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February 6, 2005

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Phil Mickelson, congratulations on winning the FBR Open for the second time in your career. This is your 24th career Tour win, and we can get started with some opening comments. Congratulations on a great week for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you. It's been a lot of fun. Amy and I have enjoyed coming back here and playing this event.

I had a good feeling going into the tournament, I was playing well, but after the front nine I didn't think that this was going to be my week. In fact I thought it was going to be a short week, I'd have a weekend off, and the next thing you know I was able to turn things around, and that second round 60 was something that I haven't done in a while. Well, I shouldn't say that, I guess since November. But it was nice either way.

Q. If we could talk about the swing on 13. Kevin had a chance to make up a shot or a couple shots and you seemed to be in some trouble and the fortune seemed to be reversed but you made a nice birdie there.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, actually all day I always felt like I was just hitting it too far, and then I was hitting into a smaller part of the fairway so I was trying to ease up. I hit 3-wood there, still took the water out of play with 3-wood.

The ball just was going today. I was fortunate to have the break that I did. I had a pretty good opening to the pin and I hit a 5-iron out of the desert 20 feet from the hole. I was very fortunate.

I tried a lot of little shots. It was a learning experience for me because I hadn't had a four-shot lead. You asked me if I had had a four-shot lead, and I thought that I had, but I don't believe it's true.

It was a different situation and a different mindset, and I found myself really -- I really enjoyed the day, but I was trying some shots that I may not have tried had I not been in the lead.

Q. And last question, if we could talk about how this sets up for the rest of the year, getting a win under your belt so early in the year.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was terrific. It was terrific to come here, a tournament that means so much to me, and be able to win it. It's a great way to start the year. I'm excited about the way I've been playing because I could sense it or I could feel it really start to turn last week at the Hope. I really wanted to have a good week here and I'm very pleased to have played the way I did.

Q. Was it more fun for you to make a birdie like you did on 13 than from the fairway?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's more interesting. It's not necessarily more fun. I like to play a little bit more from the fairway than that, but I was able to fall back on my short game, and it was really -- it was a fun week because I drove the ball a lot longer than I think I have in years and was able to have a lot of short irons in.

In fact, some of the holes I don't remember ever hitting such irons in, and I was able to take advantage of it, so it was a really fun week.

Q. Is one of the most gratifying things about this win is after the first nine your ability to avoid mistakes and avoid making a lot of bogeys, even when the tee shots weren't where you wanted them?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. I think that starting out -- I think the thing I was most proud of is I didn't let the round slide the second nine. After going 4 over I was able to get a couple back and get the first round in at 2 over.

If I let that slide and get to 6 or 7 over, that 60 that I shot would have just gotten me to make the cut. Instead it vaulted me to the lead and I was able to use that and win.

Week in and week out, we're not going to play our best every day, and when things don't go well, it's important to hang in there because out of four rounds, maybe I will get one of those hot rounds. It may not be a 60 every time, but a 62 or even 63 certainly propels you up the leaderboard very quickly. That was why I was so proud, that I kept myself in it.

Q. Could you talk about on 18 you get the birdie, and your reaction was almost like, "what else great could happen?" What was that feeling?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was terrific. It was just terrific to win this tournament. To be able to walk up the 18th hole knowing I'm going to win, that's a cool feeling, not feeling the stress but being able to enjoy it.

With that putt I really wasn't trying to make it per se. I was trying to lag it up there close, mark it and let my playing partners finish and then tap in, and instead it falls in the cup. It was a nice way to finish it off.

Q. 13, 14, 15 were kind of shaky tee shots there, but you recovered nicely every time. Last year you had some shaky tee shots on the back nine and didn't recover. Are you just a more mature player or is that some quirkiness of the game of golf going on there?

PHIL MICKELSON: I certainly got a big game on 13 to have the shot that I had, but I have not ever had to hit 3-wood there. So it was awkward for me.

Q. On 15?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, on 13 I hit 3-wood off that tee.

Q. Why?

PHIL MICKELSON: Because I could carry the island. My driver has been going 330 or 340 this week, and the fairway was 12, 15 yards, so I was trying to get it to a fatter fairway. I was still going to have to hit 6-iron. Ended up pulling it and the 3-wood took the water out of play.

Then 14, I thought I want to chip a driver. I don't want to hit it that hard, I just want to take 40, 50 yards off of it and get it out there about 290 (laughter).

