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April 2, 2000

Phil Mickelson


LEE PATTERSON: Congratulations. Wonderful victory this week. Maybe just a couple thoughts about today, then we'll open it up for questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously I think both Gary and myself wanted to play 18 holes, as did everybody else in the field. Unfortunately, the weather didn't permit that. For us to be able to finish and play the one hole that we did was pretty amazing given the fact that it was entirely under water. The grounds crew somehow made it play incredibly well. In suddendeath, you don't have a chance to recover from an unfortunate break. You don't have a chance to recover from anything unfortunate that might happen to you like you would over 18 holes. The lie that Gary had in the bunker made it very difficult. Very fortunate to hit a good shot and make it 2 there.

LEE PATTERSON: Some questions.

Q. You're 3-0 in playoff, 2-0 in Ryder Cup. What do you attribute your success in that kind of format to?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I really don't know. I really don't know. Maybe -- I really don't know. I've just been fortunate, I guess. I don't know how else to answer that.

Q. Since we can't do a hole-by-hole for today's round, was that your preference to hit first? Could you talk about the yardage and club selection? 9-iron for sure all the way around, that kind of stuff?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know which I would prefer to go, first or second. I really don't think it makes a bit of difference. It just kind of depends -- either way, you have to hit a good shot. I don't think it really matters too much. I didn't really have a preference. We had 163 yards. On the range, I had been hitting 7-irons thinking that it was going to play a little bit longer just because of the weather, what have you. We got up there. We had the same yardage two days ago, and I hit 8-iron, airmailed the green. Yesterday I hit 8-iron and came up short in the bunker. I was thinking 8-iron pretty much the whole way because we came up short yesterday. But I like 9-iron two days ago when I hit the eight over. So I thought I could get nine there okay. We decided 163 downhill with a little help. I was thinking 8-iron, and my caddy said: I think you can get nine there if you want to hit something hard. So I did. I would rather have hit something hard and know that I cannot get over the green, just concern myself with carrying the bunker, rather than have both variables in play. I crushed a 9-iron, hit a good draw, flew to the back edge, spun back 15 feet. I don't know what Gary hit. I thought he hit an eight because he swung kind of easy at it. I don't know if he hit it heavy or if it just wasn't enough or. What, it fell just short ---.

Q. (Inaudible)

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it looked short the whole way. You know, in fact, I was surprised it flew as far as it did. Looked like it wasn't going to go. Then it kept carrying and carrying and almost made it. But for it to stick in its own divot was unfortunate.

Q. In terms of your preparation for obviously The Masters coming up now, how important was it to you to finish this today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that I am going to take tomorrow off either way, so it didn't make too much of a difference as far as getting up to Augusta and getting a practice round in or anything like that. In fact, I'm anticipating that the weather is going to be poor and we won't be able to play tomorrow anyway. So it wasn't a huge factor, but being able to finish today makes it so much easier on the other things that we had planned: family came in town today, we didn't have a hotel room here, we're planning on staying in Augusta. It would have messed things up quite a bit. But I would be much more willing to do that than any other options that we may have. I think that the commitment that the Tour made to finish the tournament either today, tomorrow or come back the following Monday, I thought was a great decision. Anything less would be not right for this tournament.

Q. You talked about wanting to win multiple victories. You did that. Obviously now your focus is on The Masters. Can you talk a little about that tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Augusta National golf course is going to play very similar to the way Sugarloaf played this week. The greens are comparable, speed comparable, undulations. There's no rough, or very little. I think that if I'm able -- what I want to do is be able to bring the play that I had this week into next week. I chipped and putted extremely well this week. I drove the ball extremely well. If I can have those two elements in my game next week at the level they were this week, I think I'm going to have a very good chance on Sunday.

Q. What is your track record as far as playing the week after you win? How have you done?


Q. I know you won Phoenix and Tucson one year. Was that back-to-back or not?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was. There was a tournament in between there. I think AT&T, I ended -- the one that got washed out. I ended up one or two shots back. But it didn't really matter.

Q. Thoughts on going into Augusta after winning this tournament?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really don't think it makes much difference. I think it would be a factor if we were going from, say, Pebble Beach and Po Anna greens and so forth, then going over to Doral and playing Bermuda greens and Bermuda rough. I think that would be a factor or something to overcome. This week, I think it's so similar, what I've been working on this week is exactly what I will be working on next week. It gave me an extra week to prepare.

