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April 13, 2002

Phil Mickelson


Q. Does that look doable?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that -- hold on.

BILLY MORRIS: Ladies and gentlemen, we are delighted to have Phil Mickelson with us. He had a very fine 68 today and is 7-under par for the tournament at the end of the third round.

Phil, give us some general comments please.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'll go ahead and answer Rick's quality question, is it doable.

I think what I was trying to do today was obviously shoot a very low round, but what I ended up doing was shooting 4-under to put myself in a position where if I do get that low round tomorrow, it very well may be good enough. And that's the best that I could hope for right now, with the quality of the leaderboard, with Tiger being up there, Vijay and Retief playing as well as he is, those guys are not going to come back. I'm going to have to go catch them, and I'm hoping that if I can get a good low round, it will hopefully be enough.

Had I not shot 4-under today then I really would not be in a position to shoot 6-, 7-under tomorrow and catch them. That's kind of the goal tomorrow. I think the golf course is very susceptible to birdies with the greens being soft and receiving shots well. It's certainly not playing easy because it's playing so long, but there are a lot of holes that can be birdied, and if I play a good round, I think that that's doable.

Q. When you look at that leaderboard, and I saw you staring at it, and you see the names of Els, Woods, Goosen, in terms of the quality of the leaderboard, can you speak about that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I thought that what we were saying beforehand if we just looked right down the World Ranking that would be pretty much a good criteria to who would play well and that seems to be the case. It seems like all the Top-10, for the most part, are up there. This golf course seems to bring that out.

Q. Would you say -- is it fair to say you are maybe hitting the ball more consistently better and maybe just not scoring as well?

PHIL MICKELSON: That would be something that I would say, in that I've driven the ball very well this week. I've been going after it and hitting the ball very hard and keeping it in play. There are a lot of holes that I've been just a couple yards in the first cut, so the fairway stats are a little deceptive.

I feel like I have not had very many business misses. I hit the ball very well this week. I just have not capitalized very many times on some birdie opportunities. The par 5s are playing a lot tougher now. No. 2 and No. 8 are playing much more difficult. They are not really reachable, and so you have to get up-and-down to make your birdie. 13 and 15 are still playing very birdieable, but that eliminates two birdie holes from past years, as far as about half a shot a day.

So, I think that my iron play has been pretty good, but it's still very difficult to get the ball close when you are hitting to table tops all the time. The pins are always elevated on top, and there's always fallaway both sides. You look at the 17th pin, the 16, you can go right down all the pin placements, 13, and the ball just falls away both sides, you miss it left it kicks left, you miss right it kicks right. It's hard to get the ball close and make a lot of birdies and you have to be careful. Because on 16 if you get on the right side of the hole, you are looking at 4 or possibly 5. The safe place is let it go down the slope and 2-putt, but when you're trying to make birdies, you have to bring bogeys into play.

Q. Being in the position that you are in, does that put less pressure on you and maybe allow you to play the kind of aggressive game that you'd like to play?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, now I don't really have a choice, not like it would matter. (Laughter.) I need to go out and play an attacking style tomorrow and try to make some noise and give them a number to shoot at.

Q. Is that a situation where you don't have to think about other people, you just have to think about, you know, going out there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I think that it's very difficult for me to play my best when I'm worrying about what other guys are doing. Certainly, if they go out, they are in control, if they can go out and shoot 5-, or 6-under par they are going to win the tournament. There's really nobody that's going to catch them. But if I can make some noise early and force them to continue to make birdies to keep pace, then it makes it a little more difficult.

Q. Talking about the leaderboard, besides you and Tiger, it's like all foreign guys. Do you have any theory about that? Is it coincidence?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think again, if we just look at the World Ranking, those seem to be the guys that come out. And with it being an international game, it's not like only Americans can play this game well.

Q. Were you satisfied with 68 or were you looking for two or three more, two or three lower today?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I always want the score to be lower. I thought that if I could get to 9 or 10 (under) that would be a more comfortable position. But I still need to shoot that 6- or 7-under par round. I was hoping it was today, which would have allowed me to say shoot 4-under today. But I shot 4-under today so I need to shoot 6- or 7-under tomorrow.

