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June 10, 2000

Phil Mickelson


NELSON LUIS: Thank you for stopping by. Why don't we go ahead and briefly go over your round and talk about your thoughts.

PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. Well, obviously you're going to hear the same things you've heard from everybody else. The golf course played, I thought, pretty difficult today with the wind. Played fairly difficult. And made a bunch of pars, a couple of birdies. Had a good, solid round going, and the last three holes -- I hit a very poor shot on 16. I birdied 7. I hit driver, L-wedge to six feet, birdie. And I birdied 11. I hit 3-wood 5-iron to 12 feet birdie. I hit driver, sand wedge to three feet and made that for birdie on 15. So after 15 playing really solid, and I hit a very poor shot on 16. And that one, you can't miss it right of the pin, and I missed it right of the pin and I was just trying to make bogey and I ended up making double. So I gave two back and got it right back the very next hole. Holed an L-wedge from 88 yards on 17. Got a little shaky, and I had 4-iron into 18 and did not make birdie. So a difficult up-and-down on the last three holes, but I felt like shooting 3-under par was a very good round. I was very pleased with that. Tomorrow seems like it's going to be a one-day shootout with a bunch of guys with an opportunity to win.

Q. What were your emotions like with 16 and 17?

PHIL MICKELSON: I felt like with 18, granted, I was -- well, I felt like with 18 coming up, if I could birdie 17, I could get both of them back, because I believed I can make birdie on 18 because it's reachable. I felt like I could get both of those strokes back if I could get the L-wedge close enough; and even if it didn't go in, it was only going to be a very short distance. I think it barely trickled over the front lip. Anyway, I ended up picking both up right there, and that was kind of nice. But if I have a 4 on that -- which makes it very important on that course to have those double bogeys, to accept bogey, which is what I was trying to do on 16, is not let two shots slip away, just one.

Q. Did you misjudge the lie?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. It was buried in the rough and I had two choices: Either try to hit a great shot and come up short in the bunker, which I thought would be a much easier shot than blowing it long in the long rough, chipping back. So I could have just dinked it down in the bunker, it would have been the same. Downhill lie in the rough, downwind 10 feet of green.

Q. You're almost better off in the bunker than 40 feet away.

PHIL MICKELSON: If I landed that shot in the green, it may have stayed 30 feet. If I hit anything -- fly it anywhere past the hole, it's over the green in the rough. I felt like I would have a better chance out of that bunker on the upslope. I had a very easy shot. I just hit a poor bunker shot.

Q. On 9 yesterday, you hit it in the fairway bunker, you hit the wood, you hit the lip today, you had the same shot and hit an iron. Is there something to be said -- it's only your second time playing this tournament, the more you play this course, the more you understand certain nuances of the holes?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's not so much to do with the course as it does the way to play on a golf course of this style; meaning that with the rough thick, with it very difficult to make birdies, rather than -- when I come to 9, I think that it's a birdie hole. I've played the thing 2-over par. I've driven it in that bunker every day. And instead of fighting for bogey or par again, I felt like I'll just hit an iron there and have a sand wedge in and try to make birdie that way. Whereas, the other days, I've gotten a little greedy trying to get on the green from there. It doesn't have as much to do with the style of play. If I miss-hit a shot on a birdie hole, I still -- I need to accept par. And because there are only six -- five, six, seven holes, that you really think birdie there at the tee, I didn't want to let one of those holes slide away, and it's cost me a couple of bogeys.

Q. Do you think people enjoy when they come here on Sunday for the last round and they see your name and Duval and Els, the big stars of the game, do you think they enjoy that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I've never really thought of it from a spectator's view. So I haven't really thought about it.

Q. Do you watch other sports?

PHIL MICKELSON: Love to, yes.

Q. Do you like to watch stars -- the stars of the other games? Would you rather Jordan be playing the NBA finals or a bunch of other guys?

PHIL MICKELSON: I like watching my team in there, whichever teams I pull for, typically San Diego teams. I like watching them play. I don't typically go out just to watch certain players play basketball games. I'd rather go watch my team play.

Q. You talked a lot the last couple of years trying to learn to play a more patient style when it's required. How much better do you think you are at that now than a couple years ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I have come a long way in that area. And playing well, this week is a sign of that, but also, the real test for me was the U.S. Open last year where I felt like even par would be an incredible score before we even teed off on Thursday. And to be able to shoot that over four days gave me the confidence as well as the -- having already done it; by that, patient golf, taking -- when I miss-hit a shot, I don't want to say taking my medicine, but accepting losing one shot, as opposed to trying to salvage it but losing two. So that's something that's been difficult for me to do in the past, and I thought that at last year's Open, being able to do that, shoot even par at that golf course, that test was a success in it's own little way. And I have actually started to really enjoy playing courses like that, such as Westchester and I really enjoyed playing the U.S. Open now with the severity of the conditions.

Q. Mentally, will that help you? When you talk about what you learned last year, as you take that into next week, will all that help you mentally?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think so, because I'll be able to set a score that I want to shoot and I should be able to accomplish that the correct way without trying to force it.

Q. Considering that and as well as you have played this year, do you in your mind think that this is your best chance, even to this point to win a major championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that this year is -- I think that each year as I've progressed, it becomes better and better -- each chance has become better and better. So that would make this year a better opportunity than last year, and so on down the line. But certainly, playing well gives me a lot of confidence and a lot of belief that I can do it. I have been playing well. I've been improving my game in certain key areas especially for the majors, driving the ball; I've been driving the ball much better and my scoring . It sets up well if I can put it all together the week of the Open.

Q. And having won at Pebble?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, we say I won at Pebble, but the fact is I played one out of three rounds there when I won. And the golf course that we play at the AT&T is not the golf course we play for the Open. So I really don't think that past appearances there mean a thing. Perfect example was '92 U.S. Open. Mark O'Meara had won the AT&T three or four times and missed the cut. It's a whole different golf course.

Q. How satisfying is it to play your way into contention on Sunday, and especially after taking some time off, come back and here you are again?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it feels really good. I mean, it really does. It's a confidence and a certain belief in my ability right now, and it helps me feel like I don't have to force it. I feel if I play smart, if I play the way I've been playing without doing anything exceptional, I can get in contention for Sunday. And I really didn't do anything exceptional on any of these three rounds -- well I holed that shot on 17, but other than that, I've made some mistakes, too. I've made a bunch of mistakes, bogeying 9 twice, double on 16. Yet I still feel like I'll be in contention Sunday, and that certain confidence or belief really makes me feel good about -- about my game, about playing golf and so forth. Having two weeks off, I think that when I teed off on Thursday, I felt not shaky, but a little -- not quite as comfortable as I do when I play three or for weeks in a row, which is what I've tried to play the week before majors now; so that I don't have that on Thursday for the front nine. Because if you have that little bit of uncertainty on that front nine, the Open conditions will just eat you up, and all of the sudden you're out of it from the start. So you're fresh, but you also want to be in a competitive frame of mind.

Q. Are you going to be looking at the leaderboard tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. I think it is kind of a one-day tournament, and there's probably about 20 guys that have a really good chance. You can probably pick the winner of about 15 guys. Obviously, it's anybody's tournament but I don't think it's going to take an exceptional round tomorrow. I think with the golf course playing as difficult as it is, you really only need to shoot a few under par to make a pretty big jump. We saw a lot of guys shoot 3-under, 4-under, Sergio Garcia shot 6-under. We also saw a couple guys shoot over par, 1-, 20, 3-over par. So I think to win, if anybody gets to 10, I think that will win for sure and I think 8 or 9 has an outside shot of a playoff.

End of FastScripts…

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