August 25, 2000
MODERATOR. I know pretty much the answer to this question, that you can only control what you do. But you've got to be really, really pleased with the way you're playing lately, because you're making all those improvements you've been looking at.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, thank you. I certainly feel that way, and I feel as though I've slowly gotten better the last couple of years. And I've noticed a difference in the consistency factor this year, especially. And after last year, having not won, it was -- it's been nice to win a few times this year. As far as this week, I feel like the last three weeks, I've played well. I've had some good finishes. I have not played the way I have been hoping to. I've had problems putting it all together on certain days and getting it going low. And today was actually a good example, because I was 3-under through two holes, and I struggled there in the middle of the round, trying to take it really low. And I do feel as though I've seen progress in the way I've been striking the ball, consistency, and some changes that I've been making in the swing. And so I'm very pleased to be playing well, not just these two days, but the past few weeks; and I'm looking forward to the opportunity this presents.
Q. Is the way Tiger is playing making you want to really, really get it even lower? Forcing you to go there?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's taking a lot more under par to win the tournaments now.
Q. Are you happy with the way you played today despite the conditions of the course, which we could consider scoring conditions?
PHIL MICKELSON: So-so. Yesterday, I hit the ball as well as I have in a long time, as far as how I felt, my confidence. I felt very good over the ball. I drove the ball great on these fairways that are pretty tight, and I hit some good shots into the greens, and I putted -- I just felt awful over the putter. And today I actually started to feel pretty good over the putter, and I didn't quite have that confidence, ball-striking. So I feel like I have not quite combined the two yet.
Q. I didn't think to check before I left, but I think you are on or ahead of the pace that you had when you won here --?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's playing a little bit easier this year. The course is playing a little bit easier. The greens are rolling truer than I've ever seen them. The odds on a normal 3-footer are now the odds on a 5- or 6-footer, because the ball is tracking so well. It's not kicking off line. It is holding it's line extremely well. The greens are just immaculate. For whatever reasons, the rough seems up. But I've been getting some shots, even when I miss a fairway. So it has been a little bit more playable than it has in the past. And I think that the fairways are a little firmer, so it is not playing quite as long either.
Q. Maybe you got away from your plan a little bit in the middle of the round, trying to go real low. Do you divide the round?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't. But when I got off to such a quick start, 3-under through 2, I thought I could take it low the front side. So I was trying to get to 5 or 6 the front side, and I just didn't make it happen. Made a couple of bogeys. And I came back on the back side trying to just shoot a good number on the back side so I didn't throw away the round, but I probably turned a 63 into a 66.
Q. What deserted you from 5 to 9?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what to tell you. I just made a couple of mistakes. I actually made a couple of good par saves. I didn't hit some very good shots in there, and missed some greens with some mid to short irons.
Q. You played really well here the last few years. Any thoughts on why that is?
PHIL MICKELSON: I just -- I can't put my finger on it. But I certainly feel comfortable on this golf course. I really enjoy playing here. I like how the course forces you to move the ball both ways off the tee, as well as into the greens. But I couldn't really put my finger on it, other than I feel very comfortable when I tee it up here.
Q. Does that give you more confidence coming in?
PHIL MICKELSON: It did. I feel a little bit more relaxed, because I have the confidence before I tee it up on Thursday that I am going to play well.
Q. You mentioned before that the 3-under after 2, kind of getting ahead of yourself, or just really wanting to take advantage of an early roll. How tough is it to guard against those feelings, to really want to get it all, on maybe the front nine, let's say?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's not something that I try not to do, because I want to go low, I want to shoot those scores. I don't think that I got impatient, which is often the case. I think that I just did not hit very good shots after the first two holes. And I don't know what else to say. I'll just give you an example. I hit a sand wedge to a foot, foot and a half, on No. 1, and I hit an 8-iron to six feet on No. 2. So two good drives, two good second shots in there. No. 8, I've got sand wedge in again, and I blade it 30 feet by the hole, 45 feet by the hole, so it just was not a good shot. And I hit a decent drive on 9 and I have a little 7-iron in, pulls up, comes out of the shot, comes up short of the green, and I 3-putt. Just stupid stuff. It was not that I was trying to make so many birdies that I made dumb mistakes. I just did not execute.
Q. So when you guys get to 7- or 8-under par early in the back nine, how hard is it to keep 59 out of your head?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, here it probably creeps in a little bit sooner because par is only 70. That is certainly something that we would think about. I don't know. You get to 6- or 7-under through ten, eleven holes or so, you start thinking that. That's a good thing, I think, because it pushes us to keep going low. A lot of times you get to 6-, 7-under par, you get stagnant. You just keep thinking: "Wow, if I can just get in." Some guys think that way. You keep pushing it, you can push that 6- or 7-under par round into 9 or 10.
Q. With Tiger Woods playing so well, is any tournament over on Friday?
PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly don't -- are you applying it to this one? I'm thinking of the past couple of years, I think maybe -- well, this year, I think the U.S. Open was probably over after 54. '97 Masters was probably over after 54. I think I have seen 54. 36, that's a little hard-pressed to say that. A little disappointing you would even bring that up. I'm only five or six back.