And then on 15, I actually thought that was going to be fine, and it ended up left of where I wanted it. I don't really know what happened there. I thought it was an okay swing and the ball drifted more left than I wanted.

Q. But you go through every shot, you were 1-under through that stretch and you never really hit the tee shot you wanted.

PHIL MICKELSON: You know what, in San Diego I knew my short game was not sharp, and I walked away from the round, and a couple of you guys were there, and I said my chipping wasn't right and it cost me a couple of strokes. I spent a lot of time last week getting it sharp, and I noticed the difference today coming down the stretch when I needed it to be there and I was able to get it up-and-down.

Q. Your third shot on 15 was from 241, you hit --

PHIL MICKELSON: 4-iron. But I knew it wasn't going to get all the way back there. I was just trying to get it to the front part. The only other option was 4-wood. I didn't care I are a 3-iron this week.

Q. Lefty, congratulations. Hitting fairways, is it becoming overrated on this Tour? There was a stretch 9 through 17 you missed seven in a row, Vijay was way low last year, guys high on the Money List were low on fairways. What's your take on that?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it's certainly important, don't get me wrong. When I shot 60, I think I hit 12 fairways. Yesterday I hit 12 fairways. I was putting the ball in play, able to make birdies.

When I missed fairways I was struggling for par and that's why I didn't shoot nearly as low. It's not overrated, but I think distance is underrated right now. I think that you have got to move the ball out there, and I noticed that statistically in the off season or throughout last year, my ranking in accuracy was ahead of the four guys ahead of my World Ranking, Tiger, Vijay, Ernie, those three guys and Retief, I was actually ahead of them in fairways hit. But I was trailing in distance except for Retief, but I was trailing behind those guys I was trying to catch.

When I had sacrificed 15 yards last year, I knew that I needed to make a change. Ultimately you saw the change in September, but I knew that I had to do that if I wanted to get back to being able to play at this level.

Q. Do you believe you're playing as well or better than you ever have in your career?


Q. For what reasons?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the reason is last year, a year ago, I started working on the proper things with Pelz and Rick Smith, and now after doing the drills and working at it for a year, it's just gotten a lot better as far as distance control with the irons. I got my distance back off the tee.

I actually got criticized quite a bit last year for switching equipment. One of the things that we did in our testing, in our practice and all these drills is to do it with different golf balls and to see which is more consistent, accuracy off the tees, which one hit more fairways, which one was longer. I had to make a change, and I was very fortunate that I was in a position in a relationship with my previous company to be able to do that.

Q. Do you feel more comfortable with this equipment than you ever have before?

PHIL MICKELSON: No question, yeah.

Q. What does it do for you specifically?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've done extensive work with them, blind testing, and ball testing, and driver testing, and we --it was the first time I've ever used this driver, and honestly I knew going in I was driving it better than I ever have.

Now, my two low rounds, second and third round, I drove it better than I ever have; as far as long and straight, and we changed weighting.

We tried to get the weight back in the club, and for me because of my swing, it's very unusual, but I actually have a slight descending blow at impact with driver, which is not very common. Most guys come up. That means if I have the weight back, what happens is the face starts working upwards while my swing is going downwards, and there's a very small window of opportunity to hit a good shot.

My moving the weight forward, which is what we did on this driver, all of a sudden it matches up with my swing because it's working level and my swing is very level at impact, and all of a sudden I hit it better than I ever have.

Q. Nine years ago you won $234,000 for winning the tournament. This year it's almost a million. Can you talk about in a nine-year span how far the game has come?

PHIL MICKELSON: $700,000 plus (laughter). It's been amazing. Every time I see Tiger I thank him because it started in 96 when he turned pro, end of 96. We have increased interest in television, increased interest in corporate America because now golf is reaching outside the golf world, and it's just been tremendous. Because of him, things have really taken off.

Arnie started it, got things started, and we hit a plateau until Tiger came along and it created awareness and purses were driven up and the Tour's television contract was driven up and we've been thriving ever since.

Q. The work you've done with Dave and Rick and how you feel about your equipment, how much are you looking forward to your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: I can't wait for next week. I can't wait to get up to Pebble and play with Steve Lyons, the guy from Ford. I can't wait to get back on the golf course. I'm excited about hitting chips, or putts, or tee shots. I can't wait to get out to the course and practice.

I teed off at 10:50. I got out here at 9:00 o'clock to do some putting drills. I'm loving playing and ecstatic about the way things are set up in my bag, the way things are set up on my practice sessions and preparation.

