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June 15, 1995

Phil Mickelson


LES UNGER: Phil Mickelson, 2 under today. Up to 5 at one point. Still a fine round and perhaps you can just give us an overview of how the day went for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, opening round at the U.S. Open, 2 under, I am pleased. I am looking forward to playing tomorrow early at 8:15. Hopefully, the wind and the course will be somewhat soft and other than that, you know, I am pleased to be under par.

LES UNGER: Questions for Phil.

Q. When you were at 5 under and you come in with three holes left; now you are only 2 under. How disappointing is that and how do you handle that as a golfer?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I wouldn't be too surprised if that was my -- was not my last double bogey and I think a lot of people out on the course-- I don't think -- I am not the only one who is going to make a double out there this week. Those things are going to happen. You need to offset them with birdies and I did that throughout the day. Obviously it would have been nice to be 5 under. It would have been nice to be 6 under. It would have been better to be 7. The rounds can always be better. I shot 2 under today and I am pleased with the way I am striking it. I put the ball in play today. The only one I made double, I ended up laying it in the rough. It was just one of those things. The 2 bogeys that I made, I played the hole smart. I just didn't get down in par, so -- you know, those things are going to happen out there. I don't know what else to say -- it is just part of the game.

Q. Phil, were you a bit surprised of the conditions of the golf course given all its previous reputation?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, wasn't really surprised because I had played it throughout the week. I kind of knew what to expect. But I was surprised that the wind stopped midway through the round. It was playing awfully tough starting out. It was make -- very difficult to go at some pins. If it continued blowing at that pace, the greens were going to dry out even more; it would have been very difficult. The wind died down a little bit. It tends to soften up. We were able to get up at some pins. When I say get up at some pins, I mean at 15 feet; not 30. So 15 feet is a reasonable putt at it. I had some of those and was able to make some. But still even being down, it was still up there. It was still a factor on every shot. It wasn't like it was just dead calm.

Q. Phil, you were 5 under going to 16. Had do you figure it was birdie? Can you talk us through what happened, how you played the hole?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit 1-iron off the tee to stay short of the bunker since it's into the wind you can't reach it. There is no sense hitting driver. I laid up with a 1-iron, but it kind of caught the wind and went in the rough. It was so deep I could barely get a sand wedge to it and it wasn't even the hay, you know, it was just off the fairway. So I laid up just short; tried to get up and down. I hit a wedge just behind the hole about 20 feet -- 15, 20 feet, and I 3-putted; ended up knocking it 4 feet by. That one didn't go in. A typical double, you know.

Q. Can you just go over the details of all the birdies and bogeys?

PHIL MICKELSON: Okay. On 3, I made bogey. I hit a 2-iron going for the middle of the green. I pulled it a little bit to the right part of the green. And the pin was on the left. I 3-putted. 9, I made birdie. I hit a cut 3-iron in there to about 5 feet underneath the hole. 11, I hit a 6-iron about 12 feet below the hole. 12, I hit a good drive. I hit 5-iron in there about 12 feet behind the hole. 13, just hit a 1-iron off the tee and had 9-iron left to about 12 feet. Made that. On 15, I only had 117 yards. I hit a little pitching wedge and it was downwind and just didn't really go as far as I thought it would. I was 30 feet short on the front fringe and ended up making that. Putted from the fringe. Putted from the fringe, yeah. 17, I hit a 5-iron going for the middle of the green. It is -- ran through the green because the green pitches away. It went just over and was unable to get that up and down.

Q. Number 4?

PHIL MICKELSON: 9 was a cut 3-iron.

Q. Number 4?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. I hit a 3-wood off the tee into the fairway bunker. Had 125 left. Hit a pitching wedge to about 6 feet.

Q. Phil, does a good start in the Open make the rest of the week a little easier for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: It definitely helps. There is no question. You get off to a poor start, you are fighting and you are pressing to make some birdies and get back into it. I feel like having, you know, a couple of shots under par, I don't need to do that. I don't need to press. I can play the course. I don't want to say smartly in the sense when I find myself in trouble, to try and make the best of it and take what you are getting. If that is a bogey, so be it. And not have to press for birdies. I could be a little bit more patient. When I went through the round today, there were only maybe half of the pins that I was able to go at; the other half you are trying to play to the proper part so you have a shot in. So with that in mind, by not getting too far behind early, I am able to continue with that game plan.

Q. Your overall impression right to left hitters, left to right hitters, low ball, high ball, so on, the way you are playing your game right now, how is that fitting the course as you see it, just overall?

PHIL MICKELSON: If anybody just hits it one way, they are not going to do very well out here, that's the bottom line. The fairways are running one way. They are going away from you the next. The wind is a big factor. You have to maneuver the ball both ways. You have to hit it high to get some down -- get it down soft on the downward holes and you have to be able to drive it low into the wind. If you are just hitting one of those, you are going to have a real tough time. I feel like I have been working on all areas, all types of shots. I have been working a lot on my ball-striking for that reason and the reason that to win a Major, to win any of The Majors you need to strike the ball solidly, put the ball in play, and hit the -- hit crisp iron shots into the green to hole them. With that in mind, I have been working on a lot of ball-striking and I feel like it is well suited for the course.

