June 20, 1999
PINEHURST, NORTH CAROLINA
LES UNGER: How about your reactions to the closeness of a four, three, or whatever person battle for the whole day.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that this year's U.S. Open was pretty exciting there towards the end with four players having a very good opportunity to win the golf tournament. I felt with three holes to go, I felt like I was in control of the tournament, because I was leading and it's a very difficult course to make birdies on. I felt like I played well all day. It was a little disappointing that the only birdie came at such an inopportune time at 16, but I felt like I still had a very good chance. And even until the last putt, I felt like there was still a very good chance. Payne Stewart made two exceptional putts on 16 from 35 feet to save par, and on 18 from about 30 feet to save par. And I think that those putts showed a lot of character and he's going to represent the United States well as our National Champion.
Q. Phil, considering what else is going on in your life, is this going to be easier to get over?
PHIL MICKELSON: Considering what?
Q. What else is going on in your life?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it probably will. I think that although it's a disappointing day, it's been a disappointing day for me. The fact that our first child is expected to come here in the next week or so is awfully exciting, and something that I'm looking forward to. It will be a bigger change of my life than had I won today.
Q. Phil, was 16 the key hole for you this week, and if so, what was it about 16 that was slow?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really, it was the same as every hole, par was the goal. It's obviously a long hole. The only thing was I had an 8-foot putt for par, and I missed it. I made most of the others today and I just missed that one. The tendency this week was for me to pull those putts a little bit. I putted very well, but 16 and 17 I pulled those just slightly and missed by an inch or two.
Q. Phil, when Payne hugged you at the end, what did he say to you when he grabbed you?
PHIL MICKELSON: He just said he's really happy for me and that Amy and I are expecting our first child and he's really excited for us. Payne is a very thoughtful individual and I have a lot of respect for him on and off the course.
Q. Phil, when Payne was settling in over that putt on 18 the TV cameras zoomed on you and you had a very perceptible smile. Were you smiling at the theater of the moment or what was going through your mind?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I was thinking, gosh, if it goes in, I'm going home tonight and I'm going to see Amy. And if it doesn't, then I've got to stick around for another day and I just hope that the baby doesn't come. And now I kind of hope that she does. Either way I was going to walk to the hole and shake his hand and congratulate him on a day that he played exceptionally well. And it just so happens that he finished the tournament off.
LES UNGER: Let me just ask the question, had you and one other player earned the right to a playoff and you got a call, that would be a little different than if you had to leave the entire event?
PHIL MICKELSON: How so? (Laughter.)
LES UNGER: You would leave one person there to become the champion. Is that what you're saying?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, but come middle of the June next year, we're going to have another Open.
Q. Excuse me. I thought you were going to say another baby (laughter.) Biggest subject here this week. Have you talked to Amy since you walked off the course?
PHIL MICKELSON: I have.
Q. What did she say?
PHIL MICKELSON: She feels what I feel. She has been very supportive of my career and she and I have a very close relationship. And she could tell what I'm going through. We go through the same emotions. It's been difficult for both of us. And I think it's probably harder for her because she's not the one making the shots, and she doesn't really have any control. It's very difficult to be in that role. And she's been a wonderful asset in my life.
Q. Phil, if you could describe your thoughts and feelings on 17, watching Payne hit that shot to the pin and then coming through like he did with the last shot?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, really it was that shot where he knocked it close where the realization that he could beat me entered my mind, because until then I felt like I was in control, making pars, and that I was playing well. And as soon as he knocked that four feet, I realized that par might not be good enough. So I ended up hitting a very good shot in there, but just didn't capitalize on the putt.
Q. Phil, will you talk a little bit about Payne and just, you were very gracious to him when he won it. What are your feelings about him as a player and as a person?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, he's won quite a few Majors now, and I think his game has to be respected. He seems to be always in contention at the Open. He and his wife have been very gracious with Amy and myself and I've enjoyed spending time with the two of them, so I have a lot of respect for both he and his wife.
Q. How so? You said they've been very gracious to you. How so?
PHIL MICKELSON: They've been nice.
Q. Phil, do you think you grew up today as a player?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I think that time will tell. I think that it will be interesting to see if I'm able to break through when I get in this situation again. And it will be interesting to see how long it takes me to get back in this situation. I've put a lot of emphasis on the Majors this year, and I think that adds to the disappointment, in that I've been looking forward to those four particular tournaments so much and putting so much emphasis on those that it may add to the disappointment. But on the other hand, I think that by doing that, I've also seen some improved play in the Majors for me, from The Masters and the U.S. Open.
