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March 7, 2001

Phil Mickelson


JOAN V.T. ALEXANDER: We'd like to thank Phil Mickelson for joining us here in the interview room today for a few minutes. This is Phil's second time here at the Honda Classic but his first time here at TPC at Heron Bay. You went out there and played the course yesterday, played today. How do you look at the week ahead?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we are going to have a very interesting week. We have a wonderful golf course. It's in great shame so I think it is going to be a fun week. The greens are just fabulous and depending on how hard the wind blows will depend on how low the scores are.

Q. Historically how have you played in a Florida event in March when the wind blows like it can from Doral all the way up to THE PLAYERS?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really haven't played too much in Florida because I play a very full West Coast schedule and consequently I take a week or two off before I head over here. Oftentimes I am only in Florida to play Bay Hill and THE PLAYERS which typically isn't too windy. I played here at Western Hills it was very windy that year. I didn't play very well. So I am looking -- one of the reasons I came here this week is I wanted to play in windier conditions and I knew that Heron Bay would provide me that opportunity. I have been working this year with -- as you know with Rick Smith one of the things we have been working on is some shots for wind. I wanted to basically have an opportunity to test those out.

Q. Is that a part of your game that you thought needed strengthening then?

PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit, yes, I have never really putted well into the wind and I have never really -- I have not struck the ball as well as I would like to into the wind. As I have been improving in my golf swing and in my ball-striking I found that I have been playing better in the wind. So I wanted to play with some windier conditions.

Q. Is that more of a mental thing when you are putting with the wind or does it physically affect the shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: It physically affects it. With the greens being as fast as they are it affects it quite a bit. With about a 15-foot putt it affects it about six, eight inches what I was finding on the practice green yesterday depending on how strong the wind was blowing. A putt that was an inch or two outside the right edge with wind it was two or three inches outside the left edge. So it varied quite a bit.

Q. Can you talk about winning at Bay Hill, what that meant since you don't play Florida that much?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I enjoyed winning Bay Hill in 1997. If you remember Arnold Palmer had his illness and it was his first week back really. He played and he was there to hand out the trophy. It was a very special week because we weren't sure if we would have him around. To have him play and be healthy and be a part of the tournament again that is what made it special. Not so much because I had not won in Florida before.

Q. Where does winning THE PLAYERS Championship rest in your list of priorities of things you haven't accomplished yet?

PHIL MICKELSON: One of the top. I think that as a player we tend to look at THE PLAYERS Championship as a more exclusive or important tournament than other people not in the game or not heavily involved in the game because it is our championship and it is the best field that we play all year. We have just about everybody in the Top-100 in the world ranking for the most part come and play. So it has a very special feeling. I have not played the TPC Sawgrass that effectively. I have had a couple good finishes but I really haven't played it that well. So I would like to change that.

Q. Is there a shot out there, is there a hole out there that maybe cost you in the past?

PHIL MICKELSON: There hasn't been one particular hole as much as it has been very penalizing off the tee. It is an open golf course. There is huge fairways really. But in you do miss-hit a few of them way off-line then the penalty is so severe that you often are looking at double bogeyed as opposed to just a par or bogey. So the reason I am looking forward to playing there now is I feel like my mishits have been much more in control and in play. I think that I will be able to minimize my mistakes there.

Q. You may have touched on this a little bit earlier, but a lot of the top players played Doral, they are taking this week off then going back to Bay Hill. You are doing the opposite. I am curious about your own thinking in planning your schedule.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played some tournaments on the West Coast and I wanted a little time off. Then what I am doing now is starting this week to prepare for a 5 week tournament stint that culminates with Augusta. I could have stayed at home this week and practiced, but Rick Smith is out here in Florida and this gives me an opportunity to work with him. So now I have been able to spend the last couple of days with him making sure that my foundation, the fundamentals are in place. So that for the next four weeks that in practicing I am practicing on the right things. So that was really the big reason that I wanted to come out here was to make sure that fundamentally I was starting on the right foot. If I were home practicing on the wrong things when I came out to play next week, I would be trying to overcome all the faults that I had worked into my swing. So now I feel like I am starting on the right foot. I am excited about playing and these next 5 weeks are very easy tournaments to play because the proximity is so close together.

