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June 7, 2006

Phil Mickelson


JOEL SCHUCHMANN: Thanks for joining us. You've got a big couple weeks coming up starting the week with the Barclays Classic. Played in a rain soaked Pro Am this morning, but talk about the state of your game and we'll go straight into questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: It'll be interesting to see where my game is at. I had an okay week last week, and I want to try to progressively build on that this week and get some momentum getting into the Open. I want to try to take the same course of action that I was able to do just prior to the Masters. I obviously don't expect to have the same results I had in Atlanta, but I'd like to get some momentum heading in.

Q. Why don't you expect to have the same results you had in Atlanta?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that was the first time that I had won by a large margin like that. It's just hard to do in tournaments that have this great a competition. What I'd like to do is build on last week's performance where I hit some good shots and finished 4th but also showed a little bit of rust and try to keep the misses in check here, hit some good shots, put together a solid four rounds and build something for the U.S. Open.

Q. Just so I understand, would you be surprised if you won this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, by 13, yeah, I'd be surprised if I won by 13, absolutely.

Q. I'm just saying would you be surprised if you won this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if I would say that. I feel like I'm starting to play well. I feel like my game is starting to come together and I'm getting more and more confident as time goes on. I've been working on my game, getting the drills down. I expect to play well and hopefully get some momentum into next week.

Q. Based on that and other people who are observing your game think the same thing, does it feel like you're peaking at exactly the right time?

PHIL MICKELSON: I hope so. It's not like you can really control when you play your best golf, but a lot of times you'll get on streaks that can last two, three, four weeks and I want to try to get that kind of momentum where I'm making birdies and driving the ball in play and attacking pins and getting the putts to go in.

Q. A lot of times guys win a week before a major and then kind of disappear in a major. It's not that often that you win two weeks in a row going into a major. Can you talk now looking back at Atlanta and then The Masters what that Atlanta win did for you going into Augusta?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, winning in Atlanta gave me a lot of confidence heading into Augusta, and it was nice to have been able to win by a large number where I wasn't feeling the stress and the pressure on the weekend. But it gave me some good feedback that my game was I was starting to strike it better, hit it the way I wanted to, starting to make some good putts and get some good speed and so forth and not throwing shots away making mistakes. That's really what the goal is this week as it was last week, to try to get sharp off the tee, get sharp on the greens, get good touch around the greens so I'm not fighting, having to make a lot of four, five footers for par having to kind of lag and tap in.

Q. Atlanta is where I introduced the two driver thing. Are you leaning that way for Winged Foot, and will you do that for this week, as well?

PHIL MICKELSON: I will have one, maybe two drivers next week that neither of them were what I used at Augusta.

Q. But you plan on using two next week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure yet. It depends on the weather. It depends on if it's raining, wet and playing long, then I'll use two. If it's warm, hot and starts getting fast and dryer, I'll probably just use one.

Q. And here you'll just use one probably, this week?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. Again, the same thing, depending on the conditions. I have right now a one or a two driver plan.

Q. Your thoughts just on the course here and Westchester, and then separate from that, playing in New York.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the golf course here at Westchester is just a terrific course. It's a U.S. Open venue that we get to play every year, and we're very lucky we get to come back and play here. I love playing here in the metropolitan area. It's just tremendous golf courses. I've been fortunate to have some success, whether it was at the PGA or Hartford or playing well in the U.S. Open at Shinnecock and Bethpage. I'm still trying to get that first U.S. Open victory, and I can't think of a better place than to do did at Winged Foot next week.

Q. How about the reception from New York fans?

PHIL MICKELSON: People are terrific. Amy and I have had some incredible memories that have been made here in this area, and we just love coming here and playing. Baltusrol was just a special memory, but it really started at Bethpage, where even though I didn't win, it was an experience of a lifetime, and I just am very thankful and appreciative of the response that we've had and being able to come back and play here.

Q. You mentioned two different drivers than The Masters. Physically different?


Q. How are they different and what's the difference?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, that's a good question. They're more designed for control and keeping the ball in play.

Q. Both still Fusions?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, absolutely. We've just been working on trying to get drives that go more in play as opposed to distance being the priority.

