What they said: Phil Mickelson

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February 18, 2012
PGA TOUR staff

MORE INTERVIEWS: Northern Trust Open transcript archive

MARK STEVENS: We'd like to welcome Phil Mickelson. You got to 7-under today, and you're going to go into the final round tied for the lead with Keegan Bradley. Do you want to give us the highlights of your round?

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, this was a great round for me because I did not play well, and I shot 1-under par and I'm atop the leaderboard. Usually when I win I'll have two good rounds and I'll have two rounds that aren't so great that I've got to keep somewhere in it to give myself a chance. And yesterday and today I didn't play the best. I wasn't far off. I hit some good shots at times that didn't quite turn out, but I was playing very defensive all day just trying to make pars.

And I'll get it turned around. I've already talked to Butch. I've already got texts. I'll go hit some balls and get it turned around for tomorrow because today was a big day because if I didn't fight hard and make pars from some of the places I was at, then I'd be trying to play catch-up to a lot of guys.

Now, there's a lot of players that are right in it, within a couple shots of the lead, and it's going to take a good round tomorrow. But I'm pleased that I put myself in it.

Q. What do you think was your most interesting shot today??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the one thing I did is that on all those misses, I missed it on the side I had to miss it on. No.8, I can't miss it right. The pin is right. I've got to be left to have any kind of angle, so I got fortunate to have a gap through the trees, and I was actually thinking birdie from over there, believe it or not.

Q. A big gap??

PHIL MICKELSON: It was reasonable. It's just a little 9-iron shot. It wasn't a big deal. You can't go right on 10. I missed it left so that I was still able to make 4. You can't go right on 17, I missed it left. You can't go right on 15 with that bunker there. So I was able to miss it on the correct side that allowed me to always have a chance at making par.

Q. I was curious on the decision on 6. Why not just loft it up and kind of run it to the hole??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, there was that pitch on the right. I would have had to hit it perfect. It just kind of rolled. I hit it a little too high up on the bank, but I didn't have a very good angle from where I was at. That right slope just over on the right side of the green was in the way.

The reason I took the pin out was I didn't want to hit it as I was going by up the hill, and I just hit it a little bit too high up. I made the putt, though.

Q. Which par save were you the most proud of? Was there one in particular?

PHIL MICKELSON: There were some good ones. Let me think.

Q. Any out of the trees??

PHIL MICKELSON: No, I thought the one on 10 was a good par because I had a tough-- it's still a tough up-and-down even down in that valley. I hit a good pitch into that bank three feet left and made it. I thought that was probably a good one because where I was off the tee I was trying to make par.

Q. And you and Bones had a really interesting discussion about your tee shot on 16. It was like a geography lesson, a geometry lesson. You wanted to hit a rounded hook, I think. Do you remember the discussion? We could hear it on TV and it was just really instructive.

PHIL MICKELSON: So this is the problem with having mics so close, right? These are our conversations.

And you know, that pin over to the right, all that slope on the green pulls the ball left. So if you just hit a shot at the pin it's going to kick and go away from the pin and go to the middle of the green. So I had to create a rounded shot that will get on the green and then side sauce up the hill. So that's why I needed to hit 9, because I needed to shut the face in order to be able to do that.

Q. Was that the shot you wanted to hit? Looked like it ended up just where you wanted it.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I would say-- you heard the conversation; did it not look like what we talked about? (Laughter.)

Q. You've gone over this a lot, but in your travels, I just wonder, it takes about 20 minutes, doesn't it, to get to Santa Monica airport??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah.

Q. And then the flight is nothing itself.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, it's 25, probably five more with taxi.

Q. And what does it take from-- you go to Palomar??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, and it's 20 minutes, so it's probably an hour 15, hour 20 door to door.

Q. On Friday when you had to tee off at 7:00 something, what did you get up, at 3:30, 4:00 in the morning??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, 4:00. There's only one day that's pretty tough unless I play poorly, but if I play well enough to have a late time, then it's okay. It's just that one day.

Q. Can you talk about your friendship with Keegan? It sounds like you've helped him along a little bit. He said if he can't win tomorrow, he hopes you do. Do you feel the same?

PHIL MICKELSON: I do. I really like Keegan. He's a great guy. He's a great player, and I think a lot of him. I think he's great for the game and just represents the sport and profession well. I really like him. I think he's a tremendous talent, and I like playing with him. We've had some great practice rounds, good fun. You can be very relaxed around him, and he takes things well. You can rough him up a little bit, and he'll give it right back. We've got a good banter, and I enjoy being around him.

