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February 16, 2008

Phil Mickelson


JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil, for joining us for a few minutes here in the media center at the Northern Trust Open. A 70 today, probably not what you expected but if you go back to earlier in the year when you played so well on Sunday at FBR, that helps you out and just being in this position, forever.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was I thought a more difficult day than in the past, because the pin placements were a little tougher and the greens were a little firmer, harder to get it close. I felt like anything in the 60s was going to be a good round. I was close to doing that; I was a shot shy. I played very well and certainly Jeff Quinney played very well. I think that we should have a fun day tomorrow.

Q. He was telling us, we asked him about the ASU connection, and he said you guys had never played as pros, but you've played a little bit, amateurs, but he also said you started talking about Shaq and the Suns; was that the conversation out there?
PHIL MICKELSON: We both are looking forward to his debut Wednesday -- hopefully Wednesday. We've had some good conversation. We have a lot in common. We went to school, not together, but the same school and know a lot of the same places and same people.
I've been very impressed with his career, because I've watched it as he's grown, and every year he's gotten better. Every year, he's improved and I think that he's going to be a successful player on the PGA TOUR. I'm looking forward to the challenge of playing with him tomorrow in the final round and trying to win a golf tournament.
I feel like I'm starting to play better as the weeks have gone on this year. I feel like my game is starting to come around. I've been hitting some good shots and making some good putts and I think that I should be ready for the challenge.

Q. Disappointing not to birdie No. 1, which most people think is a birdie hole? Starting off, you had a pretty good round, but you didn't get that one.
PHIL MICKELSON: Certainly you want to start off with a four there. I didn't hit a very good tee shot, and put myself behind the 8-ball.
I don't think it's imperative for a good round. You know, I've played Torrey Pines, and some of my best rounds have started with a five, which is a bogey on the first hole there. It's not imperative.
But certainly with the upcoming holes, 2 and 4, being so difficult, you want to get off to a good start.

Q. With the way the leaderboard is laid out, it's sort of like a match-play situation tomorrow and leading into next week; do you think about that at all?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it could be if we play well. If we don't play well, we let everybody back in. But if we go out and shoot under par, it will be tough for guys to catch us and we'll have a good match.

Q. Taking that into the next week, is that any kind of a help from a mind-set that you just played match play in the last round at Riviera?
PHIL MICKELSON: Possibly but that's not really -- that's not really where I'm going with it.
My thing for me tomorrow is that I could feel my game starting to come around. I need to hit some good drives. I need to hit solid iron shots into the greens and continue putting well, and I think it will be a good day.

Q. Can you talk about No. 4, was Allenby away, and did you decide to putt out, or were you away?
PHIL MICKELSON: We were kind of tied. It was the same. It was just who was going to be affected, and his mark didn't affect the way I set up to the putt.
I had an unfortunate lip-out there, as sometimes that happens. I had a putt on 18 do the exact same thing. It got right up to the lip and it shot off the edge, and fortunately it lipped in. But I was walking after it, and because it looked like it was in the center, and it barely caught the right lip. On 18, it went in, and on No. 4, it didn't. It happens.
Here, even though the greens have putted the best I've ever seen them, Robert Allenby had a putt on No. 11 that shot off right as it got to the hole, and we've just had a couple of those. And so until it goes in, you're just not sure.

Q. It seems like it's been a week where a lot of pars have been as meaningful as birdies; yesterday on 16 and today on 15 and 18. Any thoughts on that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that's true. I think pars keep the round going.
The golf course here at Riviera is not an easy course to make a lot of birdies on, and even though yesterday I made a bunch, it was one of those things where the ball just found the hole.
But you're really just trying to make three, four, five birdies out here and then not make any mistakes and then you've got a good round.

Q. As a follow to a previous question, how are the dynamics different this year compared to last where you still had a one-shot lead, but there was probably five or six guys with a lot of experience within three shots going into the last day. This time there's some separation.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I like it better this time, yeah. It's nicer.

Q. It's one shot, but are you comfortable as a front-runner? Is that something you like?
PHIL MICKELSON: I like being in the lead. My thought process was that if I can make this 6-footer on 18, tie goes to me. That's kind of the way it looks like. So tomorrow we'll go head-to-head and if I can just tie him, tie goes to me. So that's the nice thing about having a shot in hand or whatnot.
But I would have liked to have increased my lead. Unfortunately I didn't do that.

Q. And there's no defense for a hole-in-one, but did it take you any time to shrug that off?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought I came in there with a good 8-iron to six feet and made it for birdie. I thought that was as good of a response as I could have expected. (Laughter) Yeah, I thought that was a big 2 for me.

