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June 13, 2006

Phil Mickelson


RAND JERRIS: It's our pleasure to welcome Phil Mickelson to the interview area this afternoon. Phil is playing his 16th United States Open championship this week. He's a former USGA National Champion, having won the U.S. Amateur in 1990. Maybe as a winner of the last two major championships, maybe you can start us off with some general comments about your game and your confidence level coming into Winged Foot this week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've been looking forward to this tournament, as everybody has. It's a great venue here at Winged Foot. The membership, the golf course, everything is spectacular. Can't wait for Thursday to start, looking forward to it.

RAND JERRIS: Obviously you had success at Baltusrol last August. Would you compare this Tillinghast course to Baltusrol.

PHIL MICKELSON: Comparing Baltusrol to Winged Foot, they are very similar with bunkering, very similar shot values, the way the holes move, the challenge on the greens, very similar. They're both very difficult golf courses.

I think that the PGA, which ran Baltusrol, did not have the rough to the extent that we have it here, and I think that that could be a slightly larger penalty. But Baltusrol was very tough to play under par, and I think we'll expect to see the same at Winged Foot. Probably it'll be a great score again.

Q. Do you have a one driver strategy this week? And if you do, what are the qualities of that driver?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I had a special driver made for the Open that was a little bit shorter and had a little bit more stable head. But I think I'm going to end up using the fade driver that I've used at Augusta. I've got four drivers now that I kind of interchange on certain courses. I only expect to use one this week.

There's not a great mix of distance off each tee. You can hit driver on basically every hole. And the holes that you can't, I feel very comfortable with fairway wood. So distance not being a factor here, although it's a long course, the premium is on getting the ball in play. I won't be using a longer driver trying to get distance like I did at Augusta, I'll be using a driver that hits that controlled cut and keeps it in play.

Q. Talking to a local businessman here in Mamaronek, he said there's been several Phil sightings at coffee shops and sub shops and so on. How many times did you play the golf course and how much work did you put into that kind of preparation?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I can't recall frequenting a coffee shop; I don't drink coffee. But there's been a couple of pizza joints and ice cream joints that have seen me (laughter).

I've been here a decent amount. I came here two weeks after The Masters and came here three or four weeks ago for five days, came here last week for a day. So I've been here I guess three different occasions for probably a total of nine or ten days. I feel as though I know the course as well as I can. But I still have a great challenge, and the challenge is executing, hitting the shots. I may know where I want the ball to go, I know how the putts break, but I still have to hit them, and that's the toughest part.

Q. Does this course skew more to a right to left ball flight on driver holes, and if so, does that enhance your prospects this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: There are a lot of holes where you can move it either way, and right to left shots fit fine on this golf course. Left to right shots fit fine on this golf course. There are two holes where I'll be hitting a draw, the 8th hole and the 17th hole. It doesn't have to be a big draw, it just has to softly turn to the right. But other than those two holes, I'll be fading it off most every tee.

For me what it does is makes it a softer cut, takes out some of the roll and when it hits the fairway it's more inclined to stay.

A couple years ago, the USGA took 25, 30 percent out of the fairways. In '99 the fairways were 32, 34 yards wide. The last couple years they've been 24 yards. I think the widest fairway I saw was 27, 28 paces, but on average 24. So we've lost, what, a quarter of the fairways. So I'm trying to get the ball just to come in a lot softer. I don't want to hit a draw where the balls run.

Q. How good is your memory on the golf course in terms of can you recall shot by shot some round at Pebble from eight years ago or how the wind was on a certain day and things like that? And do most of your peers have pretty good memories in that regard?

PHIL MICKELSON: If you ask me about the final nine in the '04 Masters, I could tell you every shot. But if you asked me some random round of golf from eight years ago, no, I don't recall that.

We do have kind of selective memory. We'll remember the shots that we hit well, that we want to remember, and we'll try to forget all the poor shots we hit.

Q. As a follow up, actually Tiger said he remembers the bad shots more. Do you think it's an individual thing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Probably, yeah. I like to remember more the good ones. Unfortunately you like to remind me of the bad ones (laughter), but that's another story. I'm just kidding.

Q. You mentioned coming up here for an extended period of time, maybe once or twice, but you came back for one day recently. Was that because of some little nagging problem that you had to sort out just for one day?