Q. That was more of a rhetorical question.
PHIL MICKELSON: All right.
Q. Playing this well on back-to-back days, is it a little aggravating to be as far back as you're probably going to be?
PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't played that well, so I actually feel pretty good about it. I feel as though I have not put together a good score yet. I have just kind of hung in there at times, salvaged par when I have made mistakes, and been able to make just a couple of birdies to stay in there. I think that as well as Tiger is playing, to be 4-under through 6 yesterday, and 5-under through 10, and 8-under through 12, and to be just lighting this golf course up, I would be a little disappointed to only have a 5- or 6-shot lead.
Q. I wonder what your immediate gut feeling was after the eagle. Did you think: This was finally the day I do put it together?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I just thought that I really could go low, that this was my chance to go low.
Q. Are you optimistic, though, with two days you could put it together, as you said?
PHIL MICKELSON: Extremely. Absolutely. There's not another venue that I would want to be playing on either, another course that I would want to be playing on.
Q. Two weeks in a row, you have gone as low as you've gone, and then you flattened out or dropped back at the PGA on Saturday and Sunday, and you -- any explanation for the flat spots?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, other than I haven't really had the confidence hitting shots -- I haven't had the confidence hitting good golf shots, and I haven't had the confidence with the putter. I putted awful last week, I felt, with a couple of exemptions, a couple of little spurts. And I didn't really putt well yesterday at all where I was hitting it well. And I just feel like even though I will make a couple of birdies, I don't feel like I'm firing on all cylinders and have the ability to just go low; even though I will get off to a quick start, I feel like I've got to be careful going at some pins because I could make a huge mistake. And I have not really had the laser beam in on the pin yet, because I still feel like my misses are a little bit too large, to where if I go after a tucked pin, I could really make a big mistake. And I have been trying to eliminate -- I don't want to say I've been playing tentative, but just careful, because I have not had the confidence that I've got the control over the shots that I need.
Q. And that's the result of these changes you've been making?
PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit, yeah. Exactly. I've just made a couple of subtle changes that have thrown my timing off ever so much, where sometimes I'm not quite sure if I'm going to hit a cut or a draw. Yesterday was the first day where it started to set in, where I felt like I could just unleash my swing, without having to control it, and the ball is going right where I wanted it to. And unfortunately, just the opposite happened with the putter.
Q. How long have you been working on these subtle things?
PHIL MICKELSON: A month.
Q. Would you relish the opportunity for another weekend battle with Tiger?
PHIL MICKELSON: Love to, yeah. Absolutely. When I made a couple of bogeys one of my thought processes was, "Listen, if I can make some birdies, I can get in the final group," and I think there's some real benefits to that.
Q. Any feeling of unfinished business from last year here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I came close last year. It was disappointing to bogey the last hole the way I did, too. I would not say that, I would not say there is unfinished business, but I certainly would like to make amends.
Q. You said that this is a golf course that you would rather be -- if you're going to be behind a few shots, this is one you don't mind. Is it the difficulty of it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, if you don't play well, it is difficult to make birdies. You have a lot of mid- and short irons in, but you have to drive the ball well to have that opportunity. If you don't drive the ball well, you're struggling for par; you are most likely going to make bogey. So if you play well and you drive it well, now you have got opportunity to make birdies, but even then, you have got to hit a really good shot in just to make one. There is only one gimmee birdie hole, and that is No. 2. And because of that, it's not one of those courses where you've got four par 5s, and if you just kind of play along you can shoot 4- or 5-under par; it is difficult to shoot 4- or 5-under par unless you play decent.
Q. So the guy that ones plays four quality rounds -- whoever that is --?
PHIL MICKELSON: What it does it -- the reason I feel like this is a great site to make up a few shots is that if he does not hit the ball the way he's been hitting it the last two days, it is going to be difficult to make birdies. He'll keep it around 1- or 2-under, just like he always does, and I think there is an opportunity to shoot a 6- or 7-under par round. Certainly, if he does what he always -- or what he has done in the past at some tournaments, like the '97 Masters, the U.S. and British this year and he just continues to shoot, 6-, 7-, 8-under par, I don't think that making up six shots will be feasible. But, I certainly think that I could shoot 10 to 14-under through the weekend.
LEE PATTERSON: The rest of the birdies?
PHIL MICKELSON: I birdied 1. We talked about that; 3-wood, sand wedge to a foot and a half. Driver and 8-iron on 2 to about six feet. Bogeyed the par 3 No. 5. Hit an awful 6-iron way left, chipped up to about six feet and missed it. Bogeyed 9. Hit driver, 7-iron, came out of just on the edge and 3-putted. I birdied No. 12. I hit a good 8-iron about 15 feet left of the hole and made that. And I birdied the other par 3, 15 with a good 6-iron. They had the tees up and the pin was up. I had a good 6-iron to about 15 feet there also and I birdied 17. I hit driver there and hit sand wedge to about three feet. And I believe it lipped out, because it spun back and caught the lip pretty good. So it was nice.
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