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April 5, 2001

Phil Mickelson


P. DAN YATES: Everybody, it's just great to have Phil Mickelson here today, with a great 5-under today. He's going to make a few comments before y'all really have a go at him.

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly am pleased to have shot 5-under today to get off to a good start. I felt that today was the day to score low, if you were going to do it. Golf course was playing longer than I've played it in the past, but because the greens were fairly receptive due to the rain we've had, you could get at some of the pins and make some birdies so today was really the day to score low. I think as the week wears on, it will progressively play more difficult.

Q. You talked yesterday about when to be aggressive; when to be patient. How did that translate into today's round and your scoring?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, starting out, I didn't really attack too many pins. I wasn't really feeling as though I had total control over where the ball was going and where I was missing it, so I didn't really do too much the first eight, nine holes. I started to feel a little bit better around the turn. I started to hit some good shots. When I bogeyed 11, I hit -- that was by far the poorest swing of the day, a little wedge there, but I still felt as though I could get at some pins, and on 12, I hit a good 8-iron and made a 2 there, which is really a bonus, to get one there. I ended up birdieing 12 through 15 being able to get at some pins.

Q. The other day you said something about being 30 and not having won a major. How much do you think about that? Like last night were you able to block that out or was that on your mind?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think really about what's happened the last eight or nine years, and having not won. I'm trying to focus on how I want to go out coming out on top on Sunday; how to shoot the lowest round today and where to try to attack and where to try to accept par and let other players make mistakes. Today it was a successful day, and I've got three more days of that, but really, my mindset is not what has gone on the last eight or nine years, but I'm going to try to come out on top on Sunday.

Q. Is that easy to do, to block out negatives?

PHIL MICKELSON: Whether it is hard or easy doesn't really matter. I still need to get it done.

Q. A little bit of a repeat about the question of being patient, were there any moments today on any holes in particular, where you particularly did rack it pack and maybe not go at a pin you would have in previous years?

PHIL MICKELSON: 7 would be an example. It was a pin where the pin was on the back of the green and it was more difficult to get at that one. Rather than try to fly it all the way back and let it come down the hill and bring the bunker into play and a possible 5, I ended up trying to fly to the pin and take some of the pin off of it - although I didn't take much of the spin off it -- and I was able to roll it down to the slope and 2-putt and make par. Where the pin was, it was not the easiest birdie. In fact, 12 was probably an easier birdie than 7, because 12 had the pin just over the right side of the bunker. So you could attack the pin and if you came up slightly short and it was on line, it would end up in the bunker. I think that each hole changes as to whether or not it is a birdie hole, depending on where the pin is.

Q. You said it was the fairest conditions. Does that -- is that a synonym for "Easiest" or did they try to make up for the soft greens by sticking flags in corners where they would not not --

PHIL MICKELSON: I really thought that the pin placements were the same that we have seen every year, and there were not any surprises. They were the same pins, fair pins. And I thought that with the greens having just a little bit more moisture, on the high spots where the pins were up top you could stop the ball somewhat close to the hole; where, in the years past, when they dry up they are very difficult, and as the week wears on they will dry out and they will be more difficult. We'll see a lot less birdies as the week wears on.

Q. How difficult is this golf course in these kind of conditions? Are all of the players out there thinking: This is the day we have to get it?

PHIL MICKELSON: This golf course is difficult, period. When we play with the moisture, it's -- it's the least difficult that it will play. But as the greens get firmer, the defense mechanism of the course gets harder, or steps up. And gets to be as difficult as any course, as we play.

Q. The first couple of drives, did you have to get your bearings straight a little bit? What did you do?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, right now, that's -- if I'm missing it left like that, that's a sign that I'm swinging well. If you watch me hit balls, if you see me missing it right, I'm not swinging it well. If I'm missing into a fade, I'm swinging well. Although I did not release the club very well the first two drives, thereafter, I was able to release the club as hard as I wanted to and it would not hook. So that's really what I'm looking for and that's what enabled me later in the round to attack some pins, knowing that on 16, I'm not going to miss it two yards right, that is a sign that I'm actually swinging well.

