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February 17, 2008

Phil Mickelson


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome our 2008 Northern Trust Open Champion, Phil Mickelson, to the interview room. What a great one-on-one battle out there with a former Arizona State Sun Devil, like yourself, Jeff Quinney, talk a little about the day.
PHIL MICKELSON: It was a fun, head-to-head battle. And the fact that we were five or six shots clear of third place allowed us to have that head-to-head battle and not have to worry about other guys making a move at us.
I thought in the middle of the round, he made some incredible putts that made for a very difficult day. I was fortunate to be able to respond with those -- to those with a birdie on 10 and 11, and that gave me a little bit of momentum.
Then ultimately a 3-putt here or there cost him the tournament, but I thought that he played terrific golf today. I think he's going to have a great year and great year.
The impressive thing about Jeff Quinney, because I've been watching him since he came out of Arizona State and since he won the Amateur is that he's gotten better every year. He started out maybe the Canadian Tour, got better every level he's played at and I think that he's ready to break through and be a real threat on the PGA TOUR.
STEWART MOORE: You win today, you pick up 4,500 FedExCup points and move into first on the season-long points list, your 33rd win, you move into 13th on the all-time list, as we go on further in your career and you go higher and higher up this list, how do you view that in terms of history and your career and everything awe accomplished?
PHIL MICKELSON: The names that are on this trophy are pretty cool and bring some up an element of history to this tournament. Riviera is a special place, a fun, challenging golf course that's withstood the test of time. I think it has some of the greatest holes on the PGA TOUR, and it's fun to play well here, because early in my career I did not. Until last year, was really the first year I played well here and to break through with a victory feels terrific.

Q. The names on the trophy doesn't include a certain Jack Nicklaus or Tiger Woods. Does that make it any sweeter?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's not what I'm looking for. But the fact that Hogan and Snead and Nelson are on here, I think that's really cool.

Q. The puts you made on the back nine, 10 and 14, what do you think was more significant?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that, well, both of them were pretty critical. I needed to respond to the 15-foot par putt Jeff made, and I needed to make that 6-footer for birdie on 10. And then having the ability to putt first, you know, I hit that bunker shot and I wanted to make sure I left it underneath the hole because I wanted an uphill putt, but I left it obviously short of where I wanted.
Being able to go in first and get that in, I think that made his putt a little more difficult, I don't know. But they were both big turning points.

Q. You mentioned you had played here at a 17-year-old high school student. If you could contrast the feelings of just what that was like.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, then I was trying to make the cut, and this week I was trying to win. I like it now better, yeah.

Q. In addition to that, though, the feelings you developed through the years about Riviera.
PHIL MICKELSON: When I first started playing here, whether it was as an amateur or early in my career, I didn't understand the nuances of this golf course, where you can and can't hit it. The way the kikuyu grass, a foot short of the green will grab the ball and stop it short; but if you land it a foot farther on the green, it will bound all the way to the back edge.
And learning those nuances and how to hit the shots into some of these greens has helped me over the years, and last year was when I started to put it together, and I'm fortunate to break through this year.

Q. After last year, you had a chance and you were disappointed. Is this a special satisfaction, and was there any doubts at all after you had lost the lead on the ninth hole?
PHIL MICKELSON: I knew that I needed to play a good back nine. The fact that he and I were separated and that other guys weren't really close to catching us, it was just a head-to-head nine-hole battle.

Q. Does it make it easier in a way?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it's easier than if there were five or six guys within a shot or two, yeah, absolutely.

Q. You didn't show much emotion after you won this. Was it more of a relief?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say a relief. I think that heading in, I really had a good feeling about this week. I felt like I had been playing well and I came so close last year that I didn't want to get ahead of myself. I felt I had the tournament won last year and I bogeyed 18. I didn't want to get ahead of myself. I wanted to try to play each shot smart coming down the stretch and not get too emotional.

Q. Can you talk about how you might have to flick a switch now and get into that match-play mode? You have to feel as confident as ever.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think one of the coolest tournaments we have is taking place next week is the Match Play, we only get one day like that really. I think Wednesday the first day is the most exciting because so many matches and upsets.
The fact that we went head-to-head is kind of a perfect transition for the upcoming event.

Q. You've had a lot of years where you've started with a victory on the West Coast, either Torrey or Bob Hope, and now here, can you talk about what this means to you in context of the larger season looking forward into the majors, etc.?
PHIL MICKELSON: I always like to get a win early in the season. I love the West Coast. I play a lot and it gives me momentum for the rest of the year. I came close at Phoenix. And so to finally get one feels good.
I think that it will be beneficial heading into the Match Play, but it's also nice heading into the Augusta stretch here that we'll start in the middle of March, kind of the run to Augusta that I've gotten this out of the way now and have some momentum.

