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June 17, 2006

Phil Mickelson


RAND JERRIS: We now welcome Phil Mickelson with a 1 under par round of 69 today, 212, plus 2 for the championship. We'd like to start by taking some questions from the floor, please.

Q. It's been I guess a long three days. You've got one more long day. Is this an example of what patience does for somebody in a tournament that you're right where you want to be?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, yeah, obviously patience is very key in this tournament, and I think what it shows is that a lot of pars is the same as a birdie or two. Just a lot of pars over six, seven, eight holes, and you're going to move up the board somewhere.

I obviously didn't strike it the front nine the way I wanted to and was playing from the rough and fighting for pars on a lot of holes, was able to hang in there, and then it turned around on the back side where I hit some good shots. Although I would have been happy with pars, I was able to get one or two birdies to go.

Q. In talking to Rick afterwards, he said that he really felt like something just clicked in on that back nine with your swing. Did you feel something? Was there a turning point there at any point?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes. It started on 9. I hit a good drive on 9. It still went in the rough, but I hit a good drive there, and I hit a great shot on 10. At least I thought it was a great shot. I'm talking about the tee shot. It was right at the pin, hit it just the way I wanted to. Those two shots, although they didn't turn out the way I wanted, started to fall in, and I hit a bunch of good shots from there on out.

Q. What is the difference do you think between the Phil Mickelson that didn't win a major for ten years and the one that's got a chance to win three in a row? And also, you cited Tiger as the best player in the world. What's to say that you're not the best player in the world?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the World Rankings say that (laughter). You know, he has done it for years and years and years, the ten years he's been out here. I've had some recent success and it's been a lot of fun. You're jumping ahead a little bit. I've got one round to go, 18 holes, and there's a lot of guys right there, a lot of good players that are making pars and fighting, just like I'm trying to do. So heading into tomorrow with one round to go, I'm not thinking about those past tournaments or what have you, I'm trying to just play one more good round.

Q. I don't think this falls under the looking ahead umbrella, but what would a U.S. Open mean to you personally after finishing so close so many times, being the national championship?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you may not think that's looking ahead, but I do (laughter). Let's just wait another 24 hours and see if I put together one more good round.

Q. You're sitting there with the lead at plus 2. I hear no complaining from players with the course, nobody is moaning and groaning. Could you explain what in your mind constitutes a fair test of golf?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know how to answer that, but let me say this: Every year, one time a year, we get tested like this, and I love it. I love being tested at the highest level of the most difficult and sometimes ridiculous golf course setups we'll ever see, but I love it because I get to find out where my game is at, where my head is at, and it really challenges me as a player.

We can't do this very often. It kills the golf course. A lot of the greens won't survive, so we don't have a chance to do it very often. The fact that we do it once a year I think is great.

Q. You obviously showed up quite a few times before this tournament. What does that say about the difficulty of this particular golf course? And also, how much have you drawn on your trips here in April and May through the three rounds so far?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, every shot. I mean, I have notes on every shot from drive to iron to putt, chip. This golf course has a lot of nuances, a lot of idiosyncrasies, and what I've been doing is trying to find out ways to make pars from the rough because I'm not going to hit every fairway.

I obviously didn't the front nine. Man, I was all over the place. I was able to make a few pars from the rough. Coming here early and knowing where I can and can't go and how the slopes can help me or hurt me, that's allowed me to hang in there and make par, par, par and occasionally birdie here or there.

Q. A quick follow up, you missed the fairway right on 1 and 2. Is that you knowing where to miss it, is that an example?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, maybe. It's easier for me to make par on 1 from the right rough than it is the left. That cross bunker up on the left by the green doesn't allow me to run up a shot from the left rough. I have to carry over it, which I often can't do out of the rough. But from the right I have a better angle, can kind of run the shot up.

Same thing on 18, I hit it in the left rough yesterday, so execution still plays a big part. I know I can't go left, and I still did like an idiot, and I barely made bogey.

Knowing that, though, before I tee off is very helpful, what side to hit it if I do miss it.

Q. You hit the final five fairways. How much did that change the way you attacked the golf course and how much did that allow you to carry some momentum into tomorrow?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was huge because I could go at pins. As soon as my ball goes in the rough, I'm fighting for par, and your mindset changes. As soon as I hit the fairway, I think I can have a chance for a birdie.

