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February 4, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Past champion Phil Mickelson, thanks for joining us. Tremendous round today, 11-under par 60, tied the course record. Start with some opening comments on a great day for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a wonderful day, no complaints here. I know that Gary is giving me a hard time about shooting 60 and not 59, but it was a wonderful day.

Q. Yesterday you shot 73-under some tougher conditions. Have you ever had back-to-back rounds where things went so right one day and maybe not quite as well the other day?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a lot easier today obviously than with the wind. The greens are so fast that yesterday with the wind, it made it very difficult to putt, and I got off to a poor start, and it was 4 over. But I think the key to today's round was really hanging in there on yesterday's back nine and getting a couple of birdies, getting it back to 2 over.

Doing that allowed me a chance to shoot a round like this and have it mean something, have it get me up into contention.

Q. Talk about maybe it was a key point where it looked like you had a birdie putt last night on 17, and were you on Tom's line -- you wound up not putting last night and waited till today and saw the line and made the putt, right?

PHIL MICKELSON: Right. Tom waited, and I would have had to have -- if I had putted, I wouldn't have had the opportunity to see his line. He ended up making the putt and gave me a perfect line, so it worked out well for both of us.

Q. But you were ready to putt last night, weren't you?

PHIL MICKELSON: So-so. It was so dark I couldn't read it, so I probably wouldn't have putted unless I saw his and knew what it was going to do because it was hard to actually see the break, it was so dark.

Q. Phil, you've gone lower with a 59, you've had more important rounds, but in terms of your ball-striking, is there any way to rank this?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was certainly one of my better rounds. I had never shot lower than 61 until the last two months, so these are my two lowest rounds ever. I struck the ball a lot better today. I mean, I felt good starting the week.

I made a comment or two that I just felt like I was really improving over the last couple of weeks from San Diego to the Hope and I felt really ready to have a good tournament here, and then I started out missing the first five fairways and shooting 4 over the front nine.

It was disappointing, but I knew that I was playing well, I just needed to hang in there.

That's why I say the last nine holes yesterday was just as important as shooting 60 today because it gave me a chance.

If I had let it slide and shot 2 or 3 over on the back, I would have been 6, 7 over par, and that would have been to make the cut, not get me in contention.

Q. There one point where I saw you look back at Tom and saw you shake your head after a great shot. Was there a little bit of interaction during this round because of the mano-a-mano?

PHIL MICKELSON: We get along great. I guess I'm starting off early sucking up to the captain. We had said on the first tee, "let's go shoot 65, get right back in it." He did, he shot 65.

I was fortunate to get a couple shots lower. We had a good round. In the middle of the round he had a four, five-birdie stretch, and that pushes you. You see that you can make birdies, and it pushes you, and I was able to finish with five in a row. That was a nice feeling.

Q. Is the course set up a lot easier today where it was just --

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, it was much different today because there was no wind. I wouldn't say the course is easy because the rough is thick and the greens are very fast, but it was extremely tough yesterday.

When the wind is blowing and it affects your putt so much, a six-footer that would normally break three inches to the left, I was playing it two inches outside the left. It was breaking uphill because of the wind. It was just tough to read.

Q. On the setup of the course today, did they take yesterday's rounds into consideration?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think so because I think they were setting the course up as if there was going to be wind because it was likely, or there was a good chance of it.

Q. Since you kind of went ballistic there at the end, you probably weren't thinking about 59, were you?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, because I birdied the last five to shoot 60. I never had a chance to shoot 59 unless I holed a shot from the fairway, which I really didn't consider much.

It feels terrific to shoot 60 to get back in the tournament. I would have taken 65 and been ecstatic because I would be 4-under and be within four or five of the lead going into the weekend. Instead I'm near the lead if not on top of it because I love this tournament. I've only won it once. It was exciting coming down the stretch in the last group with the people here.

Last year I was able to be in the last group, and it was an awesome feeling even though I wasn't able to come through with a win, but I'd love to get in that last group again. It's just a fun tournament to be there.

Q. Winning The Masters last year, has it made it easier that you don't have people asking you when are you going to win your first major?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's nice, really nice actually (laughter). This is when it really all starts, okay, how's your game, getting ready for The Masters and so forth. I'm getting ready to defend, and it feels good.

Last year heading into The Masters, I played great on the West Coast, and that's what I need to do again, continue the drills that I've been working on that helped me so much last year and have some good tournaments and have opportunities to win, to deal with pressure, to deal with overnight leads and so forth. That's all part of getting ready for The Masters and playing so well early on really helped me in last year's tournament.

Q. How receptive are the greens right now?

PHIL MICKELSON: They're difficult to get the ball stopped, except that if you hit a full shot in with a short iron, you can stop it. So a lot of the birdie putts that I had, I was able to hit a short iron and get enough spin on the ball to stop it. Otherwise it was difficult because near so fast, if the ball starts releasing it doesn't stop.

Q. How much of a contrast is it between this course and these conditions and what you'll see next week at Pebble Beach?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's totally different. It's sea level to 2000 feet, poa annua greens to Bermuda and rye mix, fairways are different grass. It's a whole different mix.

