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June 15, 2006

Phil Mickelson


RAND JERRIS: It's a pleasure to welcome Phil Mickelson. Phil with an even par round of 70 this morning, seven consecutive one putts on your card this morning. Talk about the importance of your short game and putting this morning.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I guess it was pretty good (laughter). You know, I didn't hit very many greens today. I think I hit only eight I was told. The greens are going to be very tough to hit here. The ball was having a hard time getting stopped on these greens. I was fortunate in that I had some good preparation, I was able to put the ball on the correct sides of the greens to have pretty easy up and downs. I didn't have to make too many long putts, they were pretty easy chips, so I was very pleased. It looks on paper like it was a lot harder round than I think it felt, but the golf course is still very challenging, but if you put it in the right spot you can make some birdies and make some pars.

Q. Obviously even par is not something to be upset about, but a couple holes, No. 2, No. 5, a couple chances that maybe you could have had to go even lower?

PHIL MICKELSON: You're always going to feel like you left shots out at a U.S. Open because it's just so tough that some putts aren't going to go in or maybe a shot doesn't come off the way you want it. But I was very pleased with even par, would have taken it from the start. With the wind it was very tough. I thought this was the fairest setup that we've played. I was pleased with the way it was set up today because the graduated rough gave you a chance.

I hit a few missed some fairways that were into the really thick stuff and had some brutally tough lies but fought hard from there. I thought the course was very, very fair, though. We still are not seeing low scores, and with the dry conditions coming the next three days, I think even par, or 1 under, which is leading right now, could very well be the lowest score that we see this week, too, if it continues to get harder and faster.

Q. Could you just talk about No. 5? You walked off that green obviously pretty upset.

PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say I was upset, but I wasn't pleased with making 5. I hit a perfect drive off the tee, hit a good 7 iron about 50 feet behind the pin where I wanted to be and didn't hit a good first putt. I knew it wasn't that fast and didn't trust it to hit the ball down there. Downhill putts you don't want to give it too much energy. I left it about eight, ten feet short and missed it. But that stuff is going to happen on these greens. They're very tough to read.

Once you get to the green, your work is not done. You've got a lot of work left to two putt.

Q. For much of the day nobody was under par, and when we came in I don't think anybody was. Are you surprised nobody has been able to shoot under par? You said it seems tougher on paper than it was out there.

PHIL MICKELSON: I was more talking about my round, how I missed so many greens. But the golf course is very difficult. It always is at a U.S. Open, I get that. But the greens here are very tough to putt, they're getting firmer, the fairways are extremely tight, hard to hit. The rough is brutally tough but I thought the graduated rough kept it somewhat fair. With the wind, though, it's very tough because you can't be as precise with your iron play. It's a lot harder to hit fairways with cross winds. Just a tough golf course.

You set out just trying to stay around par, not to do anything too special.

Q. Two things: How much were you in the first cut of the graduated rough rather than the deeper stuff? And then who is, what was the nature of the ruling on 16 near the green that you got a drop?

PHIL MICKELSON: I was just standing on a sprinkler head.

Q. Did you get a kick out of the fact that the fans cheered your drop? Did you hear them cheer your drop?

PHIL MICKELSON: I was cheering, too. I was glad. I didn't have a good lie and I got a lot better lie, so I was happy with that.

This is really a fun place to play, though. I love how we hold so many majors in the northeast metropolitan area because we have great golf courses and great community support and the people make this a fun event.

Q. How much did you end up in the graduated first cut rather than the deep stuff?

PHIL MICKELSON: I remember being in the deepest stuff twice, on 15 and 1. I may have been in it more than that, but I remember those two for sure. That stuff is thick and tough to get it out of. I hit a couple chop shots to get it up and out of that grass and I was okay and I was able to scramble for pars, but it's very, very tough.

The graduated rough, the first cut, you can advance it up by the green. It's hard to hit the green. I don't know if I have actually got one on the surface there. But on the 8th hole I was able to hit it just short of the green and not have too difficult of an up and down, and a couple holes you can get it up by the green, but still, I don't think I ever got one on the green.

Q. Given that a lot of people believe that even par will win this tournament, did you actually have that number in your head before the start of the round, and if so, how important was that putt at 7 just to get back to that point?

PHIL MICKELSON: Over 72 holes every shot has an equal importance so I don't want to emphasize the one shot on 7 or 18, but those two putts were my two birdies. It's very difficult to get the ball close to the hole on these greens, and you have to make some putts like that to get your birdies. I was pleased to have made a couple.

Q. Did you have that number in your head?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, even par is a good you just try to play for par here, whether it's Thursday or Sunday. Even is a good score. I happen to think over par is going to win it, but that's just because I suspect the course will play harder and faster as the week wears on making the greens tougher to hit to, to chip to and to putt on.

Q. With all the attention focused on you coming into the consecutive majors and the fact that you're playing in New York where so many people have been supporting you the last couple years, I'm just wondering is that any different than going out there today, can you forget everything else and just play golf? Or does all the attention focused on you change it at all?

