What they said: Phil Mickelson

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January 29, 2011
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Farmers Insurance Open transcript archive

THE MODERATOR: Thank you for joining us for a few minutes after a successful third round, 4-under 68. That gets you right where you want to be at the top of the leaderboard. Three-time winner here, obviously a lot of ties. Just a few comments on the round and we'll take a few questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was a fun round today. I had a great pairing there with Rickie Fowler and Bubba Watson. It felt like a practice round at the Ryder Cup as we were teeing off there.

I thought that the day went well. Bubba finished great there with the birdie-eagle finish that got him in the last group, I believe. And it will be an interesting day tomorrow, because Bill Haas is playing some great golf, and Bubba's got a lot of creativity, a lot of shot making as well as his length is that will allow him to get to a lot of pins. And I think it's going to be a good challenge tomorrow.

Q. What are you doing now on the South course that you haven't been doing the last four or five years??

PHIL MICKELSON: The biggest thing for me is I'm not taking on anywhere near as much risk. I think 15 is a great example today of what happens. I could have easily just hit a wedge into the middle of the green 55 feet and had the putt up the hill. Or I could try to sling hook a 9-iron and get the ball to wraparound the bunker and get back to the pin, which is what I try to do. And the ball ended up 55 feet away in the same spot a wedge would have.

So I'm not taking on the risk, I'm just playing it much more conservative, because the reward isn't there. This course doesn't reward you for taking on any challenge. And my more conservative approach into the greens, albeit boring, has led me to be on top of the leaderboard.

Q. Were you a little stubborn in the early years of the new South trying to do it your way??

PHIL MICKELSON: Sure, absolutely, because I love playing aggressive. I think people want to see birdies and they want to see bogeys. They want to see us attacking holes trying to get it close. And this course just doesn't reward you for taking any risk.

In fact, it penalizes you, because the penalty for coming up short is usually one or two shots as opposed to the one shot you're trying to gain. That's why I've kind of steadily worked my way up without too many mistakes.

Q. You also talked about outside that you were trying 3-woods early on in this round. You're kind of hooking them. Did you change something? Did you go back to driver on the back nine?

PHIL MICKELSON: It wasn't that. It was very simple. I just had a poor alignment at address. My shoulders were a little open and I hooked everything. So I just squared up my shoulders and I was able to hit a nice little draw and hit some shots.

Q. So a lot of 3-woods then on the back??

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a 3-wood on 14, but otherwise I hit driver the other holes.

Q. I know it's been ten years or whatever since you won here, but is there a statute of limitations on feel good or mental advantage to having won on this? Is that so long ago to be relevant or can you still glean something from the wins from a long time ago?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't know that the past victories are going to help me, but I would say that I just love playing well in this tournament, and I've missed it. I've missed being in contention and having opportunities to win here. It's such a fun city having grown up here. Such a fun tournament for me to play well because of growing up here as a kid and looking outside the ropes, inside, dreaming of playing the TOUR. Lot of memories come back from when I was a kid that it is just a fun place to get in contention.

Q. You talked earlier in the week about wanting to make this a special season like you thought 2010 would be, which didn't quite happen other than the Masters. Have you put in a lot more work in the off-season or did you put in a lot more work in Abu Dhabi at this point in the season relative to other seasons??

PHIL MICKELSON: I started practicing about seven to ten days earlier in the off-season than I normally do because I've just been anxious. I want to get back out and play. The time in Abu Dhabi was great to have Butch Harmon there, getting my fundamentals sound on the changes we've made over the last couple years.

But this year, what I'm most excited about is it is a year of no change. It's a year of refinement. For instance, that hook 9-iron into that 15 pin, I came back on it on 16, and I tried to carve cut a 4-iron back to that front left pin.

Ended up hitting a great shot to 6 feet and made birdie. It's not having to think about swing thoughts or mechanics and getting into creativity and shot making that is allowing me to hit some good golf shots.

Q. It looked like you were in pain once on the back. You took a big chunk. Was that just momentary??

PHIL MICKELSON: Oh, on 12? Yeah, it went away a couple minutes later. I just jarred my elbow a little bit on the Kikuyu grass. You have to sweep it when you get in that grass, just so you don't hurt yourself. I went in a little steep trying to keep the ball down into the wind, and it was just a mistake.

Q. Elbow??

PHIL MICKELSON: Elbow, but it's fine now. I don't feel a thing now.

Q. You don't usually like boring. Is that like drinking castor oil or something to you??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, eight pars and a birdie on the back nine. It's certainly not the way I want to play, but it's just the way I've learned that you have to play this golf course.

Q. Apart from your approach, is there anything on the course that you liked better this year than before that made you be in contention??

PHIL MICKELSON: Nothing in particular. The TOUR staff has set it up very well, and it's in wonderful condition, and it's been fun to play.

Q. I would guess you probably played more with Jay than his son Bill??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yes.

Q. And he's one of those 20-somethings had a doesn't get much publicity. What do you think about tomorrow you guys going out there??

PHIL MICKELSON: We played together last year. I remember at the Memorial and a couple of other places. He's won a couple of times now, and he's got really a solid, solid golf game. Simple, beautiful golf swing. Great touch around the greens and a very good putter that he's going to be really difficult to try to beat and so is Bubba, and there's a few guys right behind us that are going to be very challenging players too.

Anthony Kim is a guy that can light it up at any given moment. So it's going be to be a big challenge. But we've got some good players up there on the top of the leaderboard. I think it's going to be an exciting Sunday, and I'm happy I'm part of it.

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