Q. Phil, as the match was progressing, was there any conversation between you and Payne about just what a great match it was?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not really. I think that we didn't really speak too much during the round for the reason that the golf course was enough of a challenge. And we had enough on our mind trying to make pars that chatting about something else just wasn't in the picture.
Q. Phil, can you tell us the club on 17 and how far was the putt and what happened on the putt?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a 7-iron on 17 to about 8 feet. And the putt looked like it had a tendency to go left early and right at the end, and I tried to play it straight and I just pulled it just a little bit and it didn't take the break going left, and then it just missed too far to the right. I didn't get it out far enough on the left side of the hole. I needed to have it about left center, halfway there.
Q. Phil, last several holes it didn't seem that you didn't show that you felt a lot of pressure. Was this as fun to play as it was for us to watch it, for you? Were you feeling pressure and just not showing it?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it certainly is a nerve-wracking time the last 9 holes of the U.S. Open, tied for the lead. I tried not to show it and I tried to stay relaxed and I felt like I did a decent job of that. I felt like I played decent, as well. I think that the last three holes, I just didn't have that little extra that Payne showed. Payne came through with that little extra on a couple of his putts and I just ended up missing both of mine.
Q. Phil, speaking of the last three holes, Payne's toughness over the years has been questioned. The last three holes today is as tough as any one could be. Could you address how tough of a competitor he is?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the one thing that I would say about his career is that every time, whether he's won the tournament or not, he's faltered slightly. He's come immediately back with a birdie. And after he bogeyed 12, I knew that, because the pin was susceptible on 13, I knew he was going to make birdie there. He just does that all the time. And so to question his toughness, I don't think that would be fair, and the reason is that he waits for players to falter. He puts himself in positions to win tournaments, and he waits for players to falter as he did in the '91 Open, as he did in the '89 PGA. Today he made something happen in that he ended up playing under par the last few holes. And typically pars are good enough to win the Open. But he made the birdie when he needed to on 17.
Q. Phil, when Payne grabbed you by the side of the head after he made the putt for par on 18, he's obviously very excited and he's telling you that he's happy for what's going to happen to you. What are you thinking? Can you even hear what he's saying or thinking about?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. And it was sincere, he -- I don't know what to say. I mean we're friends and he's a sincere individual and I have a lot of respect for him. He was genuinely happy for Amy and myself that we're expecting our first child. And I know fatherhood is a special institution for him, too.
Q. Phil, did the playoff, the possibilities of a playoff enter your mind before 18 and how it might affect Amy and the baby?
PHIL MICKELSON: The possibility of a playoff entered my mind on 18. I felt the best I was going to hope for on 18 was a playoff. So playing the last hole I was trying to make birdie to get a tie, and I still felt even if I made par I had an outside chance. I think that had we gone into a playoff, it would have been a difficult situation to deal with. I don't think that it would have been a problem but again you just never know.
Q. Phil, did it bother you that you guys were put on the clock?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I've been put on the clock every day. And typically what happens is there's a big delay and we wait and wait and wait, and then those groups take off and then there's a gap and we're timed. And it happens every -- it happened every day for me. So when that happens you just take the precaution, you -- my caddy Jim ran up to the ball early, got the yardages, because the clock doesn't start until I get there. And what's funny is that when I get on the clock I have to walk slower, because if I walk quick up to the ball I get started -- the timer starts quicker. That happened to me one time at Colonial, although it's not a USGA event. I got fined because I ran up to the green, asked the players in front of me to go ahead and play out, and they said, don't worry about it. I took too long catching my breath, I got slapped for a thousand. So I just walk slower now (laughter.)
Q. Phil, your reaction to the galleries which seemed to be really pulling for you, and then given your situation, which was well chronicled, would you like to see the Open come back to Pinehurst some day?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would very much like to see the Open come back to Pinehurst. I felt like this was the first Open course I played that tested every area of the player's game, from the driver all the way to the short game. Those two areas really haven't been tested much, in the 7, 8, 9 Opens I've played in. The galleries were exceptional, not just to myself but to Payne and the rest of the players. I thought they were very supportive and very cordial. I think it would have made for a cool story for my daughter to read about as she got older, but it's still something special. I birdied No. 7. I hit a 4-iron off the tee and a 9-iron into the green and made a 30-footer, and I bogeyed 16. I hit a driver in the fairway, 3-iron just short of the right bunker and missed an 8-footer.
LES UNGER: Good luck to you and your family.
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