February 11, 2004
LA JOLLA, CALIFORNIA
THE MODERATOR: Welcome back Phil Mickelson, three-time winner here, 1993, 2000, 2001, this year winner of the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic, third last week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National ProAm. Maybe talk a little bit about the good year, the good start that you've had so far with three top sevens in your three starts.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's been a good first three weeks, and I love coming here to San Diego. We've had a great sponsor of Buick the past number of years, made this tournament really a wonderful event. Being from the area, it means a lot to me to see this tournament thrive.
THE MODERATOR: Open it up for questions.
Q. What is the course looking like?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, the fairways look great, rough is up, the greens are rolling pretty good, so it seems to be taking shape. I haven't played the north yet, but that looked to be in every bit as good of shape as well.
PHIL MICKELSON: They seem to be fine today. They were rolling well, seemed to be somewhat receptive to shots. They looked good.
Q. What is it about this course that you like?
PHIL MICKELSON: Growing up here, what means so much to me is I used to come out and watch the guys play here. So it's been special for me looking at the pros from the outside in, and now being a part of it. I think that's the biggest thing.
Q. Is it something where the course sets up for your kind of game, a warm fuzzy feeling you get when you come back?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I just love playing here at Torrey Pines. I just have always loved playing here. I played my high school matches here, just loved going out. It reminds me of when I played golf as a kid, how much I loved just playing the game.
Q. What do you attribute the fast start to?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think it's just an improved game really and kind of an excitement for the year. Putting last year, all the troubles behind, looking forward to this year. Spending time in the off-season getting ready for this year, I couldn't wait for it to start. I'm just really enthusiastic about playing golf. When that's the case, I play my best.
Q. Did it surprise you you were able to put that in the rearview mirror so quickly?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, it didn't surprise me. I was counting the days till the year ended. I just can't wait for this year to get going, and it has. But I just really have been looking forward to '04.
Q. Where are you now compared to when you were No. 2 in the world?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would say that I feel like I'm playing a little bit better than a couple years ago. Granted, it's only been three weeks, and it's hard to say. But I feel that I'm driving the ball better than I did a couple years ago. My distance control of my irons when I was No. 2 in the world was very good, and I feel like I'm at that level again.
My putting, I putted very well. I feel like I'm starting to putt pretty well. My short game seems to be pretty sharp. I spent a lot of time just chipping and putting in the off-season. I saw that my scrambling stats was up quite a bit from the last couple years.
So just in general, I do feel like it's a little bit better than it was a few years ago.
Q. (Inaudible) make a run at Tiger now?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't really know. I don't think anybody really thinks about that. You just can't play your best golf when you're worried about another player.
Q. What is your assessment of Vijay's string of Top 10s? Also because he's been so successful for this period of time, does that make him the No. 1 player in the world right now?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm not going to get into the debate of 1, 2, 3, 4. But I think his string of play has been very impressive. 12 Top 10s shows that he can play not his best golf and still finish Top 10. When he plays his best golf, he's winning. So it's very impressive play.
I played with him last week. The biggest thing last week that I saw was he made a ton of putts. I had a tough time seeing how he could do that on those greens. He didn't seem to have a problem.
Q. I know it's been three weeks, but are you allowing yourself to kind of jump ahead a little bit, look forward to some events coming up, The Masters, things like that?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. I can't wait to start tomorrow. I can't wait for this event to go. I've been looking forward to coming home. And it's been like that for each event. I just can't wait for the event to start, whichever one is this week.
Dean is awfully nice. Tommy, I'm going to miss you next week, unfortunately. Need a week off. But I'll be back for the match play here. I just can't wait to compete and play. I just love playing golf right now.
My level of excitement is just at an all-time high really. I just love playing golf.
Q. Pretty counterproductive to kind of jump ahead?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. All of things that I've worked on, I've seen some results in how I've played. But I still feel as though I can work more on those and refine and get better in those areas - talking about driving, distance control, wedges, putting. All those areas I can hopefully still work on and get better. Maybe turn those thirds into firsts or seconds.
Q. Along those same lines, do you see yourself the way you're playing the game right now a consistent player who can register 12 to 15 Top 10s in a season in addition to the multiple wins you'd like to have? Is that what you're striving for?
PHIL MICKELSON: If I would do that or be able to do that, I wouldn't be able to think about it. It would be one of those deals where I'd have to play each week excited, rejuvenated, ready to play, try to compete to win, then I would finish Top 10 if I played okay. If I started thinking about "I want X number of Top 10s" or "I want these results," I won't be able to achieve it.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that was obviously a real tough time that I don't really enjoy talking about too much. But I think that now that everything's fine, now that she's doing great, now that Evan is doing great, our kids are healthy and having fun, it makes playing golf, it makes practicing golf, a lot easier, to focus on what I'm doing at the time.
Q. There was some talk about you changed your game, had one hand behind the back for a while. (Inaudible) can you show us where you did something that you might not have done in the past?
PHIL MICKELSON: I can't. The only time I can think of one thing that backfired is when I laid up on 14 at the Hope and I still made 6. You know, there's one example, but it didn't really help.
For the most part, I've hit a lot of drivers. I'll put the 1-iron in the bag when the fairways start to bottleneck at 270, which is the case later in the year. At AT&T where the fairways are wet, course is playing long, there weren't any 1-iron holes really. I won't be using a 1-iron this week, the holes are too long. A lot of drivers.
I don't know where the next tournament will be, maybe the Ford Championship, Doral, I would anticipate some 1-irons. But US Open, the tougher setups, I'll be having it in the bag. You might see a little bit of difference off the tee.
