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November 5, 2000

Phil Mickelson


LEE PATTERSON: Phil, congratulations. Wonderful display this week.


LEE PATTERSON: Couple of thoughts about what all of this means for you today; then we will open it up for questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this is a wonderful way to end the year. I am very excited with this finish and having won today, I am excited about the next two months, having those off, getting ready for 2001.

Q. Phil, in winning today, does it become something of a Tiger streak ended (inaudible) -- the 6 straight in San Diego, and you ended the streak of 19 in a row after leading after three rounds. Talk about the satisfaction of doing that besides what the win means to you?

PHIL MICKELSON: In regard to the streak that Tiger had, that was not something I have ever thought about until you just brought it up now. So it was never really something that I was aware of. I think that heading into today I know how tough Tiger is on the final day. I know how he has a tendency to go really low and run away with tournaments. It was important for me to get off to a quick start. If I could get off to a quick start, and force him to make birdies to keep up rather than to pull away, that was going to be the critical factor. Being able to birdie 1 and get off to a good start shooting 4-under the front side, I felt like I put myself in really good position heading into the back side.

Q. You did what you wanted to do. You take a one-stroke lead in the back nine, Tiger is behind you. Did you come to some of these holes thinking of the importance of being in the fairway and green expecting to -- Tiger to come behind you - and 12 and 15 --

PHIL MICKELSON: 15 was really the point where we were even with four holes to go and that is where each shot was critical. 15 was a par 5 that Tiger is going to have to iron into,, he is going to make 4 99 times out of 100, and I needed to make 4. I hit a second shot into the bunker, hit a decent shot out about ten feet, and that putt was a critical putt because I had just missed a couple of that same length and to make that one and force him to make birdie to tie is a lot different than forcing him to make birdie for a one-shot lead. That turned out to be the critical shot. I felt like if I could have birdied one more hole coming in, that would have been enough to seal it, but I was fortunate that Tiger didn't birdie any of the last three.

Q. Could you put this year in perspective for us, you match your four wins of 1996; is this the best season of your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, certainly it is the most money that I have ever won. It ties the most tournaments that I have ever won but, more importantly, I think that the tournaments that I didn't win, I put myself in contention a lot more and played at a consistent level throughout the year where I really haven't done that in years past. So I felt like this was a big improvement over years past and it has been a very nice year and to finish it the way I did, is a wonderful way to go into the holidays.

Q. What was the motivation for you after the PGA Championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, see, after the PGA, the end of August, I kind of look at the year as being over. I don't play typically in September, October until maybe this tournament and I might play Vegas the week, a week or two before to get ready. But typically after August, all the Majors are done with and so it is hard for me to get excited about playing. So I think that that might be that maybe - I don't know if it is - the reason why I have not ever played well in this tournament. I finished 12th as my best finish seven or eight years that I have played in it every year and my best finish is 12th. That is not a very good record. But this year I tried to do something a little different and that was to really practice and prepare and get ready for these tournaments; Vegas being the other one as well as the Presidents Cup. I feel like I played well in all three.

Q. Why? What is the big deal of getting a win when the Majors are over?

PHIL MICKELSON: To finish the year, it is a very prestigious event for the players, because the course that we play typically is set up to have a major feel. The rough is up, the greens are hard and fast and it is a very rewarding tournament to be in because that means you finished in the Top-30 throughout the year and so it is something that, amongst players, has a lot of meaning to it. Plus it is the best crystal of any other tournament, by far.

Q. First Tee shot you hit the kid, it comes out in play, you make birdie. After that you had one of the best ball-striking rounds, looked like, perhaps, of the year. Did that really give you a boost that you got a good break right off the first tee and did you think about that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. I gave the guy a glove, thanked him for his effort because that was -- the fairways here are important. If I am in the rough I am struggling for par, instead I am making 3 and I am off to a good front nine. But I do feel like, despite that tee shot, I felt like I played pretty well tee-to-green. I didn't putt very well today. I didn't feel very comfortable with the putter as far as hitting the ball where I am looking. It just wasn't really going where I was trying to hit it, so that was a little disappointing. I felt like if I had putted the way I had the previous couple of days, I could have pulled away from the rest of the field early.

Q. Why was it so important for you to finish second on the money list?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I have had a very consistent year and every year I come to this tournament and I fall spaces. And I just didn't want to come into this tournament and lose ground again. It meant nothing. It meant nothing contractually, second to third means nothing financially. But to me, it mattered. It made a difference and I know that Tiger had a great year, but to have the best year other than his meant a lot to me too.