PHIL MICKELSON: No, it was just because I was here last week in town and just had Tuesday to come to do it. I actually came out a couple times during the tournament last week, came out Sunday for a couple hours, and I think I came out maybe Friday or one of the days in the evening and just spent two, three hours. So I've actually been here a few more times.

All I'm doing is trying to touch up areas that I may not have had the most defined notes and made sure that I don't have any holes in plan of attack and so forth.

Q. I'm wondering, there's been a lot of feedback from players about the tiers of rough and that it seems like the punishment now fits the crime a little more appropriately. I'm wondering what your thoughts are on that and whether you think that's a good evolution.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for me personally, the larger you hit it off line, I kind of like the way it was trampled down, but that's a personal thing. I actually think this is the way the rough probably should be, and I think it's something the Tour is probably looking at doing in the future because it makes play fair. If you miss the fairway by two yards, you're not penalized nearly as much as if you miss it by ten yards. And in the past, ten yards was a lot better off than barely missing the fairway because you'd get the trampled down effect. The rough would be walked on, you'd get a good lie, whereas two yards off the fairway, no one had been walking there, the rough had grown vertical, and the ball sits to the bottom.

I think this is a much fairer way to approach it, and it should be really good. I think that in the future the Tour may even look to that, at doing that themselves.

Q. Does this week feel a little different given that you've won the last two majors, in a sense a beckoning of history perhaps? Does it give you a new confidence?

PHIL MICKELSON: It does, and I'll tell you why. I'm just trying to win one. I'm not trying to win three, I'm just trying to win one. I've had some success in this event where I've come close, losing by a shot or two, three times finishing 2nd. I know I can play well in this tournament, even though it doesn't necessarily fit my perception of how I've played with the thick rough and so forth. I still have had some success here, and all I'm trying to do is be successful on this one golf course at this one event.

Q. You've embraced the preparation process so much now for the majors. Do you really, really enjoy dissecting the courses now with the time that you take? And is it almost as fun as competing because of the analysis that it takes?

PHIL MICKELSON: Last year when I played when I performed poorly in the U.S. and British Open after going through extensive preparation, it wasn't as fun. But having success at Baltusrol or in the '04 Masters or even this year's Masters, it makes it all worthwhile. I've come to the point where I enjoy the challenge of trying to be successful in these very difficult tests of golf.

It's been actually very fun, even though they're the hardest days. The hardest days for me are the preparation days because they're eight , nine , ten hour preparation days. I'm worn out, it takes me days to recover, but I actually enjoy them. They're some of the most enjoyable because I've got Rick and Dave with me, Bones with me. We laugh and giggle the whole day. We talk about planning; we talk about certain shots; we talk about possible clubs that can really be helpful here. So it's also very educational and some of the most enjoyable days, too.

Q. You mentioned that you had settled at least for now on the fade driver. Is it possible if the conditions change drastically from one day to the next, wind or wet or whatever, that you might put one or the other drivers in your bag on a different day?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, it's possible. I think that it's supposed to rain Wednesday and Thursday, and if that's the case, I wanted this 45 inch fade driver that I feel comfortable with in the bag. As it's heating up Friday, Saturday, Sunday, there's a good chance that I may go to a 43 inch driver that we designed, and it's kind of more of a 3 wood. It's kind of right in between a driver and a 3 wood. I hit it about 15 or 20 yards shorter, but if it's crowded enough, that shorter distance off the tee may help me hit fairways and I might look to do that.

But I also may be feeling comfortable enough with the 45 that I may not. Right now my plan is to just use the 45 for Thursday's round and see for Friday, Saturday, Sunday if I want to make a change.

Q. Is there any part of the idea of sticking with one driver that you couldn't afford to leave out another iron, any of the irons that normally come out, and have you changed anything else in the bag?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I took my 3 wood out because I didn't really need a 3 wood. I hit a lot of 4 woods. So there's a 4 wood tee shot on 11, there's a 4 wood tee shot maybe on 15, but I didn't need any 3 woods. So I took that out and put the 3 iron in because there's a lot of 3 iron shots. I think I'll be using 3 iron on hole No. 5, possibly into No. 5 and a bunch of the par 4s. No. 9 there's a lot of possible 3 iron shots out there, a lot more than 3 wood, so I added that. I added another wedge.