But for the most part, I'm using the same clubs. As I said last year all along, it was the execution that was off. This year the execution is much better.
PHIL MICKELSON: This is the fourth one.
Q. Tiger coming off a month's rest, can you talk about playing after a month off?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's never seemed to bother Tiger, how much time he's taken off. He seems to come back pretty sharp and ready to go. In fact, his first week back after a while, he seems to play his best. Last year, after knee surgery, comes back and wins his first tournament, which was here. So it doesn't seem to affect him too much.
I anticipate he's going to be sharp. I know that he's been busy. I know he's been working on his game. I know he was shooting a commercial the other day. We were a quarter mile away from each other doing the same thing.
I know he's been busy, but I anticipate him to play well. For me playing tournaments, I like to play a few events in a row. I feel like I've been working on my game and I feel not as rusty.
Q. Vijay has been successful playing all the time. Tiger has been successful playing a limited schedule. How do you view that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Everyone has to find out what works best for them. And the biggest mistake a lot of young players come out is they come out and they prepare for a tournament by playing practice rounds Monday and Tuesday and spending all day Wednesday playing. Thursday comes around, they're tired. They played every single week.
They need to pace themselves throughout the week, throughout the year. Tiger has found a pace that works well for him, where he wants to play X number of events, he wants to compete and win only those events. He'd rather play 18, win all of them than play 32 and win half of them. That's his mindset.
Vijay feels like he's better when he's playing because he feels sharper. When he takes time off, he feels like he gets rusty. I'm guessing. I haven't talked to him about it.
And I kind of am probably like in the middle. I like to play a nice long streak of three or four in a row, and then I like to take a couple weeks off.
Q. Did you happen to catch Tiger letting his hair down at the end of the Stanford-Arizona game?
PHIL MICKELSON: What do you mean? Did he have a different color hair?
Q. Rushed on the court, almost jumped on the dog pile.
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I thought it was cool, but I didn't see it. I just knew that his team won, and it was a pretty exciting game. I would probably do the same thing if Arizona State ever won a game, any game (laughter).
Q. You said your level of excitement is at an all-time high. Can you elaborate on that? Have you seen progress in your game? You want to bury last year? All of the above?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a combination of the fact that my family's healthy and everybody's doing well, that I had a tough year last year, didn't win, and that I'm really motivated to come back and have a great year, as well as I feel like I have great direction in my practice. Last year I felt I would practice, and I practiced a lot, but it was without a purpose, without direction.
This year I feel like I know what I'm working on when I'm hitting balls with a driver, I know what I'm working on when I get the short irons in my hand. I feel like when I spend time working on my game, I can see my game improve rather than working sideways all the time.
Q. Vijay down in South Africa played well, three rounds last week. What is the biggest difference between his game, a Masters, he won 50 tournaments without winning, now he's more consistent, can you see any difference?
PHIL MICKELSON: Putting.
Q. All putting?
PHIL MICKELSON: He's always driven it straight, he's always hit pretty good irons, pretty good short game. But he's making everything.
Q. Did you get a chance to work with either Rick or Pels over the last week or so? What were you working on?
PHIL MICKELSON: I spent time with Pels last week. I'll see Rick in a week and a half. It's similar stuff. Just basically the same stuff: Mechanics, getting the ball in play, wedges inside 150 with Pels. It seems like it's working.
Q. (Inaudible) at the end of 2005, didn't have three majors?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yeah, I hope he's right. I hope he's right.
Q. When you said that last year you were practicing without direction, did you just kind of fall into a trap of not getting direction?
PHIL MICKELSON: I had direction, but it wasn't getting me better. It wasn't the right direction.
Q. Your driver swing now, you're so successful with, is it a swing that you adapted to something with Rick that you had before or is it a new driver swing?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's really not too much different. It's just a little bit more balance, just better control. I think the biggest thing for me, though, is being strong, to be able to accommodate what he wants me to do. Before, I wasn't really strong enough to handle and be in balance with the club traveling as fast as the driver. Wedges, short irons, I was fine. When you would get to the longer stuff, the long irons, woods, I didn't have the physical strength to accommodate what he wanted me to do.
PHIL MICKELSON: Pebble was really windy. It's hard to base it on that. When I would go practice, I'd make four of the same swings and balls would be -- two of them would be right, one of them would be seven yards short, one would be seven yards long. It wasn't just enough. Pebble is tough to really use that as a barometer.
Q. Considering your great start, can you tell us of the prospects of getting a first major?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you know, that's down the road. But I feel like I'm working on the right things to give me a shot at it at least.
Q. Do you feel better now than you have in the past?
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah. Certainly better than a month ago, yeah.
Q. Do you remember the first time you played here?
PHIL MICKELSON: I was 17.
Q. First time you played here?
PHIL MICKELSON: In the tournament?
Q. No, I meant Torrey Pines.
PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, I don't remember. I don't remember. I played the north when I was 10, I think.
Q. (Inaudible) Michelle Wie?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't -- I don't have a problem with that. I just hope it doesn't become a big trend.
Q. Doral, Bay Hill, Player's.
PHIL MICKELSON: I will play Doral. I'll miss Honda, Bay Hill, then I'll play the three, Player's Championship, Atlanta, The Masters.
Q. Do you know what you're doing after that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Playing-wise? I'll have a few weeks off, two or three weeks off right now. I'm not sure exactly. Then I'll play it by ear. For now I have a few weeks off.
PHIL MICKELSON: Not sure yet. I played there last year. I enjoyed it. I'm not sure if I'll make it this year or not. I really haven't gotten past Augusta.
THE MODERATOR: Phil, thank you.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thanks, guys.
End of FastScripts.