Q. I don't want this to sound dumb, but it might be because I'm asking it, is this kind of what you were expecting after the first round of Torrey Pines, kicking the rust off there and moving in the right direction?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt like I was a week or two behind just because I haven't been able to practice because I was sick. I thought I was putting it together in Phoenix. I actually thought I hit a ton of good shots at Pebble even though it led to a missed cut. I was playing much better than the score was indicating but I felt I was close.
I would have liked to have been at this point starting at San Diego but it just wasn't feasible. So I'm only behind a couple of weeks. It shouldn't be a big deal.

Q. How much pride do you take in the fact that other than Tiger, you seem to be the guy who is all up there, always contending, whether you win or not; winning every year, you just consistently do it year-in and year-out when a lot of other guys don't. How much pride to you take into that?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I appreciate you saying that. It means a lot that I'm able to continue to compete and win golf tournaments, because that's what makes playing this game so much fun is having a chance to win and winning. So to be able to do that for a number of years has been a lot of fun; anyway.

Q. What do you think separates you from a lot of other guys that are up there, top-ranked guys in the world, but you have kind of separated yourself from a lot of other people; why do you think that is?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know what to say there. That's kind of a loaded question, I think. There's no really great answer.

Q. You face another ASU guy next week in Perez, I know you guys aren't that close and haven't really had that much of a relationship, different in age; what do you think about facing Pat, a guy who grew up in San Diego and you obviously know about?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I've been aware of Pat Perez's career now, also, because he went through Arizona State and I try to keep track of the guys that have gone through the same school. He's had a very solid career in that he's played well. I don't think he's won but he's a very solid player. And I think that his dad has is done a lot to help grow the game and bring the game to inner city youths. So I think the whole family has done a lot for the game of golf.
It will be a fun match. I'm looking forward to. It I'm looking forward to getting back to Arizona. I've missed Tucson because we had it as a conflicting event for a number of years and that place was my first TOUR win ever, so I love going back there. I'm excited to get back there.

Q. What's the state of your game now compared with where it was now at some other points in your career and some of your better years?
PHIL MICKELSON: I can see the difference or I can see the improvement, but it's not quite to where I believe I can get it but I feel like it's been much better than in the past so I feel like I'm getting better. I can taste where I want to get to, but I'm not quite there yet.

Q. Can you just talk about your record on the West Coast, 16 wins out of your 33, not including Hawaii --
PHIL MICKELSON: What do you want me to say? Yeah --

Q. Just wondering --
PHIL MICKELSON: I think you're right. That's absolutely correct. (Laughter).

Q. I was looking for a little more (Doug).

Q. Is it growing up here and knowing the grass and greens; a lot of people hate poa, but obviously you can play it very well.

Q. I was trying to save words here.
PHIL MICKELSON: We've had a tough go this week, Doug. I think Art should just phrase your questions. That was well said. (Laughter).
Well, I forget, why do guys hit 3-woods on 10 instead of drivers? (Laughter).

Q. That wasn't my question.
PHIL MICKELSON: I know, it was Doug's.

Q. Because you're a physical specimen.
PHIL MICKELSON: I do enjoy the West Coast. And I love poa annua greens. I grew up on them. I'm excited to play golf and I practice very hard on the West Coast when the season is coming around and I haven't played for a while.
I work hard on my game. I've got a lot of energy and I'm excited to get back out. I think all of these things, plus the fact that I grew up here, and used to walk these fairways on the outside and now that I'm on the inside, I just have a great love for the West Coast and I've been fortunate to play well here.

Q. How many tournaments did you go to, how many different ones, not the same one twice?
PHIL MICKELSON: Just a couple times a year when the TOUR was in town, I would try to get out there for a day or two here or there.
STEWART MOORE: Do you mind, if could we briefly go through your card, birdies and bogeys today.
PHIL MICKELSON: Sure. I birdied No. 1. I hit 3-wood off the tee, 6-iron on the green, 35 feet and made it and 2-putted. It wasn't that great of a 2-putt. I left it eight feet short but made it.
Then No. 9, I made bogey. I hit driver just left on the bank of the bunker. Hit it to the right of the green, chipped up short and lipped out a chip-in. That would have made par.
Birdied 10. I know the golf ball is going longer but I hit driver today on 10 (laughter). It was a little into the wind and it was critical I felt to get past pin-high. I was a yard short of the green on the fringe in the playoff last year and I couldn't get to the pin. I felt like a good shot would be 15 feet. And so I wanted to make sure I got it past the pin and so I had a lob shot right backup into the slope and hit it to six feet and made that for birdie. It was really the only spot I thought you could get on that green by that hole there.
On 11, I hit a good drive and I was just in the left rough, a yard or two in the left rough, tapped in for birdie.
I bogeyed 15. I hit a driver, again, a yard or two through the fairway, 5-iron short of the green left, chipped up to six feet and missed it.

Q. I'm almost afraid to ask another question about 10, but I'll try.
PHIL MICKELSON: Why don't you have Art phrase it for you?
Go ahead. (Laughter).