After some preparation, I went back and worked with Roger Cleveland and Callaway on a new 64 degree wedge to help get it out of this rough with a lot less bounce and to help me hit higher, softer bunker shots. Because the bunkers are so deep here and there's so much undulation on the green, I want it coming in as soft as possible.

Q. Five wedges or four?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I took out my sand wedge. There aren't any sand wedges here, a lot more mid irons, so I added 64 and took out the sand wedge.

Q. I know you've been asked a lot about why your life's so much in majors in New York in general. I wonder if you've ever been heckled at a major in New York, outside the pressroom (laughter).

PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good disclaimer. A lot of times when you're playing, you don't hear it. Even though they might be yelling it, you don't hear it because your mind might be somewhere else. I think it's important, whether it's positive feedback or negative feedback, you have to let it go in one ear and out the other and enjoy the moment and enjoy the atmosphere of it.

Q. Obviously, a lot is made of how taxing a week the U.S. Open is. I was wondering if you can just relay, anecdotally maybe, how drained you were after Shinnecock when you were in contention or Bethpage when you were in contention and maybe compare that to other majors that you've been in contention that are not U.S. Opens.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, contending in majors is very mentally and physically draining. It's also you don't notice it during the event because whether you have adrenaline or whether your mind is just elsewhere, you don't focus on it. But come Monday morning, I usually try to stay in bed for three or four days just to try to recover from it and relax.

Q. Staying in bed or just playing in?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, staying in bed, watching TiVo (laughter).

Q. As much as weather and wind and rain could be a factor in this championship, you've been over here six to a dozen times now. How many different conditions did you see it play in and how often do you think it could help you during this championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I've seen a lot of different winds and conditions, but this golf course is set up for pristine conditions, zero wind, 80 degrees and warm. And if they don't get it, this course will be almost unplayable. The greens are going to be way too fast, the rough is going to be too thick, and the fairways is going to be too tight for anybody to sniff par if we get 15, 20 miles an hour winds. If we're faced with that, everything changes because we're looking at I think scores are going to be higher than 74.

But the conditions are supposed to be nice, and if that's the case, it should be fine. Then it won't really matter, any winds that I've seen in the past, because it should be calm.

Q. There's been a lot of talk about losing balls in the rough and potentially playing the wrong ball in the rough. Just curious what's the strangest thing that's ever happened to you when you put a ball in the rough?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the strangest thing? Bones would have a better answer for you. I've certainly stepped on my ball before, I've hit the wrong ball before, I've swung and missed out of this rough before. I remember Carnoustie, I missed the fairway by a yard in '99. It took me three shots to move it that one yard, two yards. Had I been thinking at all, I would have just taken an unplayable lie and just gotten it back to the first cut.

But that was probably the strangest thing, that I just felt like I could hit an L wedge out, but the rough there was 30 something inches long and it was all tangled up, and I just couldn't move the ball out of there.

Q. A lot of the questions for Tiger obviously beyond his dad were about the layoff and coming back after nine weeks. You've had breaks, and I'm curious your perspective on how hard that is to come back after a break, and it's a particularly difficult tournament to come back.

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm curious, what was Tiger's answer? Does he feel like it was a problem? I'm hoping he does (laughter). I've never seen a tournament where he has not been prepared to win, unfortunately (laughter). I would expect him to be 100 percent because he's had a lot of time now to work on his game and get sharp and focus in on just this one tournament and not have to worry about others. I think he's going to be very sharp this week. I know how bad he wants to win another major. But there's also 155 guys in here that are going to be trying their darndest to win it themselves.

Q. With the preparations that you've done, I'm just curious, expand a little bit on what Bones' role has been, because I know he comes out and charts the course, but during those times with Rick and Dave, what he provides for you.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, Bones has an easy job. There's three things he's got to do. He's got to show up no, just kidding. I'm not going to go there.

We have a lot of fun. What we communicate or what I talk to him about is what shots I feel most comfortable with on certain holes. There might be a hole like No. 15, a tough driving hole. And he might say, look, I think you ought to hit a left to right shot and try to draw it.