Q. Weighted differently?

PHIL MICKELSON: Slightly, yeah, absolutely. Without getting into too much detail, I think that we've found a driver that I'm able to drive very straight and am very confident with and should be able to keep it in play between that thick U.S. Open rough.

Q. Along those lines, is it the presence of so many doglegs at Winged Foot that puts the premium more on placement than it does on just how far out in the fairway you're hitting it?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think the presence of doglegs makes it more difficult off the tee because you're not driving straight down the fairway, you're driving at an angled fairway, and the threat to go through makes it important to hit the right club or to hit the ball the right distance. You can't just step up and crank on it and have it go 330 down the middle because it'll go through a lot of the doglegs. So you have to carve and work your tee shots with the angle of the hole. That what makes it very challenging.

Q. Just as a follow up, does that apply here at Westchester? Are there similarities between the two courses in that regard?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think it does apply here at Westchester, but the fairways aren't anywhere near as tight and the penalty for a miss isn't anywhere as severe. Even though the rough is up, it's nothing like what I saw at Winged Foot. I haven't seen rough this thick and dense, I don't think ever.

Q. In Atlanta you talked about how the BellSouth Classic and Masters kind of had similar greens complexes. Were you used to use things that would help you at The Masters does that transfer here?

PHIL MICKELSON: It does. They're only five, six miles apart and the greens are almost identical to the Winged Foot's. The movement of them, the grass, the texture, everything looks and feels very similar. Because of that, I think this is a great place to work on your game and get ready for the Open.

Q. Because of that with the change in schedule next year, losing Atlanta before The Masters, is it disappointing that you're not going to have this as an Open tune up every other year?

PHIL MICKELSON: It is. I understand why this tournament has moved its date. I think it'll be beneficial to be part of the FedEx Cup. I don't understand why we moved Atlanta away from the Masters. That's going to be its field hurt. Usually after the players guys are looking to take a break. I don't understand why we did that, but that's what we ended up doing.

Q. You're obviously a guy who's trying to win every week. When you're facing such a significant event the following week after this week, is it difficult to focus on winning this tournament as opposed to just using it as a tune up?

PHIL MICKELSON: Not necessarily. The reason why is I think competing for a championship, feeling the pressure and the importance of each shot and trying to play at a high level and make a lot of birdies and try to get up on the leaderboard is a great way to prepare for trying to do the same thing next week, as opposed to just coming out and playing and working on your game. I don't think there's a better way to learn how to win a U.S. Open than to compete for a championship the week before.

Q. Do you think the fact that Nicklaus and Palmer and people like that have won here adds to the significance of this as a Tour event, the allure of trying to win here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think having players like Nicklaus and Palmer winning here in the past adds to the history and the prestige of the event, absolutely.

Q. From what you've seen at Winged Foot, are you in a position to rank it in terms of other Open venues over the years?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know if that's really my place to rank them. I know it's going to be a very tough test. We've had difficult tests just about every U.S. Open. But I think Winged Foot is so difficult that you don't have to do ridiculous things to make par a good score.

Q. Just the way people say it's set up for members on its own, it's a difficult golf course. They don't need to do anything extreme in terms of greens or

PHIL MICKELSON: No, no. It won't have to be extreme. But I think that there's going to be something interesting that's going to happen next week. I'm going to make a prediction that somebody hits a wrong golf ball in the rough. That's my prediction. The reason is there have been a lot of members that have been playing, and when they hit balls into the rough, you can't find it. I mean, I've had Bones fore caddie, and he sees where the ball goes and he can't find it.

There are, I think, not just hundreds, but I think there are thousands of golf balls in the rough that you just can't see, and I think guys are going to hit the wrong ball.

Q. That would qualify as extreme I would imagine?

PHIL MICKELSON: What's that, the rough?

