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March 8, 2014

Phil Mickelson


Q.  Talk about a 31 closing nine, how good was that finishing run?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, it was fun to play the back nine after a poor start on the front to finish making a bunch of birdies was fun.
You know, the course under benign conditions where you can fly the ball in the air and so forth plays great.  You're going to see a lot of birdies coming in on some of the guys because the greens are rolling very true and you feel like you can make 10‑, 12‑, 20‑footers.
But yesterday when the conditions were so tough, it was very difficult because you didn't have the options on the ground, and you had to play through the air and so we saw a lot of big numbers and I was a big contributor to that.

Q.  Seeing the new design now in difficult conditions and then today, how would you view this re‑design?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I think it's really hard to tell how it's going to play and visualize greens that are rolling 13, 14 on the Stimpmeter and windy conditions and whatnot when you're building it and putting in the dirt and so forth, and I think it's really close.  I think it's really close to being great, but you still have to have those options when the conditions do get difficult, because that tends to happen quite often over the 20 years I've been coming here.  It gets really blustery and can go 25 to 35 like it did the first two days, and you have to have a way to play the course.

Q.  Heading into tomorrow, you're five out of the lead right now; how optimistic are you that you can maybe still win this?
PHIL MICKELSON:  There are so many guys ahead of me, it's not like one or two guys can fall back.  I'm going to have go makeup the entire amount of ground and shoot something really low.  Is it possible?  Sure, yeah, it's possible.
It's not really my biggest concern right now.  My concern was that I start to hit better shots and start to play better.  I'm driving the ball straighter, my iron play is getting better, and my putting is getting better.  I feel the game coming around and so I don't want to get worried about the result this particular week.  But it is crunch time now with Augusta right around the corner.
It was a lot better the final back nine and last ten 12 holes, I got off to a rough start again.  I've been struggling with those first five, six holes.  I played a lot better but certainly with these conditions, without much wind and you being able to fly the ball in the air and so forth, there's a lot of birdies to be made out here.
But you still have to hit good shots and you still have to make good putts, but I do think the leaders will continue to make some birdies on the back.  But if you do miss‑hit it, there's a lot of penalty for the miss out here.  You can still make a double pretty quick.

Q.  Moving day Saturday, what's your philosophy, does it depend if you're behind or how far you're behind, do you free‑wheel a little bit more?
PHIL MICKELSON:  You certainly need to make a run but usually the opportunity on Saturday comes if you can get calm conditions in the morning, you go out, you shoot 6‑, 7‑ , 8‑under par and the wind picks up and makes it tougher for the leaders to make birdies.  That's really what you're looking for.  But conditions are staying calm throughout.  Although I shot a few under par, so will the leaders and the groups right behind me.

Q.  What kind of changes did you make on the back nine?  How did you adjust?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I drove it really well the back nine, and I gave myself a lot of chances from the fairways, and then I just made a couple good putts there coming in on the last three holes.  I didn't do anything exceptional or I didn't try any ridiculous shots.  I just, you know‑‑

Q.  Like the one on 7?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Yeah, well, that was a weird deal, because I hit a great shot out of the bunker and I really was not left with a shot from the back edge of the green.  That was a hard up‑and‑down.  I hit a really good shot just to get it to ten feet there.
But I certainly played a lot better, and the course is there to make some birdies if you do hit good shots.

Q.  Do you think it's because it's now calm, you can make a better assessment of what Gil Hanse did and the difficulty?
PHIL MICKELSON:  Well, I like the golf course a lot.  I mean, I like‑‑ the greens were done with strategy and thought‑‑ a thought put into them.  The movement is subtle.  It's not overly too much. 
       But there are a few holes where the greens roll at this speed.  There are some holes when the wind picks up that you don't have the option to play it along the ground and I think it's just a few little tweaks here and there, and I think this course is going to be something special, because you can see today, it's close in that guys who play well, make birdies, and guys that don't, make bogeys and shoot over par, which is what you're looking for in a course to separate the guys playing better than those who aren't.

Q.  You seem a little subdued right now.  Do you feel like it's too little, too late?  What's your mind‑set?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I'm just not that worried about the outcome of this particular week because I've played so rough these first couple of days, made so many mistakes.  What I'm happy about is my putter‑‑ I've really been putting well these last few days and it feels much better.  My iron play is getting a lot better.  My driving has been straighter and much better than it has been.  And I feel like the parts are getting better.
I'm still a little rusty.  I have not been mentally that sharp, and so to play better each day has been good for me and the result of this particular tournament is not my biggest priority right now; but with Augusta right around the corner, it's time to get going.

Q.  On that note, you say you're a little rusty, I think is Houston the only thing you're playing after tomorrow?
PHIL MICKELSON:  That's what I'm scheduled.  I'm scheduled to have three weeks off before I'll play Houston and the Masters.

Q.  Do you feel like that's enough?  It's a little tweak to your schedule this year.  Do you think that's enough to be ready going into Augusta?
PHIL MICKELSON:  I'm not sure.  I'll go home and talk it over with Amy and see if that's the best way.  I don't see myself adding one but I wouldn't rule it out.  I just don't know.  But we'll talk about it, because my game is starting to feel better, even though my results this year haven't shown it.  But I feel close, and so I'm not overly concerned.

Q.  Can nine or ten good holes like at the end today, is that enough?
PHIL MICKELSON:  We'll see.  If I can add onto it tomorrow and have it be not just a good nine‑hole stretch and have it be something that I keyed into, my feel comes back, my visualization is back and I have a good round tomorrow, then I'm feeling good.

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