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May 1, 2008

Phil Mickelson


STEWART MOORE: We'd like to welcome our current co-leader Phil Mickelson to the interview room here at the Wachovia Championship after a great opening round 68. You've got, I believe, three top seven finishes at this tournament. This is obviously a course that suits your eye.
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I like the golf course a lot, and I think that's why so many players play here, because they love the tournament and the way the course plays, the challenge of it, as well as how fair it is.

Q. How did you putt today?
PHIL MICKELSON: Pretty good, yeah. It was a good day. It felt good, and it's good to see some positive results from the time I spent the last couple weeks.

Q. You got off to a good start, then you made the good up-and-down at 18. How critical was that to sort of keep momentum going?
PHIL MICKELSON: I thought that was a big one. Even though it was a bogey putt, to make bogey, you can afford to lose a shot around this course. You'll make some mistakes, you'll make some bogeys, but you don't want to have huge mistakes like doubles, and to make that up-and-down, make that putt, that was a big one.
I made two good pars on 3 and 4 that also kept the round going, and with the challenge of this golf course, it's challenging to hit fairways, it's challenging to hit greens, it's challenging on the greens to chip because it's so fast that it's important to salvage those strokes and try not to give too many away.

Q. No. 7, you played it way left, is that right, on the second?
PHIL MICKELSON: I wouldn't say I played it intentionally way left. You have to miss left, that's where I've got to miss, but I was trying to hit it over at the center of the green and let the swale take it to the right. I was unsure of how far the ball would fly. The wind was in, and I pulled a club, then it would stop, and it wasn't hurting. I didn't feel comfortable going at the pin that it would have enough to carry, so I blew it over to the left, obviously farther left than I wanted.
It was not as hard a shot as it looked. I could have landed it anywhere on the green and it would have funneled down to the hole. In fact, I thought it might have been closer even than where it ended up. I made the putt, and it was good birdie.

Q. Setting your putting aside for a second, the Butch stuff now has been I guess about a year or so, maybe a few weeks longer. Where do you think your ball-striking is compared to say other periods of your career? I've heard what Butch has said and what he thinks. I'm wondering how you feel about the way you're swinging it and the way you're hitting it right now.
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, I feel very good about it. I feel like that's been the strength of my game so far this year. I see the improvements, and the misses haven't been anywhere near as big. I brought the misses in, but they were still missing in the rough, but I think I'll have more rounds like today where the misses are inside the parameters of the fairways. I'm not sure how many I hit, but it was a decent amount of fairways and greens, as well.

Q. Seems like that could be an instance where the driving percentages might not be demonstrably different, but of course they don't measure how many miss by 30 and how many miss by three.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the stats don't show that. But today, though, I don't think I missed but one or two. I missed 18. I missed another one somewhere. Oh, I missed 5. That's about it.
STEWART MOORE: 12 of 14.

Q. Were you concerned at all about your approach on No. 9 when you almost (inaudible)? Did it almost get away and did you aim it left?
PHIL MICKELSON: That's a good question. The greens slope left to right, so you want to be a few feet left of the hole so it releases to it. Obviously I didn't want to be left of the green because now it's a downhill quick shot. Fortunately I wasn't in the heavy rough, I was just in like a first cut, and I was able to get a little spin on it. So it made the shot a lot easier and one that I felt I could make. It probably would have gone, because it was so fast, three, four feet by, but it would have been a straight uphill putt, but it went in, so it doesn't matter.

Q. What is your workout and diet now compared to what it was two, three, four years ago?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's changed a lit bit. Yeah, it's changed. I would say better to both.

Q. What would be an example of how it's changed?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, work out more and just eat a little bit healthier. I don't know the specifics. I mean, everybody reacts different to different foods and blah, blah, blah. I mean, the specifics don't necessarily mean much. But it works; it's been working for me.

Q. How does your game feel now overall in comparison to like say Riviera, when you were going into Riviera?
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, at Riviera, I made a lot of putts there but I didn't feel good with the putter. They went in, but I didn't feel confident with the way they were rolling.
Today was a different day for me on the greens. I mean, not only did I make a lot, but the ones that missed were tracking and coming close to the edges. So I feel like heading in here, I'm actually putting better, even though I made a lot that week. I feel like I'm putting better, and the ball-striking has been about the same.

Q. What do you see as the best byproduct of the inch-and-a-half change with the putter?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think when I do some of the drills, I haven't had as much soreness, let's say, after the round in my back. I haven't had any back problems, but just muscular, sore. I think not having to bend over as much might allow me to practice a little bit easier maybe.

Q. This is just kind of a fun question. When you look at your throng of fans -- you're going to think I've got an ulterior motive and I don't. When you look at your throng of fans here and Tiger's throng of fans here, do you see a difference? Obviously your fans are the smart ones (laughing), but would you compare and contrast because it seems like they fall into two camps and there's really no gray area; you're one or the other, not both. That's been my perception.
PHIL MICKELSON: You know, Tiger has a lot of fans, obviously. If they're out here this week, they're not seeing him. They're going to miss him this week.
I don't know what the difference is, but I think that when you look at Tiger and what he's done, you can't help but, from a fan's point of view, respect and admire his drive to greatness. I think that's pretty easy to see why people like him so much is because he's such a great model or role model, as well as example of greatness.
STEWART MOORE: Real quick before we're done, do you mind going through your five birdies and you mentioned that clutch bogey putt at 18?
PHIL MICKELSON: Okay, I birdied 12. I hit a 3-wood off the tee and 9-iron to six feet and made it for birdie.
I birdied 16 and I hit a driver and 7-iron to four feet and made it.
18, I hit a drive just off the left edge of the fairway actually with a 3-wood, hit a 4-iron in the hazard, chipped up to 12 feet and made it.
I birdied No. 1, I hit driver, pitching wedge to 25 feet underneath the hole and made that.
I birdied 7, I hit 3-wood off the tee, a hybrid to the left of the green, wedged it about 15 feet past the hole, made it.
And then I birdied 9, I hit driver off the tee, 7-iron just left, pin high 25 feet, and chipped in.

Q. You kind of have a love-hate relationship with No. 17. Tell me, just for fans that maybe don't know a lot about this course, just talk about that hole for a minute and why it seems to be such a challenge for everybody.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I mean, that's just a tough hole. It's just a tough hole the way the back of the green rolls away into the water. It's very difficult. And it also rolls right to left, which means if you hit it to the right, you're chipping downhill and it's tough to get it up-and-down. It's a hole where you can make -- you could play it for bogey and be fine if you play it to the right, but if you try to hit the green, you know, you're really taking on some risk of going long or coming up short.
I like what was done today where they had the pin over there in the front left and they moved the tees up so you could go at it, so you didn't have everybody just blowing it way right. I thought that was pretty cool. Gosh, it's a tough hole.
I like the hole because it gives you a chance to make up ground on the leaders, and you could make a 2 there, but it's also a very tough par.
STEWART MOORE: Phil, thanks so much. Good luck this week.

End of FastScripts

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