Q. Driscoll, the Amateur, shot 4-under today. Do you remember what the mindset was like when you came here as an amateur?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's awesome. Isn't that pretty cool? When I came here and played in '91 as an amateur, the course played very similar to today. It had just rained overnight and the subtleties of the course, or the real challenge around the greens was there, but it was not as hard as it normally is on Saturday and Sunday and I was able to shoot a few under par. I think that it is really cool to see a few guys play well. DiMarco, it is his first competitive round here. I think that's really exciting. And to see amateurs play well, that's really what this tournament is about, bringing the professionals and amateurs together. That's why this tournament was really created, to bring all of the great players together, and to be able to have the best amateurs in the country compete and for us to be able to compete against them does not happen very often, and it's nice that we have this opportunity here.

Q. How many holes did you think were birdie pins out there today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there were a few holes that -- that's hard to give you a specific number. But I would say this: If you look at holes 7 and 8. 8 is a great example, that top right pin is by far the toughest pin on that green, and I would say three out of the four days, 8 is a hole where you can birdie and today it was not a hole that was going to be birdie that often. And so, if you hit it on the front part of the green or to the right of the green, you just can't get it down in 2. So you have to accept par and it sometimes is difficult on holes like 8, when you expect birdie. 12 is a hole where we are just trying to make 3. It's one of the most difficult shots in the game of golf. There's so little area to hit the ball. Well, today, without any wind and with the greens being somewhat receptive and having the pin right behind the bunker to help protect from going in the water, all of a sudden that became a very possible birdie hole. I would say that the next three day, 12 won't be a birdie hole. 12, a 3 would be an incredible score. I think that it's very interesting how the character of each hole plays out differently with different pin placements.

Q. On Tuesday, you talked about how your game obviously has been very good this year, and that you felt like this might be your time. Just wondering, taking advantage of the conditions today and playing as well as you did, where that puts your mindset, how it advances your mindset, perhaps?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would say that in past years, when I played a good round it, was sometimes a hit or miss. I didn't know what was going to happen tomorrow or so forth. I don't feel that way. I don't have that anxiety or doubt as to what is going to happen tomorrow. I have been playing well day-in and day-out, much more consistently than I have in years past. I feel like my golf swing is to a point where the misses are much more controllable and don't seem to be nearly as wild as in years past. Consequently, I am not overly anxious or wondering what may happen tomorrow. I feel very confident that I will be able to come out tomorrow and play well again and hit good golf shots and make good decisions. So I would say that I am much more relaxed in the time span between rounds, where in the past, it has sometimes been difficult.

Q. How did you play 2 and 3 and were the characteristics of the course a result of how you played?

PHIL MICKELSON: I played 3 slightly different than I was going to and I'll tell you why. On 2, I drove it left and it went down into the hazard, and I played it out with a sand wedge, and my sand wedge broke because there were a bunch of rocks and I hit some rocks and it bent and broke. I was able to hit the shot out across the fairway. I hit a 6-iron into the left front bunker. Knocked a good bunker shot to five feet and make it for par. So No. 3, which I would normally hit 3-wood down there to get sand wedge in, obviously that wasn't going to happen today. So I took a 2-iron, played it back just a little bit and I had a gap wedge in, which is right between my sand and pitching. Hit a good gap in; flew it behind the hole and spun it back to that front right pin to about three or four feet straight up the hill.

Q. Were there many other occasions where you wished you had the sand wedge?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. That was really the only time. That was the other club I had originally taken out. I took out the 5-iron today, but when my sand wedge broke I was able to put it back in my game. Consequently, I needed it on 13. So, the sand wedge was a club that I was contemplating taking out, because it seems as though there are very few par 4s, as the course has been playing longer where I have sand wedge in, and the par 5, I am not -- I should be able to get at in 2, and if not have L-wedge in. So, I'll be taking, there's a good chance I'll take sand wedge out tomorrow. Although, it's funny, the Titleist rep saw what was happening in the locker room and they were having one sent out, so I'll have it in the morning.

Q. Can you just finish that up? When you get in a bunker without a sand wedge --

PHIL MICKELSON: I use my L-wedge. In fact, that's why I hit my sand wedge out with the water; I had a feeling it would break with the rocks. I didn't want to mess up my L-wedge. It's hard to replace that.

Q. So you're carrying four wedges?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I've been playing with four wedges for some time. Just taking out -- sometimes I take out a wedge or sometimes I take out a long or a mid-iron.