Q. Yeah.


Q. If you come across a Hogan from media day (laughter).


Q. The conditions here obviously, the wet conditions, does that give you the same opportunity to build up on your game and prepare like you want to going into a U.S. Open, or is it going to be a little more difficult?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you can use it as a positive or a negative. The negative is that we're not able to get out and practice and work on it. But the positive is that you get some rest. The worry or the concern is that you can overprepare. You can work so hard on your game heading into a major that you're tired and mentally drained and you're not ready mentally and physically for the challenge that a U.S. Open presents because it's the most mentally challenging event. You walk off the golf course just drained because you're fighting so hard for pars, you're fighting so hard on each shot to keep it in between the rough because you know the penalty is so great if you mis hit a shot that rain like today can add to the rest and make me or other players fresher for the Open.

Q. Just a follow up, when you're trying to see the shots you want to see on a golf course like this or trying to play the shots you want to play, obviously they're not maybe not to react the same way they would at Winged Foot?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think I necessarily agree. With the course being five miles away, we're going to have the same weather there as we are here, and both courses should react very close to the same way. I know they're going to try to dry out the greens and so forth, but I don't think they're going to be ridiculously firm and fast like we've seen in past Opens because the contours of the greens are so severe. There are a number of holes that have the same pitches as Shinnecock that we played where balls just wouldn't stay on greens, so I don't think it would be that different than what we see here at Westchester.

Q. I know you were kidding around about the rough being dense and everything, but have you ever had an incident where you were playing in rough so deep that say your ball was maybe on top of an embedded ball in the rough and you couldn't see it and you've played the shot?

PHIL MICKELSON: I've had that happen. That's not a penalty when that happens. Oh, yeah, I've had stuff like that where I've stepped on my golf ball not being able to find it. Marshals are going to be really important next week because if they step on a golf ball it's not a penalty, you just drop it in the area there. But if a player or his caddie step on it, then it's a penalty for him. You have to be careful because you won't see the golf ball until you're standing right over it.

Q. So it's that severe, you've never seen it quick as dense and thick

PHIL MICKELSON: I've seen it longer and twirly like Bethpage, but that wasn't really the rough like it is here. This is so thick that the grass grows over the ball. You could be standing right over it and oftentimes not see it.

Q. You were talking about preparation. How many rounds did you play over there, and I guess you kind of answered this question, anything in particular that you will really think about working on here as you're thinking about Winged Foot?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I think that well, I've played a number of rounds over at Winged Foot now. I don't know, six, seven maybe. I came here about six weeks ago, came here about two and a half weeks ago week and a half, and spent four or five days, played there yesterday. So I've spent a lot of time on the course there. There are some areas that you really have to focus in on that are going to be important.

Q. So one or two

PHIL MICKELSON: I know you want me to tell you what they are, but I'm going to hold off in doing that because that's where I want to put my focus and practice in, and that's what I've learned from going over there, the area that I need to work on my game and be sharp to do well, and I don't really want to spoon feed anybody else.

Q. You're putting better than anybody. I believe you're using the putter with an XG face. Talk about the relationship of sound and feel and how that's helping you and whatever confidence that might give you for the greens next week?

PHIL MICKELSON: You sound like a guy that does "What's in the Bag"?

Q. Oddly enough.

PHIL MICKELSON: I have never been a big fan of insert technology, but I have been experimenting with it, and I put the XG insert in play at THE PLAYERS Championship and I loved it. It had the soft feel and the ball came off soft, but it was loud, I could hear it. What happens is when we get fast greens, I make such a short stroke that often times I can't feel impact, I have to listen to it. The louder insert allowed me to hear it but still have the same soft performance characteristics, so I haven't switched away from it. I thought it might be one of those things I put in the bag for a couple of rounds, but I really liked its performance and obviously it suited me well in Atlanta and Augusta, but I'm really enjoying it on these fast greens.

Q. Your philosophy has always been leading into a major to play the week before. Tiger's has always been not to play the week before. I know it's a little bit of a difficult question to answer, but can you imagine not having competed since Augusta and how difficult that may be to stay sharp leading into this Open obviously? I know he's been up there practicing and I know you can't answer for Tiger, but as a guy who likes to compete up to a championship, how difficult is that to do?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, for anybody else on Tour, I think it would be a real challenge, but for him I don't think the same rules apply. I don't think it's going to be a problem for him, unfortunately (laughter).

End of FastScripts.

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