Q. Your day, mindset for the day, you looked like everything was just a piece of cake on the front nine, and then you had to kind of scramble a little bit on the back. What was your -- did you always keep the same thought or was there ever any doubt that crept in there?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not really because the way I looked at it was my goal was to shoot 3-under par, and I shot -- thought that if I shot 3-under par with the wind today, it was going to be very difficult to shoot 6-under, 7-under and catch me. So that's kind of my score.

Even though I bogeyed 9 to go only 1-under, I've got two par 5s coming up, drivable par 4 on 17 and a bunch of holes I can birdie. I wasn't worried about that. I knew the overall score was what I was worried about.

Again, it was a first opportunity for me to do that with a four-shot lead, and I'll hopefully have a chance to do it some more and have a different mind set going into the final round.

Q. What was the hairiest shot on the back nine?

PHIL MICKELSON: Probably the 4-iron on 15 because after just knocking one in the water, it was pretty important that I was able to hit a good shot there.

Q. Kevin was kind of under a pressure cooker for a young guy for the last two days. Could you just talk about the way he handled himself and the way he played?

PHIL MICKELSON: He played terrific coming in. I thought birdieing 15 and 17 showed a lot. He ended up tying for 2nd, but you always want to win. That's your goal. You're only thinking about winning, but when that is taken away from you or when that's probably not going to happen, the way he fought in there, hung in to finish 2nd, that means that he's got enough now to probably keep his card and put that to rest, and now he can think about winning again, and he's playing well enough to do it.

Q. How did the course play this week with the deeper rough?

PHIL MICKELSON: A lot tougher. I mean, it really was a lot tougher. Although we had low scores, it was -- those birdies were coming from the fairway more often than not. If I missed a fairway, I was thinking just make par.

Q. If we could touch on your round -- do you ever feel sorry for the guys playing against you? 98 percent of the crowd is going "lefty," and no one is saying, "come on, Kevin," or "let's go, Lumpy"?

PHIL MICKELSON: I loved it. I loved the way Amy and I were treated. I love the way people have been to us, the way they support this event. I miss the people here in Scottsdale. It's a lot of fun for us to come back. Even though me moved away three years ago, we still consider it home.

Par 5, No. 3, I hit driver, 7-iron and three-putted from 50 feet, but I birdied the next hole, No. 4, hit a wedge to six feet and made that.

Birdied No. 7, hit an 8-iron to 35 feet, made that for birdie.

Bogeyed 9, I hit a poor championship shot to eight feet, missed it, after a driver, 8-iron.

I birdied 13, hit a 3-wood off the tee in the right desert, 5-iron 25 feet just on the fringe.

3-wood off the tee on 15, but that was par. I hit 4-iron after a drop from the water, chipped up three feet, made it.

Birdied 18, I hit driver, L-wedge to 20 feet just on the fringe, good drive and made that for birdie.

Q. These are good times for the golf fan, a lot of top players at the top of their game. The last four winners this year all major championship winners, Vijay, Tiger, you and Justin. Does that get your blood flowing as well as the golf fans'?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't look at it like that. I mean, I was really happy to see Justin win because he is such a talented player, I'd like to see him on the Ryder Cup and Presidents Cup this year, and I know that the last year or two hasn't been his best in his career, so to see him back on top is awfully cool.

I just know that Vijay and Ernie and Retief and Tiger, those guys are just -- they're tremendous players, and I really enjoy the challenge of competing against them, and although Vijay didn't play his best this week, I hope to have a chance to go head to head with him next week. You know, we've played a lot against each other there. It's a fun challenge, but I don't look at it quite like that.

Q. Would you mind running through the save on the 6th where it drove it in the trees and almost made the 75-foot putt? How tough was that second shot? What did you have?

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't that hard, I just had to hook a wedge. I only had 155 yards, which my pitching wedge was flying about that distance. I ended up just shutting the face and hooking it, and rather than trying to hook it just a little bit and hit it close, I overhooked it and put it on the right side of the green and had a long putt because I knew it was a tough hole to birdie any ways, and almost ended up making the putt.

Q. Was that a good momentum saver?

PHIL MICKELSON: I feel like if I hit a poor tee shot I can make par. Even if I'm in the rough I can chop down close to the green and get up-and-down, which is what I did on the back side. That was kind of one of those moments. It wasn't a great drive, but get it up around the green, get up-and-down. Again, my short game, which is what I've been working on, really helped this week.

End of FastScripts.

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