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May 3, 2006

Phil Mickelson


JOAN v.T. ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Wachovia Championship. Your third appearance here, and you didn't do so bad here in your first two starts with a T7 last year and a T5 your first time here. Talk about coming back to a place you're comfortable with and make a couple comments about the golf course.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I love this tournament, and I think this tournament is a really important event on Tour because we use this as our model when we talk to our tournament directors and other sponsors about what to do to improve the quality of tournament. Everything they've done here is the right way. This is only the fourth year of this tournament's existence, and it is amazing how it has quickly become the No. 1 PGA TOUR event, the best run event, the best field outside of the four majors and THE PLAYERS.

It is very well done, and it's fun to come play here.

Q. THE PLAYERS Championship moves to May as you probably heard next year, and it goes the week after this tournament. As well run and as good of a course as this tournament is held on, do you think THE PLAYERS Championship will be able to distinguish itself as much as it hopes to by the move to May?

PHIL MICKELSON: You think because of the competition from this tournament?

Q. Yeah.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's going to be a great two-week stretch. Is that for sure this is the week before the Players?

Q. Yeah.

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it's fabulous because it gives us some momentum and gives us an opportunity to play a couple of quality events. This tournament attracts a huge field and obviously THE PLAYERS attracts a huge filed. I think that will give us two weeks in a row where the top players play against each other.

Q. Which course do you like better?

PHIL MICKELSON: Here or Sawgrass? They're just so different, it's hard to compare them. I like them both but for different reasons, and it's hard to compare the two. Diplomatic (laughter).

Q. What's your impression of the setup here this year? The rough seems to be thicker than it has been, or is it much what you've seen in the past?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's a very tough course this year. I think it's a lot tougher than the first two years I played here because the fairways are firmer and the rough is up, so balls are kicking into the rough and the rough is really thick. The ball is sitting down.

But the real difference is the greens are so much firmer and faster that balls are running off the edges of greens and bouncing off greens, and it's playing extremely difficult. I think it's going to be a very tough test of golf. It's going to be hard to fit fairways because the ball is running so much in fairways it'll run through, and I think it's going to be very tough to get the ball close to the hole as much as the greens are bouncing and as fast as the greens are.

It's playing very similar to the way a PGA is set up. It's a fair golf course but it's extremely tough.

Q. I know winning these majors has become old hat to you now, but what is life in the aftermath of this year's Masters compared to the '04 Masters and the PGA last summer?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I loved winning the PGA last summer because I had such a long duration between majors, and I really enjoyed the off season after having won the PGA.

Winning this year's Masters is a lot different than in '04 because, first of all, in '04 it was my first one. I was so excited I was almost in disbelief as you could tell from the look on my face when the putt went in. It was more of a shock.

And this year, I feel a great sense of accomplishment, and now I want to start to prepare for the U.S. Open, and there's not that much time between the majors. I want to get ready for Winged Foot, and so I haven't dwelled on the victory as much as I did in '04. I've been looking more forward to the upcoming majors.

Q. We'll probably never see that sort of leap again that you gave us in '04?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I wouldn't say that. I mean, I birdied five of the last seven to win, and that was a birdie on the last hole to win by one. It's a lot different than winning with a three-shot lead. I prefer the latter, but the latter won't create the leap. It's a little bit more of the emotion.

Q. Speaking of preparation, you went up there to Winged Foot. How prepared do you feel right now a few weeks away as you head for that next test?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, as far as my game or as far as preparation?

Q. Your game and preparation, both.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I played very poorly last week, so I don't feel great about my game, but the U.S. Open is a ways off, and after the Byron Nelson I'll take two weeks off and start fresh before The Memorial. I'll see Dave (Pelz) and Rick (Smith) and work on my game and get sharp and build up again for the U.S. Open.

As far as the preparation, I got some good work done a week or two ago, I guess last week, and mapped out kind of a game plan for how I want to play Winged Foot. The course is not in the condition that it will be for the Open. The rough isn't where it will be. The greens weren't as firm as they'll be. So I didn't really prepare or hit the shots that I would hit for the U.S. Open, but I mapped out kind of the strategy.

Q. What's your feel there with the way they're going to taper that rough? They're supposedly not trying to penalize the guys that are just off the fairway and penalize the guys that really spray it more. Where does that fall for you with your game?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's not great for me (laughter). I figure if I can hit it far enough off line to where the people are then I get it trampled down and I can get much better lies. If I'm going to miss it, miss it big. That's kind of the goal.