Q. Phil, giving up 3 shots right at the end, how do you take that and go in tomorrow; I mean, how do you look at it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, gosh, you know, like I said, it is probably not going to be my last double bogey. I know that other players in the field are going to make doubles. It is just part of the game. It is really not that big of a deal. A couple under after the first round, that is pretty much where I would want to be. I have been starting out -- I thought even par would be a great score starting out. So, I am extremely pleased to be a couple under. Now, to have it going and get to 5, yeah, it's a little disappointing; there is no question, you would like to continue; especially with the remaining 3 being possible birdie holes, but it just goes to show that this golf course --


PHIL MICKELSON: (Continuing) -- if you hit one shot in the wrong spot, it will just come up and bite you and basically I just laid up in the rough. That is just one of those things.

Q. It has been written a lot about how you don't play well in Florida with the high winds. Was that a concern that you don't have the best reputation of being a wind player coming here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know-- You know, I have no idea.

Q. You had a decent run in Augusta. Are you really focused towards The Majors this year; are you ready to take that next step up?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think everybody is focused towards The Majors, you know, it is not just me. It is everybody out here. I would dearly love to win the Open. There is no question. Everybody in this field would dearly love to win it. I feel like I am working hard; preparing for The Majors, working hard on my game to prepare for The Majors; trying to create the shots needed to win those specific events. But, so is everybody else. So it is just a matter of shooting a lower number that particular week, but I guess -- I don't know -- did I answer your question at all? So, so?

Q. I guess after last year trying to make up for lost time or do you feel pressure in any way?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I didn't play for three months. That is not that big a loss, you know? If you factor it in over the three years that I have been playing professionally, you know, it is what, 1/12th?

Q. How differently did the course play today after the three practice rounds? Was it kind of like starting from scratch?

PHIL MICKELSON: It actually played, I would say, a little bit more difficult in a couple of areas and little bit easier in the others. It was windy -- I am sorry -- it was rainy in the practice rounds so the course was playing extremely long; hitting a lot of long iron shots and couple of holes were very difficult to reach. Today, the greens dried out dramatically overnight. They had that shiny glassy look to them, where you could easily get a putt that would slide five, six feet by on it. But it didn't quite play as long as it had in the practice rounds. Fairways were a little bit firmer. You were getting a little bit of a roll rather than just hitting and stopping, so it was a little bit of give and take. I think the weather forecast is supposed to be sunny. I see the USGA making these greens very hard, and fast and if the wind picks up it is going to be almost impossible to shoot even.

Q. Phil, Nick Price came in here and said that basically after he has played the last couple of years that he is going to have to start saying "no" because of all of the attention; it has gotten to be too difficult for him to deal with. He also said as hard as it has been for him, it is going to be really hard for the good American player to handle all the attention. You are a good young American player. How much of a hassle do you find all the attention and all the stuff that goes with going with playing well?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is not a hassle. It is part of the job and it is flattering. However, sometimes there is not enough time to do everything that you'd like, and my personal feeling is that there is no other sport where there is that much interaction between the athlete and the fan. If you look at football, basketball, baseball, all your major sports, I don't see anybody signing practice round -- signing autographs during their practice in between plays. I mean, that doesn't happen. But it happens out here every week. After competition, football, basketball, baseball players go into their locker room. Golfers stay and sign. There is no other sport where there is as much interaction between the player and the fans than in this game, and it is not realistic to expect more than what is already being done by the player. We do our best to sign after round and so forth. With that in mind, we as players have to accept that that is all we can do and then we have to go on with whatever else we need to do. We need to go practice; get ready for the next day; catch a plane if it is Sunday and so forth, so I don't think it is realistic of Nick to expect it or of anybody to expect to fulfill everybody's desires of his time. I mean, and he does the best he can. He does way more than many players out here. With that in mind, tying it into myself, I am just going to do the best I can, but I still see a lot of people all upset over me not signing one autograph, but I think that I have a lot more things to worry about trying to win an Open than to sign a stranger's autograph.

Q. Phil, you seem to be saying you can't really attack this course. Does that change your game in any major respects? Club size? Whatever?

PHIL MICKELSON: Off the tee, it does, often. It is more important to put the ball on the fairway than to try to get that extra two clubs into the green, you know, a 7-iron instead of a 5-iron; it is more important to put the ball in play. You know, it seems like -- it does affect the way you play because it is difficult to make enough birdies to offset the mistakes. I mean, my round today was a little different than what I am expecting my other three rounds to be. I happened to make a lot of birdies. But two, three birdies a round is quite a bit out here and you need to minimize the mistakes; play from the middle of the green; get the ball in the fairway and make a number of pars to have a good round.

Q. Another thing Nick said was that some Americans, he thinks, might deliberately not want to be as good as they can be because of all attention that might be thrust upon them. Could you ever imagine that not wanting to win because it is too much?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I have never really thought like that.

Q. So you wouldn't have a problem with whatever success brings you; wouldn't have a problem with it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, gosh, if I was successful, I think that would be pretty good, pretty neat. I wouldn't have a problem with that at all. Winning a British, two PGA's, you know, like Nick has done, no, I wouldn't have a problem with that.

LES UNGER: Sounds like a good way to say good luck the rest of the way.

End of FastScripts....

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