Q. How did you pass the time this morning? Did you see Gary Nicklaus during that time?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. Gary showed up to the course late. He knew it was going to be a delay. I got out here, hung out in the locker room, did what everybody else would: had breakfast, read the Golf Week this week, Sports Illustrated, just hung out.

Q. You said an interesting thing when you collected the trophy. You said you enjoyed it more here. You said it made a nice change from a couple earlier in the year. What did you mean by that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly what I said.

Q. Which tournaments didn't you enjoy?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's why I said it the way I did. I don't want to identify anything. I really enjoyed this week and the courtesy that the people have displayed.

Q. Did I hear you right, you just talked about the possibility of coming back next Monday? Was that something discussed with the officials?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, yeah, with the logistics of the two cities being so close. I think that was a serious consideration.

Q. And why do you think they decided not to do that in the end?

PHIL MICKELSON: Because the course was playable today.

Q. Just for the playoff?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, no, no. The tournament has to go 54 holes. If we couldn't get the playoff in today or tomorrow, we would have come back next Monday, yeah.

Q. Does it feel the same way as a regular win, even though it was abbreviated?

PHIL MICKELSON: It does feel a little different. This is the first tournament -- actually, it's not. I was going to say it was rain short. It wasn't. I won AT&T. We came back. It was the first time the final round has been washed out in its entirety in the 15 wins I've had. It does feel a little bit different.

Q. Did you find yourself thinking back at all to yesterday, "Something I could have done"?

PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely. That putt I missed on 17, a two and a half-footer that's normally a gimme. "What are you doing?" To not birdie 18. I was thinking this morning, "You've got to approach Saturday's round sometimes like it's the final round." To finish the way I did, which was a little sloppy, I'd be kicking myself. Granted, I was fortunate with the way things turned out to have it not matter. But I was certainly disappointed that I wasn't the overnight leader.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, no, it just feels different. You know, a month from now, nobody will -- it won't even matter. Nobody will know.

Q. About the quality of this course, the last three winners are Tiger Woods, David Duval was No. 1 at that time, and yourself. Does that say anything about what it takes to win?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, those are pretty good players, so I'm proud to be among their company. I think if you look back at the past winners here at Sugarloaf, I know Scott McCarron won here, guys to tend to hit the ball pretty far and up in the air play well here, just as they do at Augusta. I think distance here is a huge factor, given the fact that the fairways are fairly open and there's very little rough. You can stand on the tee, go ahead and bomb it. Tiger and David can do that.

Q. Sometime a fighter can train for a big fight; the fight will end in one minute. You got ready to play a fourth round. Was there a strange feeling? Is it over already? Did you feel funny at all by the way this went?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, not really. Just feels like a different Tour win. Feels different. I don't know how to really say it. I thought that it was a challenge this morning to not know if we were going to play or not, and to prepare myself mentally for the opportunity to play, and also prepare myself mentally if we weren't going to play and had to carry it over tomorrow. That was the biggest challenge, is just staying in a frame of mind that was ready to do whatever the opportunity arose. When it looked like the course was going to dry up, we had a very small gap that we were going to be able to play the playoff. Just being able to be prepared for that was what I think I'll look back on and think was the accomplishment.

Q. I think you led the statistics this week in driving distance and putting, but a little down in greens and regulation. Any thoughts about that, looking ahead to next week?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I'm surprised to hear that. I thought it would be just the opposite. I thought the greens and regulation would be high and the putting down. I'm surprised it turned out that way. You know, I don't know what to say. I think to be driving the ball pretty long, hitting a lot -- making a lot of putts, I think there's not much more to the game. Maybe a chip here or there.

Q. Two questions. When you're walking up the green there, you get your first look at Gary's ball, what's going through your mind? You see what he has.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was trying to see, obviously, what he had, what the situation was. Bones and I were just saying that we need to plan on making this putt. It looked like it was an uphill lie. The ball actually came out of its divot, it was not plugged. I thought that it was going to be a fairly simple up-and-down in that if you just got it on the green, I thought it would roll right up next to the hole and he would make the putt. It was extremely close to the lip, as we saw. But I had to prepare myself for the possibility of him not getting close. I did not do that very well earlier this year at the matchplay event where I lost to Billy Mayfair. I had an 8-footer to eagle, he ended up holing a bunker shot for eagle. I prepared myself as I was going to have this putt for the win and possibly 2-putt. Obviously, I lost. I did not want to put myself in that mental position again. I had anticipated that he would get it up-and-down, and I was actually hoping that I would have this putt for the win.