Q. Speaking of Winged Foot, everybody talks about the fact that you have to move the ball and shape the shots and they give you a little bit of everything. How much does today's technology with a driver, and obviously you have a different approach than most with it, but for the everyday guy who can't generate that club head speed and has lack of ability to move it, how much of a challenge does Winged Foot pose for that type of player?

PHIL MICKELSON: Day-to-day it's just a fun, tough test of golf. But when it's set up for the U.S. Open, it's unplayable.

Q. But the difficulty of moving the ball today with the technology and at a course like Winged Foot, does that pose a different challenge?

PHIL MICKELSON: For the professional or the average guy?

Q. For the professional who can't generate maybe as much club head speed as yourself and some of the bigger hitters.

PHIL MICKELSON: Guys out here can move it either way. There's not a guy out on Tour that can't hit the fade or draw at will and have a lot of control over it. So I don't think that that's going to be the biggest effect there. I don't think it's the movement off tees -- granted, it's a factor, but I don't think that's going to be the key to playing well at Winged Foot, whether or not you control your fade or draw off the tee.

I think that Winged Foot has got some of the toughest greens, some of the toughest rough. You need to drive it straight obviously, but you also need to be able to hit a number of greens. If you miss fairways and miss greens you've got to be able to get up-and-down from just short, 50 yards, where most of the guys will be. That will be more to playing well in the U.S. Open and playing Winged Foot well than it will if you can hit a fade or draw.

Q. With the small greens, I guess Billy Casper --


Q. Coming up short, yeah.

PHIL MICKELSON: I looked at it. There's one or two pins that I might consider laying up with the wind. It's playing a lot different now than it did in '59, the year he won, so it's playing a lot different.

Q. Going backwards here a little bit, have you ever gone to a major and felt like you were able to get there that week a little bit under the radar in the last probably dozen years or so?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I tried, but you kept calling me out, 0 for 36, 0 for 37, and it just kept building. I don't know. There have been times where I've come in under the radar not having played that well, not being considered a favorite. But I think that that's going to be unlikely for the U.S. Open.

Q. That's kind of where I'm headed. Have you ever felt like you were the guy to beat at a major before? And do you think that might be the case now coming off the stretch that you've had?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's hard to say. I mean, I think that I'm going to be prepared, but you still have to execute, you still have to hit shots, and there are guys out on Tour, players out here that are just incredibly talented, and if you get a Vijay or Ernie or Retief on top of their game, it doesn't matter what golf course we play, and it doesn't matter how much time they've been out at the course; they're going to play it extremely well.

And same thing obviously with Tiger. When Tiger is on, we've seen what he can do, and I think he'll always be considered a favorite, no matter what tournament he plays in.

Q. You said last week that Dave Pelz hit you in the head and said you should play two drivers, that it's working for you. When did that conversation take place? Was it when you were touring Winged Foot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, last week when we were at Winged Foot. It set up well at Winged Foot, so I may end up doing that, which would be a surprise to me. I thought I'd hit a lot of controlled cuts but there's some that turn left to right, some you need a little extra pop. It's playing very long. Of course it was wet, so maybe in the summer when it's playing shorter and the ball is running out farther, I may not need it.

Q. Baltusrol and Winged Foot, two Tillinghast designs. Just summarize the similarities and differences if you can between the two beyond the obvious.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, they both have a lot of movement off the tee, a lot of doglegs, severe doglegs, not soft, where you have to really shape shots off the tee like we talked about.

But I think the biggest thing is Tillinghast greens, there's a lot of roll-off where the balls roll off the greens, a lot of mounds in the greens that are tough to read. So they're a very difficult test because of the subtleties of the golf course, not because it's long and tricked up. It's very straightforward and subtle but very difficult.

Q. You made a comment walking from 16 to 17 about the hole, and given your previous experiences on 17 last year, have you taken a different approach to 17?

PHIL MICKELSON: No. I mean, my goal at 17 is still try to hit the green, but it's easier said than done. And I have had trouble on that hole, especially the last year a couple times coming up short, misjudging the wind, coming up long. The green is firm so balls are bouncing over, and it's just a very difficult hole.

I may adjust my thinking there and play to the right in that basin and try to get up-and-down a couple times. I'm just not sure yet, but that is a very tough par 3.

Q. Not many guys have had an opportunity to win three consecutive majors and even fewer have done it. Can you talk about having that opportunity and do you have to guard against applying any extra pressure on yourself?

PHIL MICKELSON: See, I don't really look at it like that. I think that what I'm excited about is that when I prepared for Baltusrol, even after having not played well, I felt like I was able to get my best game out, and even after playing well the start of this year, I was able to get my best game out around The Masters.