Q. On the venues for the majors, how does this one set up? Is this your best chance?

PHIL MICKELSON: By far. Sure. I don't think that I could dispute that. I think that this is by far the best opportunity to win a major. Very few times have U.S. Opens been set up the way they have been at Pinehurst where short game is an integral part of the tournament. I am going to spend some more time over in the British to get acclimated to those golf course courses and the style of play and keeping the ball down and so forth. The PGA, it's hard to get a feel for what type of shots will be needed there because it seems like the courses change every year. But this tournament is very consistent, where a short game is an integral part of it. Chipping and putting is one of the big -- well, it's the biggest part of this tournament, as well as driving the ball a good distance. So I feel like this golf course fits very comfortable to my game. I like the way the holes shape. Having the right-to-left holes where I can cut it are not really distance holes. You don't have to hit the ball a long way on 10 or 13. And the holes where you do have to turn it left-to-right, on 18 and 1, I feel very comfortable doing that. I like the course from tee-to-green and around the greens.

Q. Concentration has been described as keeping your mind on the shot as hand, and guys will say -- if you start running a string of birdies, do you think: "Boy, I'm on a run now" or are you able to think, "just hit the next shot"?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, if it were a regular Tour event, I would be thinking about attacking each pin and on each shot I would be thinking aggressively. When we play here, the difficulty that I've run into in the past is that if I get into, "Let's make birdie and hit this shot close," and lose track of what the trouble surrounding the green is, it ultimately takes me from making birdie into making bogey. So although I was making some birdies and I birdied 12 and 13. And I ended up birdieing 14. Just after the drive in the left trees, I was just trying to make sure that I made par and try to attack on another hole. 15 is another example. Here, I've got a 6-iron into a par 5 and I should be thinking 3, because I've been hitting the ball well. And I played 30, 40 feet right of the pin to give myself a little extra depth and actually just playing for a 4. So, I guess to answer your question, yes, I'm in the here, and now and I'm trying to attack the pin, but I need to be a little bit leery, or careful, as to which holes I want to do that.

P. DAN YATES: Anymore questions anybody? Right here, please.

Q. I guess this is first time you used this new Titleist ball on this course, did it help or will it help more on firm greens?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it helps on both conditions, but I think on firm greens, on the performance of what they call Drop-and-Stop, where it launches more vertically or launches higher and comes into the greens more vertically, I think it will be a little bit easier to get the ball stopped around some of the pins where the greens are as hard as they normally get.

Q. Hootie Johnson announced yesterday that that they were going to make significant changes to the par 4s, toughen them up. And if you had to toughen up a par 4, which one would it be and how would you do it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know which one I would necessarily toughen up, because each one has developed their own character over the years. I understand the feelings of wanting to make the course play longer, with some of the technological advances that we've had, and we've seen some changes. It's not as though it's anything new. There's an argument to keep the course the way it was many years ago, but the fact is that the course has evolved every year to where it is now. It is important to the history of the game to have this golf course continue to play difficult for the top players. And so, we've seen changes, like on 15 and 17, obviously, and we have seen changes on 2, which makes that hole play much more difficult. I don't know which par 4 I would -- I would think that 14 would be the easiest one to make play longer, just because you have another 80 yards behind that tee box where the grandstands are. Now, I don't know what their current plans are, but just looking logistically, that would be the easiest one. I really don't have feelings either way on changes or not. I think that in the last five or six years, the golf course has played much shorter than it played for the players in the 50s, 60s and 70s. So I don't have a problem with hitting mid- to -- mid-irons into the par 4s; whereas, right now we are hitting really short irons.

Q. Doesn't length play to your advantage and Tiger's advantage and Duval's and Love's?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's very possible. It's very possible that that could be the case. If you add a lot of length to 5 and 14 where the greens are very undulated, all of the sudden you are coming into these greens with a 4- or 5-iron. I think there is a big advantage hitting a 7- or 8-iron over a long iron, no question. A mid to short iron, you can fly the ball up top and get the ball stopped. A long iron, I don't know if that's possible. It just depends on what holes get lengthened. But I'm kind of excited to see what the outcome is.

Q. You've had a couple good Masters before. Is there one that you particularly think that you let get away?

PHIL MICKELSON: There may be one or two, but I'd prefer not to really dwell on the last seven or eight years. I'd like to think about this year right now. But maybe after the tournament, I wouldn't mind discussing a few of them. (Laughter.)

P. DAN YATES: Thank you very much, Phil.

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