Q. Where is your game after the time off right now?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is not too bad. I feel like I am playing pretty well but what will happen is after not being in competition or contention for some time, I don't tend to score that well early on. So Thursday and Friday what I am going to try and do is not go really low. I am not trying to be the leader or anything, I am just going to try to play solid and get myself in position for Saturday and Sunday minimizing mistakes. I am not going to try to birdie every hole, make a lot of pars there, few birdies; see if I can get in contention for Saturday because I feel Saturday is when I will start to feel comfortable with my game and comfortable with the competitive nature of this tournament.

Q. Do you remember the first time you teste a ProV1; how many swings did it take you to realize that this was going to be a pretty good ball?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was back in July. Actually back in June just prior to the British Open and I saw right away after hitting it for about 10, 15 minutes that it was going to have a very important role in my game. I don't know how else to say it other than it looked like in testing it -- not knowing what ball it was, in a blind test with other golf balls, other brands, it looked like it was almost a magic ball. It performed the best in every category that I tested from trajectory and spin into the greens, to wedge play, to driver distance. So consequently it is a good ball.

Q. This was other brands beyond Titleist?


Q. You actually tested it blind; there were no markings?


Q. Is it possible for you to guess how many yards in distance you have gotten on the average out of this?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well I probably got a little bit more than most because I went from the Prestige to the V1. Most people went from the Professional to the V1. I think there is a little less difference between the Professional and the V1. The Professional goes a little further. I felt like I picked up a little bit more. Now it is difficult to tell right now, but you know it is hard to say exactly but it has been a decent amount.

Q. If you were advising a high handicap golfer what ball to hit how do they know if they were not able to do a blind test and hit a ball without a brand of the Top 5, 6 brands how would they know which is right for a 20-handicapper?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, typically -- I don't know what ball would be greatest for the 20-handicapper but I do know this: When an individual walks into a pro shop and they ask the pro for a sleeve of balls, the first question the pro asks is: Do you want to have spin around the greens or do you want to have distance off the tee. And this ball performs the best at both. It goes longer than any other ball and it spins better around the greens than any other ball. So what other ball are you going to sell him?

Q. Since you have been out on Tour is this ball the biggest technical advancement, I mean --?

PHIL MICKELSON: No question. It is the only -- this golf ball works conversely to every other golf ball that has ever been made. The harder you hit any golf ball the more it spins. It is just natural, you take a little wedge and you chip it doesn't have nearly as much spin as if you hit it full. This ball works opposite of that. The harder you hit it the less it spins. So consequently off the tee the ball jumps off the face with very little spin and bores through the air and flies forever. Around the greens when you are hitting a little wedge not creating near the club head speed, it grips the face, spins tremendous around the greens.

Q. What golfers are talking about is that they probably could get at pins that they couldn't before?

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure, because it would stop. It launches a little bit higher because of the core. It jumps in the air. Starts low, kind of rises, then falls. This ball jumps up and falls in more vertically with a little bit less spin than some of the wound balls but because it is coming in more vertically it stops much better especially on firmer greens because you are using altitude as well as spin not just spin.

Q. You may feel free to decline this but I know -- the situation with the problems that David Duval is going through this year have you chatted with him about it and do you think it is just a temporary setback like anybody else out here is going to have?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't chatted with him about it. Really it is just none of my business so I have stayed out of it. I certainly have my own opinions about what is going on but nothing that I feel is fair to voice publicly.

Q. Do you feel that somebody with his track record there are going to be 6-week periods where somebody is not going to play well or do you think --?

PHIL MICKELSON: That happens to everybody. Everybody is going to go through cycles just at different levels. Some players it will be -- they might miss 6 cuts in a row but at Tiger's level - well, he hasn't won in 6 tournaments. So we look at that as being a slump even though he has finished in the Top 5 just about every week. It is just different levels. Everybody will not play to their capabilities for six weeks all the time for what reason nobody really knows. Is it really the legal problems that are causing David's play? I don't know. It may just be that he took some time off; doesn't feel right or the putter is not getting it in the hole or whatever it is. I don't know.

Q. When you went through periods of time where you weren't playing well to the point where you missed a cut here and there, not just a long period of time without winning, was there something in common that happened to you just putting problems, short game problems?

PHIL MICKELSON: Typically what happened with me in 99 when I did not win was I became very impatient. I tried to force things. The longer I went without winning the more I tried to force birdies. More I thought about the leaderboard and focused on external thoughts, external variables that I had no control over - like what so and so is doing; how many under he is. When I started winning all those things didn't matter anymore. Only thing that mattered was trying to get the ball in the fairway or trying to birdie this hole or trying to get an iron shot close. My patience and focus became more present tense as opposed to future.

