WM Phoenix Open interview: Phil Mickelson

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February 02, 2013

DOUG MILNE: Phil, thanks for joining us again after a successful 7-under 64 in Round 3 capped off by five birdies in your last six holes, especially the one there at 18. You've just kind of kept an incredible week going, especially with your finish today. Just some comments and then we will take questions.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, it was a fun day. I really enjoyed playing with Keegan and Bill. They're not just great players but great people, and we have a lot of fun together. It was a fun day playing with them.

We didn't really get off to the greatest starts. We were just kind of cruising along making a lot of pars with an occasionally birdie, and then the back 9 where there are some really good birdie holes and I was fortunate to take advantage of some of those.

Even then I was fractionally off, and my short game is what gave me that momentum. The bunker shots I hit on 13 and 15 were really good as well as the chip on 17. That gave me three birdies there.

DOUG MILNE: With that, we will take some questions.

Q. Everyone will look at your finish, four birdies, five out of six, but those seven straight pars, do you feel good you sort of stayed patient and didn't get ahead of yourself? Was that maybe the key more than the setup finish?

PHIL MICKELSON: It was, and it was very similar to the second round where, after shooting 60, I started out with six pars and tried not to force it. Then I was able to rattle off five birdies and an eagle, or actually six birdies and an eagle in round 2.

Staying patient here, there are a lot of birdie opportunities, especially the way I have been driving the ball. By putting the ball in play, it gives me opportunities to get aggressive at these pins even when they're tucked.

I have a lot of short irons and am able to play aggressively trying to make birdies. If I continue to do that, I will have some good chances tomorrow, but that will be the key.

I know how good Snedeker is and how hot he can get with a putter. He can make birdie from just about anywhere. He's going to make a run tomorrow. I hopefully will be able to keep pace, and that's the first order of business.

Q. There wasn't really anything in your score the last couple of weeks that suggested this was coming. Did you feel it in your game, though?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Before the season started, I had been playing really well, kind of like I am this week as far as iron play and so forth. I had been putting well.

Then I started at Humana and shot 72 at La Quinta and putted terribly and hit some bad shots, and it progressively got worse. I knew it wasn't far off. There was just a fraction, whether it was in the address position, setup, or whatnot.

So Butch came into town Wednesday morning, and we spent an hour and 15 minutes on the range, and it was just a minor tweak, and all of a sudden the club is back on playing and I'm hitting it the way I was. Certainly tying for 37th and 50 something doesn't really indicate this kind of play coming the next week, I understand that, but it did not feel far off. I felt like I was ready to click.

Q. How much of that was due to you being sick going into Humana?

PHIL MICKELSON: I don't think that was an issue. I think that it was just that I got excited when the tournament started, and my rhythm got off a little bit and just took me into a slightly off plane.

Q. How much more would it mean to you to win wire to wire?

PHIL MICKELSON: To me, the wire to wire isn't that important except for now I'm three rounds and the fourth one is kind of the more important one.

It would be an important thing because it's meant so much to me over my career having won this tournament, coming back as a past champion, and winning here in the town that has meant so much to me, to Amy and I, where we met, had our first two kids, went to college. It's a special place. The way the people treat me here and having gone to ASU and having been a past champ is pretty cool, and I would love to add another victory if possible.

Q. You said it felt slightly off today. What did that feel like to you

PHIL MICKELSON: The first 10 holes, our numbers we did not adjust on our irons. I was five yards off. You know, temperature plays such a big factor, especially here at 1,500 feet.

The first day, it was cold and numbers were the same as at sea level in San Diego, and the second day was 10 yards longer, and today I was playing for 10 and it was only going 5. When I made the adjustment on 11, it was the first good iron shot I hit.

I hit my pitching wedge, pin high 11, and I hit my 9 iron pin high on 12. That's where it started to get a little bit better as the distance with my irons settled in.

