel like I've been playing well the last year and a half and my ball-striking has improved to the point where I feel very comfortable that it will be there when I need it. And I'm not overly anxious the way I have been in years past, heading into tomorrow.
Q. Can you talk about No. 8 and 3-putting, how far was the first putt?
PHIL MICKELSON: About six feet.
Q. Can you take us through it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was obviously downhill and quick, and I tried to make it, and it slid by about three feet and I missed it coming back. I don't know what else to say. I hit the first putt very easy. I tried not to go at it, just trickle it in. I had a pretty good read and it just didn't do what I thought it would. Just missed it coming back. It was a poor second putt. It didn't go ridiculously far, five -- just three feet.
Q. At 9, was that a big thing to rebound like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, it helps with me being patient. If I can get a birdie back in the next few holes, it makes being patient much easier.
Q. Can you talk about the difference between last year and this year? Can you talk about your mindset going into tomorrow, and why your mind set is --
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I feel very confident tomorrow, because I've been playing well this last year and a half, and the swing changes that I have made, I feel like a much more consistent ball striker day-in and day-out and I feel like I have become a more consistent putter as well. So the anxiety that I would have between rounds on whether or not it would be there tomorrow, is really no longer there. I feel very comfortable that when I get on the tee tomorrow, it will be there.
Q. One of the things that Chris DiMarco said that was sort of intimidating about playing with Tiger is that, you know, Chris has got 6-, 7-irons in, and Tiger is hitting sand wedges, pitching wedges, just blowing it by him. In terms of length, do you think that is going to be an issue as to who is going to be first away tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON: I'll be first away. (Laughter.) There's no question on that. Most of the holes that you will see a big difference in distance will be the right-to-left holes because he will be hitting a draw, to my cut. On the left-to-right holes, I don't think you'll see too big of a difference when he is having to cut it, to my draw. But holes like 5, he'll be well by me, and holes like, I guess, 18 - 18 he is hitting driver and I'm hitting iron or 3-wood. There will be a big difference there.
Q. Talk a little bit about the psychology of that, hitting first into greens? Do you put pressure on him?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well it depends how close you hit it. Hit it close, sure. If not, you give him a free reign at it. I'm not overly concerned about the distance barrier tomorrow. I think that all of the par 5's will be reachable for both of us. He might have a shorter iron in. The par 5's -- the par 4's, he might have a shorter iron in, but it won't be anything that could not be overcome.
Q. Are you mentally a different golfer than two, three, four years ago?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. Not only mentally but physically.
Q. Is there more of a mental toughness to you out there than there has been four or five years ago?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly. You could attribute it to mental toughness or you could attribute it to improved ball-striking, improved putting. I think I would attribute it to the latter.
Q. Do you have to guard against maybe locking into a match-play mentality?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think Tiger or I will approach tomorrow as match play. If you look on the board, there are some guys behind that are incredible players, that are going to have an opportunity to get out 40 minutes in front of us, make a run, make birdies early; and all of the sudden, before we tee off we could be trailing. So I don't think the approach, by either of us, will be match play at all. Maybe on the back nine if we both shoot 4- or 5-under on the front it might turn into something like that, but I don't anticipate that being the atmosphere.
Q. Talk about the mental changes you made. What sort of swing changes, technique?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's a bunch of little things to go into, but just basically becoming more fundamentally sound. I think if you look at videotape from this year's tournament, let's say, and you look back at 1996 when I won four times and you look at my swing from behind and face on, you'll see a huge difference. If you cannot see the difference, you haven't really spent too much time studying the swing, because you'll notice a swing plane difference; you'll notice a club face angle difference; you'll notice lower body action change; you'll notice an upper body action change. There's a lot of -- and they all work together. And so it is hard to say one without the other. Just a number of things.
Q. How badly do you want this tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that's pretty obvious one to answer. Desperately want this. Very much so. I've said all along that I feel like this provides me with the best opportunity, and it is something that I've been looking forward to for some time to finally break through. I have been preparing, not just this past year, not just this past ten years, but since I was a little kid, picking up range balls at a driving range so I could practice as much as I needed to, dreaming of this day. And so tomorrow is a very important day for me.
Q. Can you take us shot-by-shot on 17 and 18?
PHIL MICKELSON: 17, I hit driver and 9-iron from 140 to 15 feet and made that for birdie. 18, hit 2-iron off the tee and 8-iron to the ten feet and made that for birdie.
Q. Does playing with Tiger in the final day affect your aggressiveness, as opposed to playing with anyone else, even if it is subconscious?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. (Laughter.)
Q. You were about to say something? I would be interested to see what you would say?
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't want to short-change you on your answer. But basically, no. (Laughter.)
Q. You said the other day that the next ten years are important to you, how people are going to look at you and remember you. Does that make this final round of the Masters, whoever you are playing against, the biggest night of your life?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yes, because the way I look at it is the winner of this tournament doesn't just win a major. He becomes a part of the history of the game, and that's what I -- what excites me. This tournament creates -- it creates something that is very special, and year-in and year-out, history is made here. History of the game is made here, and I want to be a part of that. That's why this tournament means so much to me.
Q. Other than not having a beeper attached to your body, what is the difference between the way that you're focusing in on that versus Pinehurst, because you played so well at Pinehurst?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's really not too much difference. I felt like I went into Pinehurst with the sole ambition of winning, because I did not want to travel across the United States and leave my wife, who is due any week now, to just finish in the Top-10. I've been approaching the four majors differently this year, in that a lot of the preparation has been trying to find out what works best for me, and how to prepare best for these tournaments. I think I'm pretty close to finding out what that is, and I came here with the sole intention of winning, just like everybody else did. But I feel like this is the best opportunity for me to finally do that.
P. DAN YATES: It's been a long day for Phil. So let's have one more question right here. (Laughter).
Q. I wish I could make this a simple question, but I'm afraid it's a little beyond that. In watching Tiger in the last three, four years, and your preparation and your mindset for this moment, what have you learned from him?
PHIL MICKELSON: That for me to win, I have to strive to reach a different level of play, and I have to be able to attain it. And that means not worrying or thinking about other players. That means bringing my best game out, and that's -- that's something that's not always easy to do, but that's what I've been trying to learn from that.