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August 1, 2008
LAURA HILL: Phil, only one bogey in 36 holes and 6-under after two rounds. I think this is your first lead in a World Golf Championships, so in good position.
PHIL MICKELSON: Thank you. It's been a good first two days. It's been a fun first two days. I love the course, and I love the way it's been set up. I love the opportunity to get our games ready and sharp for next week going into the PGA. But this is an awesome event, and I'm excited that I put myself in a good position heading into the weekend.
Q. You talked a little bit yesterday about how your mindset was so good because of the way the golf course is set up. Is that generally the case with you? Does it have that much effect on the way you then perform when you're feeling that good?
PHIL MICKELSON: I think it certainly can. Towards the end of the year, you know, we've got a lot of big events, and so I want to pace myself. I want to be excited about the tournaments that we have coming up. I'm excited that the course setup is so great, because not only is it great for this event, but it's also great for all the players as we end the season next week with the PGA, with our next major, and also heading into the FedExCup. The practice facilities here are second to none, and because of that, it gives us a chance to work on our games and be sharp for not just this week or next but for the rest of the season.
Q. How much input do you give to rules officials and how much would you say they listen?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know. I mean, I don't really know. I mean, I certainly have been complimentary to the guys because I want them to hear it when they do such a great job. We've had an awesome year this year. Wachovia was set up spectacular, this is set up spectacular, so was Colonial.
The other thing is we've had great pin placements. You know, I've always believed what Tommy Roy of NBC has said. He's always said make the hard holes harder and the easier holes easier. For a while there we kind of went against that. Now we're making the hard holes a lot harder, and they're tough pars, and we're making the easy holes -- we're keeping them birdie holes. We're not doing something ridiculous with the pins, so guys are able to separate themselves by making birdies on those easy holes as well as making good tough pars on the hard holes. It's just been a great year, I think, for the way the TOUR set it up. We've had a few hiccups but that's just the way it is.
Q. Have you talked about any of the hiccups?
PHIL MICKELSON: No, I've just explained why I've liked this setup so much and why there might be one or two that I didn't think was the best. I don't know if it's necessarily, you know, taken in or not. But I think for the most part the consensus of the players has been really excited about the way the courses have been set up this year, and Firestone is perfect.
Q. As we lead into next week, does it matter to you how you play this week, or before any major, really, given the way you do things?
PHIL MICKELSON: It does, yeah.
Q. Or does it just matter that you compete?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's probably a little bit of both. I've won tournaments missing the cut the week before. It happened this year. LA, I think I missed the cut the week before. Vijay has won a major missing the cut the week before. But I always like to go in playing well.
I remember when I won the Masters in '06. I had a great week the week before. So I would prefer that. I feel like that's a better way to go in, playing well the week before.
Q. The other day you were talking about the short game, so obviously apparently it's coming around, huh?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's a lot better. I feel much, much better with the putter, much better with the wedges. I hit some great wedge shots today, just the basic little chip shots that I expect to get close. I haven't been performing the way I expected, and this week it feels much better. I spent, like I said, last week, on short game exclusively, and I feel like it's starting to come around.
Q. The PGA, how do they set up their courses in comparison to what you're talking about?
PHIL MICKELSON: It's always been pretty good with the PGA. I've always enjoyed the way their courses have been set up. It's kind of a mixture between what we have this week at Firestone and a U.S. Open. It's like right in between.
Q. When you won here in '96, do you remember what the course looked like then in terms of setup?
PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't as long. We didn't have as many -- the tee boxes have been moved back on a lot of holes. But a lot of the holes play the same today as they did 12 years ago. I mean, it was 12 years ago that I won. Wow. I've been out here a while (laughter).
Q. We were talking the other day about your bag and how some of the equipment changes from week to week. Has that been something that you've done going back to your junior days, and do you get sort of a -- what's a good way to put this? Do you seem to be a guy who engages, really, the harder the shot is and the more your brain can be involved than maybe just a stock 7-iron out of the middle of the fairway? You seem to like side sauce and challenges and all that stuff. I just wonder if this is a manifestation of you mentally challenging yourself in some fashion.
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, the clubs that I have in my bag are not a result of that. I mean, I like to hit a variety of shots. What's transpired is a wedge and a now a 64-degree wedge and a gap wedge in between. So basically I used to have two wedges, a sand and a pitching, and now I've got three more wedges, so to offset that I've got to take something out of the long game. I've worked around that. I've had a hybrid, a 3-iron, a 2-iron, a 4-iron, different lofted hybrids trying to fill in gaps in that long area. But when it comes right down to it, I'm not going to score from 200 to 245. That's not where I'm going to make birdies. Where I'm going to make birdies is from 130 in, and those are the wedges.