Q. Also I gather you are now going to skip the American Express and the Match Play. Where do these events rate in the scheme of things as far as you are concerned?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I haven't for sure said no on the Match Play, but I am not -- I am leaning towards not going, but that is not finalized. This upcoming tournament obviously I have said all along if I win here I wasn't going to go. So I am going to hop on a plane that is going to go to Phoenix instead of Spain. I forget your question. Oh, how do the tournaments rank? I think they are wonderful tournaments. I am big advocates of them. And I want to support them. And I think that they could really become something special. And the players want to support them as well. It has been frustrating. I think the reason why players are not supporting it or not going is because when we have been asked about location, time of year, what have you, all the players have given their input and it has been disregarded and been placed into the time and in places they have. Meaning, Spain the week after THE TOUR Championship. Match Play over New Year's. And to move it from La Costa, I thought that place was perfect for the tournament. So that is -- it has just made it difficult to support the events. And it is not because we don't want to, it is just because our input hasn't been heard.

Q. Knowing how much you wanted to win this tournament, was there a little anxious moment maybe down there toward the end, you keep saying to yourself I am not going to Spain, I am not going to Spain, maybe a little anxiety creep in?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that the backside I certainly didn't play the way I had hoped. I made those two bogeys that I missed putts that I had been making all week. They were pretty easy uphill and the greens are rolling so good that those putts, if you hit a decent stroke, will go in. So to fall back and give back a couple of shots at a critical time was very disappointing. With four holes to go I was even. And on the 15th tee that is where I tried to get in a frame of mind that was aggressive, that was a winning frame of mind, as opposed to trying not to lose frame of mind. And I hit a good tee shot there and I made a critical putt on 15. That was really a big turning point for me, especially given the fact that Tiger did not birdie the hole; that gave me the one-shot lead that I needed.

Q. I am assuming your maybe '91 win as amateur here was kind of special, but would you have to treat this as your biggest win?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that certainly as far as maybe prestige of events, it would probably rank up there. Certainly one of the top three or four tournaments outside of the four majors, I would say. And more importantly it is just the feeling that -- it is such a wonderful feeling to end the year with a win as opposed to winning and then having to go play the next week. There is a real unique feel to that, that gives me some momentum going into next year. But as far as overall prestige, I would have to agree with that.

Q. Two wins in Atlanta, too, which is kind of neat.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. This town has been good to me. I have enjoyed coming here, played well here. I have tried to play some of the other courses in the area, the days prior to the event which I did there and here. And I have really enjoyed playing here.

Q. Back to your junior days, this place was real good for you, you won three times in a --

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, Roswell, that is right. I have played well here. I don't know why, but I have really enjoyed it here.

Q. You and your caddie have a long relationship as far as caddie/player relationship. Talk about that.

PHIL MICKELSON: I have been very fortunate. I think I have got the best caddie on Tour. We have been together since the first tournament that I have played as a professional. Jim actually lives here in Athens; I think that might be a big reason why I have played well here, is that he has done a great job of reading the greens and pulling clubs. When we go to different cities, different temperatures, altitudes, and so forth, club selection becomes difficult as well as reading greens with different grasses. He has been a huge impact for me and my game because -- he is very good under the gun. He is very decisive. A lot of times caddies will waffle back and forth, but he is very decisive on club and so forth and what he thinks a break will do. Working together as long as we have is a big factor, as well. There is another factor, though, that -- small things that you don't really think of, that you take for granted. He has never been late in eight years and you sometimes take that for granted as many times as we have worked together.

Q. You were up, I think, 4 (inaudible) on the second place and 6 on Tiger in Torrey Pines, and one behind today. How much more satisfaction is it this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really compare them with San Diego. It is hard for me to compare the two. San Diego I hadn't won in the year, that was a very big win for me. The longer you go without winning, the harder it is to win. This win is important because I felt like I have been playing well all year and not only have I won three times heading in, but I had numerous opportunities and I felt like I needed to capitalize on one of those and so to be within a shot of the lead and come out and shoot a low final round, and take advantage of that opportunity, was very meaningful.

Q. I guess the difference I was looking at is that with a four-shot lead and a player of your caliber kind of expects you to win. Here, you got Tiger, the record he had going into the last round, everyone is kind of expecting Tiger to win. Did you see it that way at all (inaudible) --

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't really expect him to win. (laughter). I thought that I had a pretty good chance. And I really liked the position that I was in being one group in front and having them watch me make birdies was a spot that I wanted to be in. To shoot 4-under the front side can be difficult to follow on Sundays. I have been in both situations.