The ball doesn't fly anywhere near as far there. The biggest challenge on Tour is adjusting to different greens, the textures so you can read them, but also learning how far your irons fly at different locations because altitude and temperature play such a big part of it that there will be a 20, 30-yard club difference in my irons.

Q. Is that a particularly dramatic difference, though, from week to week?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's as short as anywhere at Pebble Beach and it goes as long as we play here with the exception of International.

Q. Was this week kind of the culmination of basically playing your way into shape, these couple tournaments?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think so. I really had a hectic off-season, and as you know, Gary, we wrote a book, and it really gave me an appreciation for what you and your colleagues do because it was difficult and time-consuming and I would have thought it would just all come together, and it was a lot harder than I thought.

That took a lot of time, and ultimately I prolonged my starting point and wasn't quite as sharp in San Diego, but I felt it coming around last week at the Hope, and I really felt sharp this week and I was disappointed yesterday on the front nine.

Q. How big is that spell check on the computer?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm missing it.

Q. You click on the thing on the computer and it checks all your words.

PHIL MICKELSON: But you still have to read it because a lot of times words will be spelled right but there's context, by and bye, b-y and b-y-e, to a to, two and too.

Q. What's the name of the book and what's the focus of the book, how to increase your vertical leap (laughter)?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's my instructional book. I really don't have a desire to do an instructional or an autobiography, that doesn't interest me, but there were a lot of stories over the last couple of years that Amy and I talked about and reminisced about, and we came up with that.

It was a lot of fun for us to do that, and basically it's a book on short stories, except that we tied it all together with the final round of the Masters, so it talks a lot about that, too. Kind of each chapter opens up with that. It's hard to explain, but I really enjoyed doing it and reminiscing with Amy. We had so much fun getting pictures out from these stories. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot more time-consuming and harder than I thought it would be, but it was fun.

Q. When did you start working on it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Sometime in the off season, late November, early December.

Q. That's a good turnaround, getting it done that quick.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, we tried to kick it out. TR was a huge help, thank you.

Q. The six-dimple ball, how long have you had that in play?

PHIL MICKELSON: Since I shot 59.

Q. That was the first time you put it in play?

PHIL MICKELSON: One of the first, yeah. It's nice.

Q. What's the title of the book?

PHIL MICKELSON: "One Magical Sunday, But Winning Isn't Everything."

Q. When you were missing all those fairways, was that wind or were you hitting it poorly?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a little bit of both. I'd like to blame it on the wind. I knew I was playing well and it clicked the back nine, and I hit every fairway and put myself into position.

Q. What was your reception on 16 today as far as any comments or anything that made you laugh?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, we were also out pretty early, too, so there wasn't much --

Q. Much happening?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, right.

JOEL SCHUCHMANN: If we could touch on your nine birdies and eagle, and we'll take one final question. You started on the back side, first birdie at the par 5, No. 13.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, driver 5-iron just left of the green, chipped up to five feet, made it.

I birdied 14, hit driver, 7-iron to 30 feet, made it.

16, birdied with an 8-iron to 12 feet, made that.

Then drove the green, well, on the fringe, left-hand fringe, 95 feet. Somehow the ball went in. It was great. I turned at 5-under.

Q. Did you chip it?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I putted it. It was just on the fringe.

Q. And yesterday at 17, that probably wasn't an option with the wind?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, we couldn't reach it.

Then birdied 3, hit driver, 4-iron to 30 feet and two-putted.

Birdied 5, hit driver, sand wedge to a foot.

6, I hit 3-wood, sand wedge to five feet.

7, hit 8-iron to six feet.

8, I hit driver, 9-iron to about ten feet.

The last hole, I hit driver, 6-iron to about three feet.

Q. Was that the longest putt you've made? You said 95 feet?

PHIL MICKELSON: That was the longest --

Q. Was that the best for 2?

PHIL MICKELSON: You're right.

Q. Your drive on 17, how far did you hit that ball?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I don't know exactly what the yardage was. I didn't think I could get there, I just tried to hit a comfortable cut driver. The ball two-hopped on the green, scooted up pin high.

You know, the wind was in and I saw the pin up front, hit a nice driver down in front thinking that it may not quite get to the water, but I'm underestimating. I'm hitting the ball longer than I have in a long time, and the ball just took off and two-hopped up on the green.

Q. What's been your experience playing the next day after you go really low? A lot of guys say it's tough to come back the next day.

PHIL MICKELSON: It's not like I'm going to shoot 60 again. I've never shot 60 before. I've shot 59, but I've never shot below 61. My whole thought process is just to play solid. If you play solid, you're going to shoot 4-, 5-, 6-, 7-under par. That's the goal tomorrow. I'm fortunate to be on top or near the lead. Now I want to put two good rounds together on the weekend.

Q. It seems like a mental barrier more than anything else, some guys have trouble coming back mentally after a 63 or 64, something like that?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, very possibly. I don't really have that much experience with it (laughter). We'll see.

Q. Has it been released yet or is there a scheduled date for the book?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it'll come out the week of the Masters.

End of FastScripts.

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