Q. How important and satisfying was your day with the last going into the last weekend?
PHIL MICKELSON: I felt it was a big putt just because I wanted to go into the weekend with a little bit of momentum. I didn't want to bogey the last two. And I also had been hitting a lot of good putts, and I made a bunch today. I made some good ones today. But I just felt like that putt looked good, it felt like I could make it, and to see balls rolling in now, it's starting to gain a little bit more confidence, a little bit more momentum.
Q. You said you made a lot of good putts. Could you tell us where and what they were like?
PHIL MICKELSON: On the greens mostly (laughter), and --
Q. Which holes?
PHIL MICKELSON: I made a good one on 3 from 20 feet for birdie, and I made a good one on 7 from 30 feet for birdie. And those are putts that I hadn't made in a while, you know. To see those go in takes a little bit of heat off my iron game because I had a 5-iron into No. 7 today, so rather than go at the pin, where if I miss it left 15 feet, I'm going to have a tough time making a par, I'm able to play more towards the center and let my putter do a little bit more of the work. That's why making a couple of those is important.
Q. How far was the putt on 10?
PHIL MICKELSON: 10 was only six feet.
Q. What's the most difficult hole out here for you?
PHIL MICKELSON: Toughest hole out here for me, I think for everybody, the toughest hole now is going to be No. 9 because of the challenge off the tee. But No. 8 has changed a lot, too. It used to be a birdie hole. It used to be a hole where we could drive it over the hill, the ball would roll down and we'd have wedge. Now that we're having a tough time getting it over the crest, it's a 6-, 7-iron into a very narrow green, although yesterday I was able to get it over. I had wedge yesterday, but today not so lucky.
Q. What about 16?
PHIL MICKELSON: The par-5? I think that it's still -- you've got to look at that hole as a birdie hole, where you're trying to get one back. Because even if you hit a bad drive, it's just a layup. You can recover and get the ball back in the fairway and you still have a short iron in.
Q. You had said your best two putting weeks were Colonial and Riviera. During the time it wasn't so good did you find yourself putting more pressure on your iron play like a lot of people do?
PHIL MICKELSON: Absolutely, because I felt like I had to knock it a couple feet to make birdie.
Q. Was there ever a problem?
PHIL MICKELSON: Knocking it a couple of feet? Oh, yeah.
Q. For us, yeah. But some guys who continually put more pressure on their iron game it kind of gets them out of sorts.
PHIL MICKELSON: I didn't feel like that was the case. I felt like I hit a lot of good iron shots, but I wasn't capitalizing, wasn't getting it. I don't want to jump the gun and say my putting is great, but it certainly felt better yesterday, felt even better today, and I hope to keep continually improving it.
Q. When you say working on the short game, in your eyes what is that, 50 yards in, 100 yards in, just around the green?
PHIL MICKELSON: Well, in general I would say 130 in, but specifically now it's 40 yards in. Right now that's the area. I've been hitting my little wedge shots the right yardage, hitting those close. But what I have not been doing as well until the last two days is the chipping around the greens.
Q. Does it bother you to be accused, I guess, of over-thinking? Do you pay mentally just for taking an unorthodox approach sometimes? You did win at Colonial with all those wedges.
PHIL MICKELSON: I think that I have to go about preparing for tournaments, working on my game, what I believe is best for me. And after being out here for 16 years, you learn what is best suited for each player, and it's different for everybody. You know, each player is an individual, and what works best for me may not work best for others. I think I owe it to myself to stay with the plan that I know and have learned that allows me to play my best.
Q. As a designer of a couple golf courses, what do you think about Rees Jones' work and redoing major championship venues?
PHIL MICKELSON: Not a big fan.
Q. Why is that?
PHIL MICKELSON: I could go into it and give you a long dissertation --
Q. It would help my story if you would (laughter). What would you not do if you were him?
PHIL MICKELSON: I would try to not be so monotonous.
LAURA HILL: Do you want to do your card real quick?
PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think they really care, do they?
No. 10, I hit 3-wood off the tee and a gap wedge into the green to six feet.
No. 14, I hit driver off the tee. I hit an 8-iron from 161 to 20 feet, made it.
I birdied 2, I hit a driver and a hybrid just over the green probably 40 feet from the hole, chipped up to three feet and made it.
I birdied 3, I hit a driver off the tee in the right rough but hit a gap wedge to 20 feet and made it.
Q. No trees in the way?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I had to hook it around them, yeah. But I'm okay from there, actually. They're 90 percent air (laughter).
No. 7, I hit a 5-iron to 30 feet and made it for birdie.
And then 8, I hit a good drive in the fairway, hit a 7-iron into the bunker to the right, hit a good shot out to four feet but missed it.
Q. Best shot you hit today was what?
PHIL MICKELSON: Hmm. Probably the lob shot on 4. I hit it over the green on 4 and had a tough little shot but I lobbed it down there about a foot. That was probably my best shot of the day.
Q. Where was the pin?
PHIL MICKELSON: Middle left. I had that downslope, and I hit it really high.
Q. A little flop?
PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.
End of FastScripts