Q. You were speaking of Bones and Athens earlier. You went over this week. What, you go over on Wednesday -- and you did it at the Bell South; is that something you do regularly go play in Athens?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I only play one practice round. If I play more than one practice round, I am too drained mentally to play well. It is very difficult to be on site more than a day prior to the event. Because there is so many things going on at the course that it is hard for me to get work done. So I find it very beneficial to go elsewhere where it is quiet to another golf course and play and have fun because I love competitive golf, but I also love recreational golf to just go out and play great courses. I was relaxed and refreshed heading into Thursday.

Q. Did you play with the University of Georgia team while you were over there?


Q. On a day like this, do you feel at all like maybe you have cut into just a little -- taken a step into the gap that Tiger has on everybody else or is that so much that maybe you can't allow yourself to think that way?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that as a player I do not ever compare myself to Tiger. As a player, nobody compares them to how they rank against Tiger or any other player. As an observer, that is certainly what you would do. If I were an observer, I would be making those comparisons. So to answer your question, I couldn't -- I couldn't answer that because I have never done that. I haven't done that.

Q. But everybody knows obviously No. 1 is the goal for everybody....


Q. Got to start somewhere, right, to get ....

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. I think that -- yeah, you know, I don't know how to answer that, but -- to become No.1 in the World Rankings will take two years because he has accumulated so many points over a two-year span that you can't just beat him four, five weeks in a row and win every tournament and become No. 1. It will take -- it will be a two-year process. But before I can pass him, I have got to pass the two guys in front of me. Which is another reason why I wanted to be No. 2 on the money list as opposed to No. 3 or 4. Before you can start trying to beat Tiger, you have got to beat the guys that are ahead of you and right now I think Ernie Els and David Duval are still ahead of me on the World Ranking.

Q. Do you think you are capable of (inaudible) --

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly enjoy that challenge. I am going to challenge myself to do that, yes. I challenged myself this week to prepare and get ready and win this tournament and I was able to do that. I think that the last four holes I played very well, well enough to win the tournament. I have got to have that type of frame of mind for 72 holes and if I am able to do that, I don't feel like it is my physical skills that are preventing me from winning double digits a year, but it is -- but it is playing at the level that I am capable of for 72 holes.

Q. Challenge yourself this year. (inaudible) played at the end of the year. What can you do next year to get to whatever second or third, first -- what challenge do you have next year based (inaudible) --

PHIL MICKELSON: It is to continue to improve. I'd like to just say one thing. I honestly believe that in the last month from Las Vegas tournament where that new golf ball is legal, I feel like I am a whole different player. I honestly do because this is the first ball that is good for my launch characteristics from the way I strike it. I put a lot of spin on the ball and every time I swing harder with the driver, it just spins up in the air, it never goes further. Now when I swing harder the ball comes off the face hot and I can get it out there at a good distance now. In addition to that I am able to have pretty good control from 150 yards in distance-wise. And I feel like from that tournament, granted, I lost by a shot there, but ended up winning here, I feel like I am a whole different player. And so I don't feel like there is -- I have to make any drastic changes. I really feel like the change already came with that new product. And I don't mean to tout one particular -- for whatever reason, nobody has been able to make a ball that does that, that spins less off the tee and more around the greens. It is always the other way around. Harder you hit it, the more it spins. How they have been able to do it, I don't know, but it is -- I think that I have probably gained more from that ball than any other individual player.

Q. (inaudible)

PHIL MICKELSON: I tried. They had legal problems, I don't know. They tried to put a patent on the name. It didn't go through.

Q. What was it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Tour Complete. Not bad. Because it is the most complete ball I have ever hit.

Q. How about "Phil's Ball?"

PHIL MICKELSON: That is what the -- well, no, it doesn't.

Q. Going from an off-year to four wins and almost 5, you know, if you can include the playoff, what are the key things that you did to improve? I know you made some changes ...

PHIL MICKELSON: We talked earlier this year about from 150 in, that was a big element. I think the other thing was consistency in putting. I finished the year pretty high on the statistics and even on a poor putting day like today, I had -- I still made enough to shoot the low round of the day. So, I putted at a higher level consistently, more consistently than I have in years past so that was a critical element as well.

Q. 4 birdies on the front 9.

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought I needed to shoot 6-under. I thought 6-under was kind of the number that would put me for a sure win so was breaking that down into 3 aside. But I wanted to do more on the front if I could. If I could get 3- or 4-under, that was kind of the goal, but more importantly, it was the first five or six holes.

Q. You have lost a couple of chances early, 2 and I think 3 was probably decent --

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, ten, twelve feet straight uphill.

Q. What is the word to describe--

PHIL MICKELSON: Disappointment would be the wordbecause I really wanted to make a statement early and missing those putts on 2 and 3 really took away that opportunity. So then I had to be more patient throughout the rest of the round.

LEE PATTERSON: Anything else?

End of FastScripts...

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