PHIL MICKELSON: I had a couple of nice quiet days this week. I took Monday off, played over at Baltusrol Wednesday and had nice quiet days. I feel like I had the same type of preparation I had had for other tournaments without as much hype or expectation.

I didn't feel it heading in, and it's cool to see the way people respond to the tournament, to all the players out here. It's just a fun, fun place to come play golf.

Q. Did you just use the fade driver today?


Q. Will you keep that in your bag since it didn't rain as much and probably going to be a bit dryer?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes, I will. I may go to the shorter version, the 43 inch version. As the fairways get harder and faster I may go to the shorter driver. I have the medium one, which is what I'm playing now, but I may go to the shorter one.

Q. You hit driver on 6. Was that any reaction to the three putt on 5 or was that the plan?

PHIL MICKELSON: That was the plan to certain pins. When it was into the wind I couldn't reach the green, so I thought if it played into the wind I would hit driver and leave that chip I had. It was an easy chip, I just botched it. It couldn't have been easier, the greens were soft, it was into the wind and I just hit a pathetic shot. My plan to that pin was to hit driver, and if it was downwind I wanted to hit driver into the front bunker. Either way I had planned on hitting driver. There's only one pin under one condition that I would probably play back, but right now I plan on hitting drivers.

Q. You seemed to acknowledge every fan's cheer by tipping the cap or just acknowledgment. Why do you do that, and can you feel the positive vibes from these things in particular?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I just think it's showing respect. People come out here, pay good money to watch the golf. They support the players and they cheer everybody on, and I just think it's the right thing to do to acknowledge that they're there. They make this tournament what it is, whether it's signing autographs or just a simple tip of the cap or what have you, just acknowledging them, that they came out to support us, is what we should do.

Q. Do you feel the positive vibes around you from the fans?

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, yeah, yeah. It's fun. It's a fun place to play. I think everybody feels it. I think walking up to every green, everybody gets such a great response, every group, every person. Everybody is treated so well here.

Q. Have you tried to analyze this relationship that has built up from Bethpage to Shinnecock Hills to here between you and what can be a pretty tough crowd sometimes, the New York crowd? This thing has just grown exponentially.

PHIL MICKELSON: I haven't analyzed it, but I certainly have enjoyed it.

Q. Having played last week at Westchester and dealing with the wind over there, do you consider that an advantage playing in the wind up here in the northeast compared to coming in cold and not having to deal with it and then playing in this stuff today?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm sorry, ask it one more time.

Q. When you played last week at Westchester you dealt with the windy conditions there. Is that sort of an advantage coming here because you played in the conditions here and knew what to expect in the event we got windy conditions that we got this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly because I knew heading in I wasn't expecting it to be windy here, I was expecting it to be warm, calm, hard and fast, and we've gotten a lot more wind and a lot cooler temperatures. I think playing last week may have helped. But if it helped me, it certainly helped Vijay and everybody else who played better than I did last week.

Q. How much harder do you think the afternoon round is going to play today? If it's two or three shot harder, does that make 72 or 73 tomorrow an even par round for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think it will play harder in the afternoon. I actually think it'll play a little bit easier, and the reason is from my practice rounds, it has calmed down around 5:00, 6:00. The wind is calmed down and the greens settle and get a little more growth on them and they slow up so you don't have that extra little roll out. I found it was playing a lot easier from 4:00 on, so I'm looking forward I'm hoping to be in the last groups on Saturday and Sunday, in the later groups, because I think that those conditions or those tee times might be a little bit better, unlike 95 at Shinnecock, where guys went out with no wind early in the morning, shot 29 or in the 30s the front nine, and then when the leaders teed off at tee the wind was whipping 25 miles an hour. That same thing happened at Augusta. About 6:00 all the wind dies down, it's perfectly calm, you start hearing the birds chirping, and you can make some birdies the last five, six holes if you have those last tee times. I found that Winged Foot was a lot like that.

Q. Another question on the wind. What about your game is ill suited to playing in the wind, and what about your skill set do you think gives you an advantage playing under windy circumstances?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I would never admit a weakness (laughter). What would be a strength would be maybe just short game, kind of like today, missing greens. When you have wind and harder conditions it's harder to hit greens so short game is much more prominent. I think that short game is beneficial, and knowing with preparation where I can and can't go, missing in the correct spot, is another strength.

Q. Just wanted to ask you what playing Baltusrol did for you yesterday, whether it was the peace and quiet or the karma or what it did for you yesterday?

PHIL MICKELSON: A little bit of all that. I enjoy just playing a nice round of golf the day before a major and not getting too hyped up and excited and tense. Went and played Baltusrol, had some good memories, played with Doug Steffen, the head pro there. We went out afterwards and had some lunch and called it a day. It was a nice way to get ready for a big tournament round.

RAND JERRIS: Thanks very much for your time today.

End of FastScripts.

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