Q. Going back to Torrey Pines where there were a lot of people wanted to see that streak continue, here there's a lot of people that would have loved to see Gary get that first win. Are you feeling much in a spoiler mode? Do you sense that at all? Is it pretty easy for you to block that stuff out?

PHIL MICKELSON: I really don't sense that, to be honest. I felt like there were a lot of people who were kind of tired of the streak and were very glad that I ended up ending it. Again, I wasn't trying to end the streak as much as I was trying to win a tournament. I certainly didn't feel like a spoiler there. You know, this week, I don't know what to say. I mean, Gary is a very good player and he's been in a very difficult situation his entire life, trying to play golf for a living in the shadow of the greatest player of all time. I think he's handled that situation extremely well. It would have been very nice for him to have been able to break through and get his first tournament win. I didn't want it to be at my expense, and I would much rather have the outcome that occurred than have it reversed. So I don't feel bad about that at all.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: I just said congratulations on a great tournament, best of luck the rest of the year. I thought that his play this week was very impressive and very important. I thought it was very important for him to have a good round yesterday. He put himself up right near the lead. Yesterday was a critical round because by shooting that 68, he put himself in position to win the golf tournament, but also, and probably more importantly, guarantee his card for next year, which he's done so early in the year now, he's able to kind of -- not free will, but be more aggressive maybe in certain situations, not worry so much about the reshuffle, all the other things that go along -- that come out of the qualifying school. I thought it was a very successful week for him, win or lose, as it would be for me, too. Had I lost, it's still a successful week in that I'm playing well on conditions that are similar to next week, and next week is a very big tournament, as well.

Q. You've had some excellent finishes at Augusta, you played great at The Open last year. I'm wondering how you feel, where you are in your pursuit of the first major championship? Do you feel like you're ready now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think Augusta provides a great opportunity for me to win my first major. The golf course setup, I couldn't draw up any better for the way I like to play the game. Having the critical holes, the critical tee shots, be right-to-left I think is a big help. I think that around the greens, my short game this year has been better than it has in many years. The last few years I've put myself in contention and almost won The Masters with the short game that has been less than I expect. I think that this year around the greens I'm as good as I have possibly ever been. I expect to do well next week because of that.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: To be honest with you, I don't think there's too much of a difference between -- well, I shouldn't say that. You know, the anxiety or the nervousness or anything that I experience during a major is very similar to what I experience during a regular tour event. As much as I want to win a major, win The Masters, US Open or any event, I don't think that it was -- I don't think that I didn't handle it well as much as I just didn't execute certain shots or shoot a low enough score. I think a couple of instances, I was just unfortunate. I think -- I guess to answer your question, I am ready and have been for a while to win.

Q. (Inaudible)?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the difference between winning a regular tour event and winning a major is that the conditions are so different, it takes a different mindset to shoot a good score in the major. It has nothing to do with dealing with pressure or handling the anxiety, you know, being nervous at night or being able to sleep. It has nothing to do with that. What it has to do with, in a major, the course is set up, the greens are so hard, you can't attack pins. Basically what you have to do -- four or five pars is the same as an immediate birdie, meaning if you par the first five holes, you've made up as much ground as you would if you birdied the 1st hole. Different mindset. Very difficult to be patient enough to win those tournaments. I think I was very patient at the US Open. I shot my target score of even par. I was patient at a couple of Masters to give myself an opportunity to win on Sunday. The important thing, if given the chance on Sunday, is to not necessarily go at all the pins, try and make pars and birdie the par 5s. That's what's different about here. At Sugarloaf, let's say -- TPC Sugarloaf, I feel like I can birdie every hole. I feel like I can birdie every hole at Augusta; in fact I knew I could a week ago, but come this Thursday, I'm not going to be birdie every hole. Bobby Jones said about No. 3 one time, with the pin up front, "As hard as you have these greens with that pin up front," somebody was telling Jones, he said, "It's very difficult to get that ball close." He said, "Not every hole was meant to be birdied." I think that's kind of the point he was trying to make, there's some of those you just play for par, it's a good score. It's difficult for me to overcome that because I'm a very aggressive player. I like courses like this where you can attack the pins. You saw that yesterday on 18. I wanted to get at that pin. It's a tough little pin to get to. There were a lot of people laying up. But I wanted to get at it. I thought I could make a 3 there, and ended up bouncing over the green and put myself in a position where par was a good score or birdie was very difficult. I could have made a 4 back from the middle of the fairway much more effectively than I could have from where I was at. It takes a little bit more discipline to lay up with a pitching wedge when I've got an iron into the green. Sometimes you to do that.