I'll say, I understand it would be beneficial, but I feel more comfortable hitting a 4 wood to the top of the crest. He tries to factor in my personal feelings on certain shots so that he can be helpful throughout the tournament and know what I'm thinking and what I'm feeling.

So we convey a lot of that during a practice round.

Q. Just as a follow up, do you find now that not that you didn't listen to him in the past, but have you found that you are taking his advice more now these days than you ever have?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, we don't really we really don't talk too much about course management and stuff. That game plan is set up well before we show up on Thursday. He is awesome at club selection, and he's awesome at green reading. So I have found over the years that he is right more often than I am on club selection and certain reads for greens.

However, I still seem to go with my decision, and as I tell him, I say, look, if you like a 6 and I think it's a 7, I can live with me hitting a 7 and coming up short. It's hard for me to hit a 6 and go long. So I can live with my own mistakes if I'm wrong, and as it's turned out, I'm wrong more often than not.

He has a great feel for how far I hit certain clubs, certain temperatures, certain wind conditions, and I think he is just tremendous at picking clubs. Those are the areas where I really listen to him, green reading and club selection.

Q. When you're out here doing those preparations, the eight , nine hour period, how many shots are you actually hitting and are most of those shots around the greens?

PHIL MICKELSON: Most of them are around the greens, trying to figure out how I want to attack certain holes and trying to get where the USGA might put pins. I've been wrong a bunch on that, too. I'm just trying to get a certain feel for the course, and most of it has to do with on and around the greens, yes.

Q. Are you taking shots most of the time or mostly talking?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not necessarily, but I will hit a bunch of shots and see how the ball rolls and so forth.

Q. You talked about taking a positive out of a negative situation. Going back to '04, A, do you feel it was the best you could have played under those circumstances, and B, did you look back on it saying, I probably lost to one of the best final round putting exhibitions, Goosen, in recent history?

PHIL MICKELSON: You're talking about the '04 Open at Shinnecock?

Q. Shinnecock.

PHIL MICKELSON: I played one of my best final rounds ever on Sunday at Shinnecock under some conditions that I just couldn't believe how tough they were, and I played one of my best rounds and it just wasn't enough. I can't dwell on that, and I look at it as a positive for me in that I was able to play a good, solid round on Sunday under some of the most difficult conditions I'll ever see. Hopefully that experience and that confidence will carry over because I'm sure we're going to see similar conditions this Sunday.

Q. I'm curious how you settled on 64 degrees on the wedge. Did you experiment with other wedges?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I wanted one less than 65 and one more than 63, and it just worked out perfect (laughter). No real reason, it just seemed to be the right number.

Q. You've been preparing for these majors similarly the last three years, but it seems like you came here more often than you have other venues in the past. Would it be safe to say that you're as familiar with this course as anyone in the field other than the member who's playing?

PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly. I certainly want to believe that. I have not played this golf course since '97, so it's been almost ten years. And it's not like Augusta where we play it every year and I know the nuances already after playing it 100 plus times. So I had to come out and really learn the nuances here because this course has more subtleties than just about any course I've ever played little rolls in the greens, little rolls in the fairway, little falloffs on the edge of the greens.

I think the 8th hole is a great example of the nuances there. In the middle of a green if a pin is left in the middle, you cannot go in that bunker and get it up and down because the green goes away from it. But if the pin is back left and you go in the bunker pin high, the green is rolled into you and you can get it up and down, get it stopped pretty close.

Learning those particular nuances on some of these greens required a lot of time, and that's why I spent a lot of time here more than other preparation days in the past.

Q. With all this preparation, does it have a bigger bearing on the decision making you make throughout a tournament or just on the decisiveness of the shots that you hit?

PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of both. The fact is that you just are not going to play 72 holes striking the ball impeccable. You're going to miss shots. When you miss shots, you've got to figure out where around the greens you can get up and down from. Usually at a U.S. Open, there's a half, maybe a third of the area around the green where you can actually get the ball up and down from. So I'm just trying to find those spots and play to those. That's what I'm deciding when I'm out in the fairway or in the rough, where can I get up and down to these pins.

RAND JERRIS: Thank you for your time, and we wish you luck this week.

End of FastScripts.

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