All I want to try to do is get my best game out for the U.S. Open and have a chance on the weekend because I feel like I'm well prepared to play the course properly on the weekend when the course is hard and fast and tough and give myself the best chance. But the last thing I'm thinking about is trying to win -- even trying to win just one tournament. I'm just trying to get myself in contention.

Q. The opportunity, though, I mean, you were talking about being 0 for 36 and right now you're two for the last two. Can you talk about that going into a major instead of the alternative?


Q. You're just talking about 17. Can you just talk about is that the key hole, that finishing three, 16, 17 and 18, and those three finishing holes can you just kind of talk about?

PHIL MICKELSON: See, I don't think that 17 is the key hole because I actually think 14 and 15 are the key holes. The reason is those are your last two birdie holes.

I think if you have to make par, you can make par on 16, 17 and 18, but it's a lot harder to make birdie on 14 and 15 than it is to make par on 16, 17 or 18. So I think it's key to get those birdies on 14 and 15. I think they're going to be the two critical holes coming down the stretch.

Q. It seems like the golfing public and even some of your fellow competitors think that your major wins have made you a different player. Do you in your mind feel like you are a different player at this point?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that that probably came first. I think you have it reversed. I think that I had to become a better player to be able to win those majors, and I had to be much more prepared, much better strategy and much more patient in certain areas, and that's just kind of taken some time and just kind of evolved over time.

And now I look back on it and I just think, what was I thinking on certain shots or plans of attack. But a lot of it, too, is just the preparation has allowed me to be more patient because I know what holes I can go after, what holes I can't, as opposed to not really sure and trying to attack everything. Now I know when to hold back and when to put the throttle down, and I think that that had to evolve first before I was able to win.

Q. Where would you rank this current stretch that you're playing starting this year in terms of best golf that you've played in your career?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the start of the year wasn't anything spectacular. I played okay and was in contention but didn't win. It wasn't until Atlanta it started to click. I played well at Atlanta and The Masters. I didn't touch a club for two weeks and hit it atrocious last week, so that's how it goes. I flew Rick in this week to get some work with him because I played so poorly. This is a very demanding week tee to green, and I'm hoping my ball-striking gets back to the level it was in Atlanta and The Masters.

Q. Vijay has gone about 16 or 18 tournaments without winning, which is a long stretch for him in recent years. I wanted to ask from your own perspective how difficult it is to be at a very high level of playing and getting good results and keeping it there for quite a long time. How is it to sustain that level, I guess?

PHIL MICKELSON: His level of winning nine tournaments in one year I haven't attained. Winning nine tournaments is tough to do once, let alone try to duplicate. His level of play has been incredible the last three or four years, and his level of ball-striking, short game has been incredible, his putting when he's winning is second to none, and it's hard to have everything clicking all the time. But he has been able to do it for such a sustained period of time that if he goes just a few months without a win, everybody is clamoring, what's wrong with Vijay. But he's playing incredible golf and he'll get back to that level.

Q. You don't see anything different about his game in the limited experience you have with him this year? Just two rounds, right?

PHIL MICKELSON: Have we been paired together?

Q. In Phoenix first two rounds.

PHIL MICKELSON: He could use a few extra yards off the tee -- just kidding (laughter).

Q. Just curious, what was your reaction when you read about it, about bungee jumping, and have you ever thought about it?

PHIL MICKELSON: Amy and I have done it once, not like that, not 440 feet by your ankles, but we've done it off a crane in Utah years ago. It's just fun to try it.

Q. How high?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not very, 100 feet.

Q. There were reports earlier this year that your deal with Ford is going to expire after the Doral tournament. Will you re-sign with them, and if so how long will you have a deal for?

PHIL MICKELSON: We're still talking, and that's what I've been saying for the last couple months. We're still trying to work it out. I know there have been reports but they haven't come from either one of us.

I'm still pulling in with the Expedition. I still have my Expedition at home and I still have Ford on my chest, which are kind of giveaways, but it's not over (laughter).

Q. If you had to pick one player to win this week, not being Phil Mickelson, who would it be?

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a tough question to answer, given that we have had all different types of players win here in the last three years, from last year Vijay, everybody thought Vijay would win, and sure enough, he did, and the year before we had one of the greatest stories on Tour with Joey Sindelar winning, and Arron Oberholser almost won for his first time, although he won at AT & T for the first time this year. And starting out we had a great solid player in David Toms. So we have length with Vijay, solid off the tee with David Toms, and we had a tremendous talent who hadn't won in a while with Joey Sindelar. I think this course does not favor any one style of game and leaves it open for everybody.

Q. Are you using two drivers this week or just one?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not sure yet, most likely two, but I'm not sure yet. I've got to pull out another club, I'm just not sure.

End of FastScripts.

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