Q. What gets you out of that vicious cycle of trying too hard?

PHIL MICKELSON: That is a good question. It's not the easiest thing to get out of, tough to get out of.

Q. Do you just find yourself out of it one day?

PHIL MICKELSON: You have to let go of the result. Think about process. That is the only thing that you can do. Not worry about winning; not worry about finishing Top-10; not worrying about making a birdie; worrying about hitting a good shot; making a good swing.

Q. How much of that applies to your playing majors too is that a part of -- making things happen?

PHIL MICKELSON: The thing about a major championship for me is that majors requires a lot of patience, but it also requires a very conservative style of play, keep the ball in the fairway, keep it in play, make a lot of pars. I like to try to make a bunch of birdies so my aggressive nature doesn't necessarily suit some of the major setups. I think that the only one that it may suit is Augusta National because the par 5s can be attacked and can get to a lot of pins there. And make some birdies if you hit the ball well. So I feel like that probably presents the best opportunity for me to break through and win. The U.S. Open is a very difficult tournament for me to break through because the rough is so high, and the greens are so small and firm that you have to try to make a lot of pars. Well, the one week that I played very well there was in 99 when they shaved the areas around the green and brought short game into play. They tested all parts of a player's game. That was the week that I played the best. It becomes very one-dimensional at times when it is such thick rough that you have no control out of it. And driving the ball is like driving with two red lines down each fairway. So Pinehurst was a very good venue for me because the short game became an integral part of it.

Q. Have you played with Joe Durant at all this year?

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't but I will play with him tomorrow.

Q. No matter how much you and Tiger were examples of guys that have had success out here, is it good for the Tour to have a Joe Durant who got knocked down a couple of times actually quit the game on a professional level to come back and do this; is that also good for the game?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't see how it could be bad. I think it is tremendous. I love the story. I think it is a great story. I think that we have had some really cool stories out here. In fact, a tremendous story of a guy that has never won that you have probably never heard of, Toledo, what a great book written about his story coming out of Mexico; what his childhood was like and overcoming that and being astar on the PGA TOUR or PGA TOUR player is incredible. There is a lot of great stories amongst individuals that are out here on Tour but a lot of times we don't hear of them or know of them because they may not be winning.

Q. You played a few rounds with Aaron Baddeley. How would you assess his game and the way his career seems to be as sending?

PHIL MICKELSON: He is fundamentally one of the most sound players that you will see and so the more time that he plays, longer he plays, the better he will get. He does not ever have to go through a period where he plays poorly to make corrections. Like Nick Faldo did in the 80s he already is fundamentally sound as a player can be. His game is all fine-tunement and all preparation and just getting the game out. Playing his best. Because he has the capability. He is going to be a tremendous player. I think that he is going to be a tremendous player for quite sometime.

Q. Offer him any advice as to what to face on the Tour here in the States?

PHIL MICKELSON: We have spent some time together, really nothing that I am going to say that is going to make a difference, but I have enjoyed playing with him and it helps me because when I see how hard he works and when I see how good he is, it pushes me to work harder and to continue to practice and work on my game so I can try stay ahead. There is a crop of some really good young players that are coming out that are all about 20 years old, give or take a year or two. Obviously Tiger is a heck of a player, best player in the world, he is only 24, but if you look at Aaron Baddeley, Adam Scott who are here this week as well as Paul Casey here this week. Dave Gossett, amateur champion, Charles Howell who we all know he lost his card. These guys have tremendous talent. These are the guys you are going to see in the next five to eight years overcome and start winning -- I mean overcome a lot of the players of today and start winning week-in and week-out, be in contention.

Q. Are you starting to feel like an old veteran?

PHIL MICKELSON: I am 30. It wasn't that long ago where I was the new kid on the block. Certainly I feel I am a veteran player with guys that aren't even able to legally drink. It is different because guys are bypassing a lot of the collegiate ranks. If you look at Charles Howell, he came out early, so did David Gossett. You have got Sergio Garcia. Did I mention Sergio earlier? If I didn't, I meant to because Sergio is one of those same guys. But it is just that he has been out here now a couple of years, but he turned pro what 18, 19 years old, so these guys just have tremendous talent, but they are not going to college so because they are not going to college, we are hearing about them at a younger age. They are turning pro younger. It is not like the normal college player 22, 23 trying to make a start on Tour. These guys are in their teens. I am not saying it is good or bad, it is just that they are so good at a young age, it is tremendous to see their talent. Keep an eye on them.

End of FastScripts....

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