Q. If they were to shave that grass behind the 10th green works that change your thinking on how to play that hole or is it still the best way to get at the flag behind the green?
PHIL MICKELSON: It would be easier if it would be shaved.

Q. It would roll out more.
PHIL MICKELSON: It would roll out, but I think it's not any harder being by 11 tee box. And if they were all fairway cut, you would be able to spin it. The tough part was coming out of the rough and having to be careful of kind of a fluffer that came out short in the bunker. So I don't think it would be any more difficult if it were shaved.

Q. Given all the names on the trophy, as you said earlier, I wanted to follow up earlier, where do you put this win versus the rest of your West Coast swing?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's certainly up there. The fact that I haven't won this and it's taken me so long to win it makes it that much more special. But growing up in San Diego and winning the Buick Invitational as my first TOUR win will always be the most special West Coast win for me.

Q. At 9, you had a tough lie over there. Can you just describe what that was like? It looked like the ball was above your feet.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, and although I wanted to, or the tendency would be to keep it left of the hole, I felt like it was going to be a harder shot if I missed it way left trying to get it close to that pin where the green is going away.
I actually felt like I would be better off at the pin or right of it, not where I ended up but closer to the green, because I would be chipping into the slope and I felt I had a better chance to get that close from there. So I tried to go at the pin, and then I missed it well right.

Q. What was the club?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit 7-iron. I had 170 yards on that uphill face.

Q. You said earlier you can taste where you want to get with your game. Do you feel you are a more complete player today than you were when you won THE PLAYERS last year?
PHIL MICKELSON: Without answering that directly, I think that the changes that Butch and I have been working on have settled in nicely, and I feel much more confident off the tee, drawing the golf ball and fading the golf ball. I thought that the two drives on 17 and 18 were evident of that. I would have normally hit 3-wood on 18 because I only needed a par to secure a victory. But because I drove it in the left rough twice last year, I hit driver, because I wanted to have the improvements come through and I was able to do that, able to hit a good drive there.

Q. Any examples this week that your work with Amy Alcott had year or last year helped you save a shot or read a critical putt?
PHIL MICKELSON: She helped me read the greens. We talked about how I putted poorly at Pebble and worked on it here.
What I didn't realize is the golf ball I'm playing this year is very soft. It's softer than the one last year, and when I had putted with it on the insert that I had, it was a quieter sound and the ball was coming off and I couldn't hear it and I was giving it a little too much.
And consequently, my speed was going well by the hole so I went back to Odyssey and I put a firmer insert on my putter face. So by putting the firmer insert, I was able to hear it and my speed and touch and came back, but I didn't even think about that because the golf ball I've been using this rear is much softer.
I think that that had a lot to do with the win here because so many of my tee shots went into the first cut of rough and I never got a jumper. I thought that was big, because I was able to have better distance control with that softer cover.

Q. Why would you have changed balls? What would the softer cover do for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: It eliminates a lot of the jumpers. Do you remember the shot on 14 -- 13 yesterday, that I was down left and I spun it? Yeah, I couldn't do that last year.

Q. Looking for more spin?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, around the green, being able to spin it and control it, and also the iron shots in the first cut. I also get a little more distance out of it but he is that not why I'm going to it. It's all with the short irons and the wedges, and I didn't factor in that the insert would be -- that I would need to change that a little bit to get the same sound and feel. I didn't want to go into the details of that earlier this week, but that was really the change I made heading into this week was I just changed the insert louder and now I can hear it and it feels great.

Q. Any other adjustments that you had to make with the ball?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I added a 3-iron this week, which I haven't had a 3-iron in ages. I've always had a hybrid. But I've been really liking the 3-iron. I used it a bunch off the tees here and into the par 5s. No real point but I just liked it.

Q. Will you put it in the bag next week as well?
PHIL MICKELSON: Depends on the rough. I need the hybrid out of the rough to get that shot moving and because there's not too much rough there, if it's the same as last year, I probably will, yeah.

Q. Did you hit the 3-iron at 4 today?
PHIL MICKELSON: I hit the 3-iron at 4. And that's an example of the kikuyu where you land a foot short and it grabs it. I was literally handing a foot short of the green and it backed up. If I land it on the green, it goes to the back edge.

Q. Can you talk a little bit more about your relationship with Amy? Had you consulted her at all in the past or was this just something for this week?
PHIL MICKELSON: Last year, and I had spent some time with her before, and she's a neat lady; she's knowledgeable about the game of golf, a Hall of Fame and LPGA player. And being able to pick her brain last year on the way some of the greens slope and putts break, and I called her up again and said, hey, can you leave Wednesday open, and so we spent the time there, as well. I think the Pro-Am players enjoy having her walk around a few holes, too, because she has so much insight into the game of golf.
STEWART MOORE: Phil, congratulations.

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