Q. When you walked up to your tee shot on 15 and saw a guy laying there, did you have any thoughts that you might have hit him??

PHIL MICKELSON: I thought I took him out. It wouldn't be the first time, so I thought for sure I took him out. I didn't realize the ball had rolled up against his shorts.

Q. This is one more day of a five-week stretch. Can you talk about how you feel, felt after coming into today and then tomorrow??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, because I get to stay at home two of the five weeks, it doesn't feel like I've been traveling that long or playing that long. I'm ready and I'm focused on tomorrow's round. I've got a couple weeks off after it. I'm going to put everything I have into it to see if I can bring out some of my best golf.

I've talked to Butch, I know what I want to work on. I'm going to hit some balls now and see if I can get this things dialed in for tomorrow because I'll have to play a good round here. I'll have to put the ball in play off the tee more and be more aggressive into the greens and make a few more birdie putts. The couple that I had on 9 and 16 where I had really good looks at it I thought I hit pretty good putts and they grazed the edge, and I've got to get those to go.

Q. On No.11, how far did you hit your second shot? You were putting for eagle. And on No.10, were you satisfied just getting over the tree or were you actually trying to pop it up and onto the green?

PHIL MICKELSON: I would have liked to have gotten it on the green. The ground was so soft I thought I'd go right underneath it like I did, but I needed to get it up over it, otherwise I'm bringing 5 and 6 into play.

On No.11, I hit it to 30 feet.

Q. How far, though??

PHIL MICKELSON: It was 260 front, which is all I was worried about. It was 287 to the hole, but I was only worried about the carry, if I could carry it 260, carry it 265, and then it was able to stop on the back fringe.

Q. You mentioned that typically in the tournaments you win, you have a couple of these rounds where you have to kind of grind it. How does it feel compared to last week in terms of heading into the final round? Do you feel kind of similar circumstances?

PHIL MICKELSON: I was six back last week, yeah, so I would prefer where I'm at this week.

Q. In terms of your game and where you're at with it. I know you felt good last week.

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I feel a lot better going into this week because I had not won in a while until last week, and after last week's final round where I played so well, it gives me a lot of confidence heading into this week. It takes a little bit of pressure off, having already won. So I certainly feel better.

But tomorrow is a big day for me. I've led from start to finish here, or all the way, and I would like to do it to the finish. I love this golf course, and I'm going into a break. I'd like to get some momentum.

I feel like my game is starting to come along. I know that to me the reason why I'm so proud about today is I missed it on the proper side. I didn't play my best, but I missed it in the right areas, and I was able to make a lot of easy pars from some tough spots. I thought it was a really good day.

Q. Some people talk about the added weight of leading wire to wire, and as someone who's played a long time, does that bother you? Do you like leading from the first hole to the last hole or would you like to have a space in between?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'd love to have a space between me and second, yes. But it is a little bit more difficult leading from start to finish because your expectations are high right from the start after you have a good day. I've been able to be patient when I didn't have it. I've been able to not force it when I didn't have it, and the times when I did feel good like on 16 tee I'm able to get aggressive and try to make a birdie.

I think that I have a good feeling about tomorrow. I feel like it's going to come together because it doesn't feel far off. I've hit a lot of good iron shots. I'm moving the ball both ways, and when I'm moving it both ways, I'm missing it on the side I know I need to miss it on, so controlling your misses are half the challenge.

And I feel good with the putter. This year is going to be totally different for the simple reason that I feel really good with the blade. That putt on 18, that was nice.

Q. The tee shot on 6, that was probably your one big break today. What were you doing there??

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah, I tried to hook a 7. I just felt like if I missed it right, that bank left of the pin behind the bunker I could still use, that I did, to get it close. I didn't want to be left of that bunker, and I just overcooked a 7 that I was trying to hook into a slice wind.

Q. Were you worried when the ball was in the air??

PHIL MICKELSON: From my vantage point it was only going to be about three or four yards right of the green. It probably would have hit that hill and gone down a little bit, but I wasn't worried about out of bounds or whatnot, and it hit a limb that was overhanging.

Q. My question is really about the fans. We saw tons of little kids waiting for you smiling and being very patient when you came out. If there's anything you could say to those kids that wait for you and love you so much, what would you say to them??

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, I'm appreciative of them being out here. I think that it's great for the game. I love that the parents took the time to bring them out here, to expose them to the game and hopefully get them involved in playing because I care a lot about the sport that's meant so much for me, done so much for me and meant so much to our family, and I would love the game and the participation to grow, and it starts with the little ones.

MARK STEVENS: Thanks a lot, Phil. Good luck tomorrow.

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