Q. Was there a part of your game at all that is better now, as opposed to last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: There's some areas I'm working on that I'm trying to get my parameters a little bit tighter. I'm trying to get my curve in the shot a little tighter. But it's not quite where I want it yet but it's very close. It's very close to being where I want it. I think that -- I just talked to Butch on my way down here, and I think that we're going to be -- have it ready for tomorrow.

Q. What was the lie like on 5 to the right of the green? We were kind of blocked out. You saved par there.
PHIL MICKELSON: It was okay. It was sitting in the rough. But I had a big area to land it if I hit a good flop shot. If I could hit it high and soft, I had 20 feet I can land it where it would probably stop around the hole. That's why I hit it so high.

Q. Are you totally over your respiratory issues now?

Q. Hundred percent?
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Can we go through your birdies and bogeys?
PHIL MICKELSON: Bogey on 4. I hit a good 3-iron to 20 feet and hit the putt 3 1/2 feet by and missed it coming back.
Birdied 6 with an 8-iron to six feet.
Birdied 10 with a 3-wood right in front of the green and putted up to a couple feet.
Birdied 11 with a 3-wood off the tee, 3-iron to the front edge and a 2-putt.
Bogeyed 16. I had a terrible 8-iron to the right. Good chip shot to 12 feet and missed it.

Q. You had a lot of 25-, 30-foot birdie putts today. Was that a function of where the pins were and not wanting to be overaggressive to them, or were you not hitting your irons as well as you would have liked?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think 80 percent of it was more the pin placement where I was aiming. You know, No. 7, the pin was so far left that I hit a good shot right where I wanted to and I got a 20-footer.
If I hit a good shot on 16, I've got a 20-footer. They were firm and those tucked pins were hard to get to. But if you do have those 20-footers, they are uphill putts. You can be aggressive and you can make a lot of them.

Q. Since you've been good for a long time, I mean, really since you turned pro, was there ever a point early in your career on TOUR where you learned not to take any opponent for granted?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, you learn that in junior golf, yeah. That's just a given. It doesn't matter who it is. If the guy is good enough to be in the last group, he's obviously playing well enough to win.

Q. Have you ever been caught doing the other, even in junior golf, underestimating somebody?
PHIL MICKELSON: No. But I've not played well and lost, yeah. But not because I expected them to give it to me. I know that I won't be handed anything tomorrow. I know how well Jeff's playing and how well John Rollins played, and I know that there are guys that are right there that can shoot a low round tomorrow. And it's my job to go out and hit solid shots, hit a lot of fairways, attack some pins and be careful with some that are dangerous and see if I can shoot in the mid-60s.

Q. Do you have a target for tomorrow --
PHIL MICKELSON: Depending on conditions, it's hard to say. I feel I can, yeah.

Q. You're thinking aggressive tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think I can shoot in the mid to high 60s and play well.

Q. Could you talk about how different -- if there is that big of a difference between your ball-striking last week and your ball-striking this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Fairly comparable. I thought I hit maybe a few better shots last week, but the difference is, I'm putting much better.

Q. And just to follow up, you said you talked to Butch on the way ...
PHIL MICKELSON: To see you, Alex, yeah, just a couple minutes ago. (Laughter).

Q. Is he on site or on the phone?
PHIL MICKELSON: Phone, yeah.

Q. What can you do on the phone?
PHIL MICKELSON: Talk. (Laughter).

Q. I figure you're not doing sign language. What can you he get from you and what can you get back? Does he just watch the broadcast and you guys talk about it?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, we just, yeah, we're able to work some things out, that's all. I don't know really where to go with that, but we're able to kind of communicate over the phone.

Q. Curious on 10, if conditions notwithstanding, it seems like 3-wood is the choice for most of the power hitters. When did that become the case? Has it ever been driver, and have you noticed over the years driver no longer being a choice?
PHIL MICKELSON: What's happened, Doug, is the golf ball is going farther. So when we used to hit drivers, we now are hitting 3-woods. (Laughter).
Any other good questions? (Laughter) Sorry, I'm just kidding.
I don't know where to go with that one, either. Because the tee hasn't moved up. The tee is in the same spot.

Q. When Tiger is not in a tournament, Phil, do you feel like the favorite son? Do you feel like the guy that everyone is rooting for?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know, but I've enjoyed playing in L.A. and there's a lot of friends that I haven't seen in a while and have come on out and some family members have come up with me.
So it's been a fun tournament, and I think some of the people here know how much this tournament means to me and how important it would be to get that this tournament win, which I haven't had, and have wanted for so long.
JOAN vT ALEXANDER: Thank you, Phil.

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