LEE PATTERSON: Any further questions?

Q. How long was the putt today on 16?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would say about 18 feet, between 15 and 20 feet.

Q. Since you were talking about Augusta, do players pay any attention to the physical beauty of the golf course and the things that spectators notice, when they're playing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Maybe the practice rounds we do, where when we play it prior to the week of the event, we certainly do. I think during the tournament the last thing I'm looking at is the flowers to the left of 13. I'm not saying they're not pretty, because they are. If I start looking out there, my mind is wandering from what I'm doing.

Q. What did you shoot in your practice round at Augusta?

PHIL MICKELSON: I shot a few under. But it was playing way different than what I expected to. Greens were holding, which I haven't seen.

Q. Do you think now with rededicating yourself to your short game, you really can be a better player than you ever were because you have the whole package now?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I feel like I'm a little bit more complete in that the last two, three years, I've really forced myself to strike it better because I have not been getting up-and-down as much. This year, I feel like I've been able to strike the ball well and if I do miss some greens, I'm getting up-and-down, which is keeping the momentum going in more rounds and consequently I've been playing better, putting myself in contention more often.

Q. When did you play your practice round at Augusta?


Q. What did you think of the changes they made?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I thought -- I really couldn't tell. They were very subtle. They were just small little things that they did. I'm trying to think if there was a big change. Maybe the biggest change was the green on 13, back right they moved that bridge back about 20 feet. They have a back right pin now that you may see that's further -- a lot further back than we've ever had. You know, it's fine. I just -- I think Augusta National is an incredible golf course and one of my favorite courses to play. I think that Bobby Jones was a great course designer, as was Alister McKenzie. I don't think it's the place of anybody, you can't break 90, to be changing the golf course from those original designs. It disappoints me that I can't play the same course that was created back in the early 1900s by the greats of the game, McKenzie and Jones. With that being said, shooting the golf course is wonderful, the change has been positive. I don't know, I'm not really -- I'm not really one to say.

Q. About the conditioning of the golf course, how does that affect the players? Do you discuss that at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't understand. What do you mean, how does the condition of the golf course affect the players?

Q. Yes. What I'm getting at, Augusta National, for people who watch it on TV, see this great green stretch of land with all the flowers. You've already said inside the ropes you don't pay attention to a lot of that. But also the course, in addition to looking nice on TV, it well-conditioned. I wondered if that was a factor in how you play, if there was any connection there at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the way the course is set up, it requires us to hit certain shots that we may or may not otherwise try. Is that kind of what you're asking?

Q. I was thinking more in terms of the way the course is manicured, the things people would see. That wouldn't be a factor with you playing, I gather, is that correct?

PHIL MICKELSON: You know, not really. The lies are nice, the greens roll through, all of that. I don't know what to say.

Q. You've been working on your short game. Have you been working with anybody in particular?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I really haven't. I've been -- I've been working with Rick Smith this year. I made a commitment to spend more time with him so as to keep everything pretty close together, not develop bad habits. He's really made a commitment to me to be there when I need him, spend time with me. But that's more long game, that's more ball striking and golf swing. Around the greens, you know, I haven't found anybody else who can really hit some of the lob shots I try, so it's hard for anybody to instruct it. Do you know what I mean? I just need to work on it on my own. I'll grab a few balls and go around the green, try a bunch of different shots. That's typically how I'll practice it. It's more of a time dedication than anything.

LEE PATTERSON: Thank you, Phil. Appreciate it.

End of FastScripts…

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