Now, about the pins at the corners I'm not going to get it very close. There were some middle pins, but they were right over the false fronts. But from the fairway, I can hit a good shot and have a 10 TO 20 , 30 footer and try to make birdie, and that's why hitting the fairway is critical. It's not the end of the world if you hit it in the rough because par is a good score, but it's a lot tougher par.

Q. After seeing your partner go up and down the hill twice at 18, how close was your putt at 18 to going down the hill, two feet, 15 feet?

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't that far, no.

Q. It's hard to tell.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was a lot faster by the hole than I thought. Padraig Harrington did the same thing, only he hit it further by from the same spot and ended up missing coming back. The pin was on a bit of a tier there, and underneath was certainly better than past.

Q. Were you aware of the rest of the guys up at the top of the leaderboard kind of falling away, and did it make you bear down even harder to avoid any missed shots coming in?

PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't think that they fell away. Obviously they came back, they made a bogey here or there, but that's to be expected. Again, if you can make five or six pars, you're going to move up the board over that time span.

I felt like if I could shoot under par, I would be obviously on the back nine, I'd be in great shape. If I could get it to 2 over, I thought that I had a chance to be tied for the lead but maybe trailing by a shot or two, and I'm very fortunate to be tied for the lead heading into tomorrow's round.

But there's a lot of guys that are right there within three, four, five shots. Man, if they shoot something under par, that's going to be a tough score to beat.

Q. Obviously you're revolutionizing preparation for these events by coming to venues much earlier than obviously everyone else is. Is this going to be a constant for the other majors, because obviously it's working very well here? And second, do you learn from that to use a different club, pull one club from your bag, put another one in? How often have you used that this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: It's going to be a constant for me because it's helping me play better. I don't know about other players, but for me it's been working well. It also gives me a chance, as you mentioned, to get my club setup optimum for the golf course, and I put a wedge in that Roger Cleveland over at Callaway helped me design after I made my first trip here. I called him up from Winged Foot and said, "Roger, I need you to design a 64 degree wedge. I need it with a certain amount of bounce, I've got to hit a lot of high bunker shots out of the sand."

I have used that club extensively, the only club I've used out of the sand, I think, and it has saved me a ton of shots.

The first week I put it in the bag was at Memorial because I wanted to get a little taste for that club, and I hit the shot on 10 where it was replayed where it was a flop shot that went in the hole. Then I used it out of the bunker on 16 out of that plugged lie that flew up and rolled in.

The shot today on 10, I couldn't have done with my L wedge, I had to use the 64. I've used it a ton around the greens, and that one club, if I'm able to be successful tomorrow, that one club has saved me a lot of shots, more than one or two a round possibly. If I'm able to be successful, I will give credit to that one particular club for being the little extra edge.

Q. You've been in the last group of a U.S. Open before, but I don't believe you were tied for the lead when you were in it. How different is that when you're in this situation and how important is that for you?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, obviously it's nice to be in the lead. I'd love to actually have a lead rather than be tied, but it's certainly better than trailing. I think I was trailing by a shot when I lost to Payne Stewart at the '99 U.S. Open.

I don't know either way, which way is best, but I know that being in the last group can be difficult at times if you fall back, or it can be very beneficial knowing what other guys are doing and being patient.

Q. Outside you said you described this as fun. Hardly anybody talks about the U.S. Open that way. What is sheer fun about this?

PHIL MICKELSON: Being tested like this. I think that's what's most fun. It's a challenge. It is the hardest probably one of the hardest setups I've ever seen without any elements. You know, Shinnecock in 2004 played brutally difficult because of the elements and the wind. That was one of the most difficult rounds that I've had to play.

But here, just straightforward, most difficult test of golf. We don't get a chance to be tested like that. Because again, you'll kill the greens, a lot of them probably won't survive, so the course won't ever get set up like this. The pins are all tucked in the 72 toughest spots, and the greens are so hard, it's just fun. We just don't get a chance to do it much.

RAND JERRIS: Congratulations on your fine play, and thanks for your time.

End of FastScripts.

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