Q. Given the conditions did you think it was realistic?

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure, I did think it was realistic. The pin placements were more difficult today, because of the rain, they had to put it in elevated spots, on the highest parts of the greens. And that makes it very difficult to get to a lot of pins.

The other factor that comes into play on every single hole that we have not talked about is the mud. Mud is always on one side of the ball. My 13th hole today, I had mud on the left side of the ball and if you know how that works, it flies -- putting, it putts towards the mud because of the gravity, the weight of the mud. But aerodynamically, there's a different reaction, the ball flies the opposite. So when the mud is on the left side it shoots to the right.

So I'm playing the 13th hole and I've got that creek to the right, and I've got mud on the left side of my ball knowing the ball is going to shoot right. So I've got to aim at the trees, and let it snap quick. And that's happened on every hole.

Now sometimes it works out great. Like No. 10, I aimed in the left trees with that 8-iron, because I had mud, again on the left side of the ball and it shot it right, and ended up a few feet from the hole. So I judged it properly.

But on 13, it fortunately shot far enough right to miss the trees, but it did not shoot far enough to the right to get to the pin and it went through the green. So that's a factor on every single hole.

That's the only really difficult part, because if you play 11, my biggest fear is that I get mud on the right side of the ball and I'm playing 11, because it's going to shoot it left and I just don't know how far to play it to the right. Everybody's got to play it, but that's the most challenging part of today, getting the irons close, given -- even when you take a casual water drop, you're going to have mud, but it's not the kind of mud that's going to affect the flight. But you still have a dirty ball, even if you clean it and drop it, it's dirty, not like that matters, but when mud sticks on it, aerodynamically, it has the counter effect of what side it's on.

Q. When are you going to putt with mud?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, if you're on the fringe.

Q. Three shots, three more birdies gets you right there, right in the thick of it, you're already there, but gets you that much closer. Are there three shots out there that stand out that you didn't get?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not really today. There was really only one shot that I gave away. I didn't have any bogeys. I made -- I putted very well today.

On 15, I had an 8-iron in, and again, there was a little bit of mud on the right side of the ball, but I felt like I could go at it, at the pin and shot it just enough left to where it landed just left of the green. Had it landed on the green, it would have stopped and I would have had a very easy chip, but instead it kicked it down and I chipped it up ten feet and missed it.

Q. How hard was it coming back?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not nearly as hard in years past when greens are firm and water is a threat. I just had it check up a little too quick.

Q. If there's a regret to this point, would it be 12, 13, 14 yesterday?

PHIL MICKELSON: There's no regrets yet. A low round tomorrow, no regrets.

Q. They said on television they thought you were much more consistent on the shorter putts -- wasn't me, it was them. How do you feel about that? Did you do anything different over the last day to focus on that, or is it just nothing unusual?

PHIL MICKELSON: They just went in. They are very difficult here. That is a very challenging part of this golf course, because all the 4- and 5-footers that I have, I'm playing six or eight inches of break and letting it curl a little bit. There are very few straight putts, I had one on 9 that was straight in, but I can count those on my fingers. The one on 18 I'm playing six or eight inches outside the hole from four or five feet and those are very difficult to make.

I didn't do anything different. They just went in.

Q. What is it about this tournament and this course, especially this year, that seems to bring the best golf out of the best golfers?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what it is, but it does seem to occur.

Q. Sundays have not been particularly good to you here. I don't think you've broken 70 here. How do you block that out and reverse that trend tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you bringing it up doesn't help. (Laughter.)

But, I'm obviously not going to focus on that. We're going to have typical Sunday pins. I know where they are and I'm going to have to be patient on where I pick and choose the holes to attack, much like I did today. I think that there's still a low round out there, especially if the greens stay receptive.

BILLY MORRIS: Phil, thank you very much and good luck to you tomorrow.


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