That will be a key tomorrow, you know, trying to figure out exactly how far the ball is going, because it does vary day to day.

Q. Talk about the record crowds a little bit, especially on 16 where you got booed yesterday for trickling off the green and today obviously anything but boos.
PHIL MICKELSON:
It was a pretty good shot. (Laughter.) What's funny about that is 172 yards is a very tough 9-iron for me to get there, but I immediately take 5 yards off and in my head I had 167. The reason is you always have a little bit of adrenaline here, and the ball goes a little bit longer on 16. It always does.

I played for a 167 yard shot and tried to hit just a comfortable or stock 9-iron, and the ball ended up flying that far and released to the hole.

Having played this course and that hole over the years and knowing what your body does and how to adjust to it has helped me, and certainly it did today.

Q. Talk about how special this place is for you. You went to college here and everything. Would you ever consider moving back here?

PHIL MICKELSON: I'm not sure. I'm not sure what we are going to do at the end of the year, but this is a town that, having lived here for 12 years, I really enjoy and miss the people and the friendships that we have here.

It's home to the first corporate deal or business deal that I ever did with Grayhawk Golf Club and we still currently have. It's my first golf course design up at Whisper Rock. I have all these ties. Plus my brother is now the golf coach at ASU. There is a lot of great things about this community that lure me, and certainly I come here three, four times a year to go to an ASU game, golf, see my friends, what have you. I don't know what's in the cards for that.

Q. Padraig Harrington was in here a while ago. He said a lot of things, but among the things he said, he really admires players who can step on the gas pedal and take the lead and extend that lead. How pleased are you with yourself that you're able to do that?

PHIL MICKELSON: I think that well, at this golf course especially you've got to keep it going because you'll get passed pretty quickly.

So you do have to keep focused on making birdies because guys are doing that, and they will catch you. But sometimes when you get it going, you start thinking about the numbers and it will stop you from pushing forward. That's one of the things that I have tried to do this week is just keep pushing, just keep trying to make birdies and hit good shots, get after pins and play aggressive, get good pace on the greens and make some putts, because if I don't, you will be caught pretty quickly.

Same thing goes tomorrow. I've got to go out and make some birdies and keep it going.

DOUG MILNE: If you wouldn't mind running us through your birdies.

PHIL MICKELSON: I hit a good 3 wood off the tee on 1 and a pitching wedge to about 20 feet and made that for birdie. It was a good way to start the round.

I made a couple of weak pars there in the middle, holes that I had really good chances to make birdies and didn't.

But on 5, I made another 30 footer. I didn't hit it really close early on, but that 20 footer on 1 and the 30 footer on 5 after hitting a 3 wood off the tee and a 9 iron in, making that 30 footer was a good feeling.

The birdies on the back side, on 13, 15, and 17, were just good bunker shots. I hit a good drive on 13 and a 4 wood in the front right bunker. I did not have a very good lie, and I hit it to about four feet and made it.

At 15, I hit a good tee shot and hit a 4 wood into the left bunker and hit it to six feet and made it.

At 16 we saw the 9 iron that I hit, and 17 I hit 3 wood pin high right and hit a nice chip up there to about a foot and a half, two feet.

18 I took a little different strategy after yesterday. Because of going in the water, I felt like that's the one place I can't recover from. So if I go in the sand, it's okay, I can make par.

So I aimed down the water's edge, hit it as hard as I could to make sure I took the water out ofplay. If I miss it left, I have a good angle back to the pin and if I miss it right I'm in the fairway.

And it would be marginal for me to carry that bunker. I don't know if I could do that. It would be very close. Some guys out here can. I have done it before but it's rare.

As long as I go a little bit left or a little bit right, with the pin back right tomorrow, those people over there may see me again. (Laughter.)

Q. Did you kiss the driver today, or is that privileged information?

PHIL MICKELSON: It knows that I'm sending it love. (Laughter.)

DOUG MILNE: Thanks, Phil.

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