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March 30, 2006

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Defending champion Phil Mickelson here at the BellSouth Classic, tied the course record with a 9 under 63. Start with some opening comments on a great day for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you. Yeah, it was a fun day. Fun day, fun start, birdied the first couple holes and was off and running and made some putts, which felt great.

I don't know what else to say, but it was a really enjoyable day.

Q. Could it have been better?

PHIL MICKELSON: Any round could have been better, but it could have been not nearly as good, either. I had a lot of putts that went in. I'll absolutely take it. I'm ecstatic with how it turned out. I hit a lot of good shots, but I also followed it with some good putts, and it was a good day overall.

Q. The bogey?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a good putt, overplayed it and should have known from watching another ball not break as much and just didn't pay attention and played three inches outside left edge, which was too much. The ball didn't come that much. But no complaints, I did what I wanted to, and a lot of them that I hit where I wanted to went in today.

Q. I know that the goal at this time is to be peaking going into next week. You always want to peak before the majors. Do you feel like today was a reflection of you getting to that point?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I felt I played very well at TPC last week. I had a few mishaps on 17, but I felt I played very well and I feel as though I had good practice on Monday and Tuesday down at Augusta, so it feels like it's coming around. It's nice to have a good round here. I'd like to follow it with a couple more because that would really give me some confidence heading into next week.

Q. What is it about this course that brings out the best in you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love it. It's very similar to Augusta, and I think probably the best record in consistency and so forth of any golf course that I've had on Tour has been at Augusta, and this course has very similar shot values and similar greens, and short game is a critical part of the round. I think all those elements allow me to kind of hang in there. If I hit a wayward shot here or there, there's enough room to recover. I really like the golf course.

Q. Not to belabor the point, but you know better than us; was today a 65 that turned into a 63 or a 61 that got away from you to a 63?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't feel as though I really left any shots out there. I just didn't feel like that. I mean, I know that we look at the last putt on 18 or we say I didn't birdie the two par 5s, but those were tough par 5s today, and I ended up birdieing the par 3s, which was a feat. That's a good feat for me to make birdie on those, on the back side.

I'll take it. You know, it just was a fun round of golf.

Q. We saw on television that not making the 20 footer had been a setback earlier this year. How early today did you realize you were bucking that trend?

PHIL MICKELSON: I made one on the first hole and that was a nice little boost and then I knocked it close on the second for a three footer.

Any good round needs to have a couple 15 , 20 footers go in. You're just not going to knock it three to five feet every hole. When I did hit it close, I was able to make those putts. When I hit a good shot and played away from the hole 15, 20 feet, I was able to make those putts, too. It was a great feeling.

Now, I think that tomorrow's round I'll need to capitalize a little bit more on some of the par 5s, but who knows, maybe I'll hit it like I did today again. It was really a fun round.

Q. I think you birdied six of the first seven holes today. Looking back, how much of that is momentum and how much of that is really just six different birdies?

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought you were going to ask what happened on the others (laughter). Well, when that happens, it just doesn't feel like you're trying to make six birdies, you just hit a couple of good shots here and there. You get the ball in the fairway here and there, and next thing you know you hit a good iron shot and the putt goes in. I looked up and I was 6 under through seven. That was a great feeling.

What was nice is I felt like I hit good golf shots to do that. I kept the ball in play off the tee and then I continued on the back side. A lot of times I might have let it slide. I ended up three putting the 8th hole for bogey, and it would be easy to come in with even par on the back and have it be a ho hum 67. I was able to make some birdies on the back and push it and try to get a little bit lower and catch the morning leader, Gavin Coles, and actually pass him by one.

Q. Do you know much about Gavin Coles? Have you played with him before? He was kind of struggling out there for a while.

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't played with him, but I saw that he's from Australia and he won a couple Nationwide Tour events and obviously he's got a lot of game for him to get out here the way he did. He came out here not by a fluke but by winning golf tournaments, and I think that says a lot.

Q. You said yesterday that the big difference between the last couple years is you've learned how to save a quarter shot a round and played smarter than you have before. What was the best example of that today, where you saved something or put yourself in a good position to avoid a problem?

PHIL MICKELSON: There are always shots here or there, but I'm trying to think of an example where I played away from a hole. I didn't birdie 10. I drove it to the right in the trees there, and I hit a 9 iron out to the fairway and had a chance with a 7 iron to try to make birdie, make par at worst. There was a shot where I could hit 3 wood underneath the tree limbs and got it right down by the green, but if it doesn't come off, I am looking at 6. There's an example of taking maybe a quarter of a shot. I could have made 4, maybe 5 at worst. I didn't bring in a 6 or 7 into play. Something like that.

Q. A slight reduction of the river boat gambler rep you used to have? Is this something you feel good about?

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say that. I went for No. 4 with a 3 wood with all that water there short of the green. 6, I was in the rough and tried to snuggle it through those trees there and get it up by the green and was able to do that to make birdie. I went for it on 18 with that wind pushing it in. So I wouldn't say that and I missed it left of the pin on 11. That's not where you want to be. I fired at a lot of pins, but there was just a time or two when I've taken the big number out of play.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: We'll touch on your round. As we talked about, you birdied six of the first seven holes starting with the first.

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a driver on No. 1 and was able to get it close to the green, hit L wedge in about 20 feet and made it.

I hit a pitching wedge on 2 to three feet, made that.

I hit driver, 3 wood on 4 to 18 feet and two putted.

I hit driver, L wedge on 5 to five feet.

Driver, 4 wood over the green on 6 and chipped up to three feet.

I hit driver, pitching wedge on 7 to three feet.

I bogeyed 8, hit 4 iron to about 50 feet and three putted.

11, hit pitching wedge to 25, 30 feet, made that.

14, birdied with a good drive and a gap wedge to three feet.

Birdied 16 with an 8 iron to six feet.

I birdied 17 with a driver, 9 iron to about 20, 25 feet.

Q. In the past you didn't play a week before a major. What are your reasons for playing?

PHIL MICKELSON: I tried that in the past and I just didn't play well on Thursday of the major. If I hadn't played competitively in a while, felt a little rusty, and I find that playing competitively all the way up through Sunday and having only three days in between competitive rounds keeps me a little bit sharper mentally. I've found that works best for me.

Now with the schedule changing and there might be a couple tournaments where I don't play the week before, I'll have to adjust that and come up with another way to prepare. But for now it's been working well.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, thanks.

End of FastScripts.

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