March 27, 1999
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, FLORIDA
Q. Working out on the range all right?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hope so.
Q. One off now, you like your spot.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, that is kind of nice. It was obviously a tough day. A lot of guys had some problems. I mean, everybody did. But, yeah. I had something happen to me today I have never seen happen. On the first hole, I had a putt that was just trickling up, just going by the hole, hit a spike mark, came backwards.
Q. First hole?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. That was when I knew it was going to be a long day.
Q. Was it blowing? Was the wind blowing?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I think I am a big advocate of firmer greens and making the golf course more challenging, and I thought that it played extremely difficult. The only thing that I would say was borderline was when the leaves blew from the wind and would hit the ball and knock it off-line. I thought that that was just borderline. But otherwise, it was just extremely difficult. I think the course is in great shape, though, as far as the ball on the greens rolls very true. Even though they are lightning fast and very difficult to keep around the hole, it still rolls very true.
Q. Was the wind factor in the spike mark --
PHIL MICKELSON: It just hit a spike mark. Just shows you how firm the greens are because the spike mark is so firm that it creams the ball off-line.
Q. Are you aware that right now you will start tomorrow like trailing by one shot? And I wonder what your thought is or your mindset?
PHIL MICKELSON: I am aware that I am trailing by a shot. To be honest with you, today it was very difficult for me to find the time to look at the leaderboards. I am typically one who likes to know how everybody is doing. But every shot and every hole became such a challenge and so difficult just to make a par that I just -- I didn't really have enough time to worry about what everybody else was doing. And so heading into tomorrow, I anticipate it being the same way. I think the golf course is going to play just as difficult as it did today. If that is the case, we might find only one or two players under par for the tournament.
Q. Was it hard to keep your patience today and not get anxious and say, why isn't anything happening here, this or that?
PHIL MICKELSON: At first, I may have thought it was difficult the first two or three holes. I was thinking that I could go out and shoot 3-, 4-, 5-under par. But as the day wore on, after four, five holes, it became evident to me that everybody was going to have difficulties and that the leaders were going to come back. It didn't look like it at first with David going 2-under early. But eventually he has to play all those holes just like we do, and with some of the pin placements and firmness of the greens and the wind, combine all those elements together, and bogeys are just going to be more prevalent than birdies.
Q. If you hadn't 3-putted you would have gotten into the final group. Does that matter to you?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would have liked to have gotten in the final group, sure. I enjoy playing with David and enjoying competing against him head-to-head; especially for a tournament as big as this. However, there is also some guys in the past who have won from the earlier groups. So I am hoping to use that to my advantage.
Q. Is there no room for aggressiveness out there today with the conditions as they were, or was it just play to stay out of trouble and take the rare birdies as they come?
PHIL MICKELSON: Basically that is true. No. 11, par 5, reachable. I have 5, 6-iron into the hole, and I couldn't even shoot at the green. Think about that for a second, to not be able to hit a 5-iron at the green. Now, I am not saying -- I am not complaining. Don't get me wrong. I am just saying that the course is playing that difficult where the only play I had, I couldn't lay-up. If I did, I would have to go over the bunker. I couldn't stop it. I had to play into the bunker. Ended up getting up-and-down and making birdie. That was the only play that there was. Now, think about the last time where you had a 5-iron and you didn't try to hit the green. You see, that is the type of shots that we are faced with and strategy that we are faced with.
Q. What were you playing for?
PHIL MICKELSON: The bunker. I tried to get it as far down to the bunker just to the right of the pin to give me a little bit more green.
Q. Does that happen at Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, because the greens are much bigger there. But I have had many a times where I have had a 10-footer that I didn't try to make. Think about that one. When was the last time you had a 10-foot putt you tried not to make? Because if you -- if the ball broke enough to get to the hole, it would roll 15, 20 feet by. So you had to play high and hope that it stays about a foot or two above the hole, and then you can make it from there. That is the type of stuff that we deal with when the greens are this hard and fast. Colin and I played together, and we both agreed that we haven't seen any greens at Augusta this firm or fast. Now, obviously they are a little flatter out here, so they won't play as -- we won't see these 60-foot breaking putts and so forth that we see at Augusta because the greens aren't as big or as undulated. But as far as firmness, and speed, these are as fast and harder than anything we have played. I think that if you look at the leaderboard, guys like Tiger and David Duval and Davis and the guys have -- have come to the top, I think, because the penalty is so severe when the greens are this firm.
Q. When you have to take a shot in which you're literally thinking, if I can hit it in the spot - where most of us would say is not a good spot, like a bunker - if I have to hit it in the bunker, is that past the point where the golf course is playable?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not necessarily, because that was downwind. If it had been into the wind, I could have held a 3-wood to the green and kept it on. So basically I guess my point was the birdie holes were set up being into the wind, and downwind, the holes were very difficult to make birdie, trying to just make par.
Q. So in essence, the playing conditions themselves may dictate a little bit of what might be construed as fair or unfair?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I wouldn't say that that is unfair because -- in fact, there is nothing that is unfair as long as everybody has to play it, and everybody did. So there was nothing that was unfair about it. It was just very challenging and very difficult and very unique. Because again, I can't think the last time that I have been in that situation, and I seem to only encounter those situations in the five biggest tournaments.
Q. You talked about 11, but how many times did you have situations like that today where you were faced with what normally would be a no-brainer shot and you had to go against everything?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it has probably happened four or five times, but some -- what is very difficult about this, if you add everything together, obviously we have talked about how small and how hard the greens are and you had the wind, it makes the club selection very difficult. But when you miss a green, it is extremely difficult to get up-and-down. And I can't tell you the last time that I thought about just hitting the green when I was just off of it. I was just off of the green on No. 9 and had just a simple lob shot. I have got a pretty decent lob shot and I wasn't even trying to get it close. I was just trying to hit the green and give myself a putt at it. I can't tell you the last time that that was my goal.
Q. Is that more wearing on you mentally then?
PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. That was set up because of poor ball-striking earlier in the hole. Had I struck it well, I would have been up there 20 feet putting for birdie. So it was just -- yeah, mentally it wears on me, but it was not caused because of I was mentally tired or anything. It was just that -- just set up by poor shots before that.
Q. I just -- I guess I meant, is it more draining to have to play like that? I mean, you have got the wind which is draining you --
PHIL MICKELSON: Sure.
Q. But then you are --
PHIL MICKELSON: It is a greater mental challenge, no question. And it is like that every hole, every shot.
Q. What does it feel like when you come off the golf course? Is there relief, exhaustion or --
PHIL MICKELSON: After each hole there is a certain amount of relief and it is very temporary (laughter).
Q. We are all laughing because we are not playing. We have just been watching.
PHIL MICKELSON: You can see it. You can see it. I will be the first one to be out there cursing the greens and saying, you know, this is so tough and so forth. But I would -- wouldn't have it any other way. I like it like this. I think that the guys who are, you know, the top 25 guys would agree that they like it like this. They like the challenge and they like the fact that the misses are penalized so much greater.
Q. So that you have to get the absolute right shot every time?
PHIL MICKELSON: Exactly. And you have to hit that exact perfect shot from the fairway. If you hit in the rough there is no chance. There is a few holes that you can run them up on but for the most part there is - and a lot of penalties short of the green you have got to fly it on. Anyway, David should be in here pretty soon. I apologize for coming a little late. I appreciate your understanding. I didn't have too much sunlight. If you saw my round I didn't strike it to a tee, so....
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