The PGA Championship

An Interview With: Phil Mickelson

August 15, 2003

Julius Mason: Good evening, ladies and gentlemen, Phil Mickelson at plus 1 at the second day of the 85th PGA Championship.

Phil, some opening thoughts and we'll go to Q&A.

Phil Mickelson: Well, let's just open up to Q&A. (Laughter.)

Q: Is this course too hard? When does a course become too hard? Is it unfair? We're looking at the scores up there, and people just keep going up and up.

Phil Mickelson: I don't think that the golf course is too hard; I think it's a very fair test.

Today was more difficult when the wind picked up and when the greens firmed up. That was the biggest difference from yesterday to today.

When the greens are receptive, it's a very fair test. As they get hard, they are so small and there's so many subtleties and tiers that it could become a little too hard, but it's not there yet.

I really enjoy the course. I really thought that today was a day I was going to be able to take advantage of some good play and make some birdies, because there are some birdies out there if you hit some good shots. Certainly, the scores have gone back and we've seen a lot of guys struggle today, but we also see a number of guys at 1-over par, which is basically let's say it's right at even par. That's a lot of guys that are keeping it around par, and that tells me that's a pretty fair test.

Q: Could you talk about your second shots on both 4, the driver out of the rough, and also 5, the decision-making process behind it and the lie on 5?

Phil Mickelson: Well, the driver on 4, out of that rough, you need a very flat face to get enough side-spin. So I didn't feel a 3-wood would cut it as much as I wanted it to cut. So I hit driver. I had a decent lie, obviously and hit it in the front bunker, which is where I was trying to get it because I felt that would give me the best chance for up-and-down.

No. 5, I only had 128 yards to carry to the front edge of the green. It really was not that hard of a shot. I had a pretty decent lie out of the rough, otherwise I probably would have laid up. I felt like there was no grass in front of the ball and it would come out okay. If you notice, it got up in the air fine. The problem is I opened up the club face a little bit, because typically the rough will close it, and as I opened it up, I held on it, also and it never had a chance to square up. It was just a poor swing holding onto it.

I actually had a 9-iron. I was just trying to open the face to get it to come in a little softer. I really did not think that carrying the water would be a problem, and I don't think it would have been, had I hit it halfway decent the way it came out.

But it was a gamble. No question, it was a gamble, because if I go right, I'm looking at bogey, also. If I was going to go right of the green I may as well have laid up. It would have been an easier up-and-down.

Q: With two rounds now behind you and knowing how the course is playing and how difficult it is, will it affect your strategy going into the weekend; will you change how you attack the course and how you approach it?

Phil Mickelson: I think that the weather will kind of determine that. If it is forecast for some rain tomorrow, which I heard is a possibility, I think the golf course can be had. I think you can go out and shoot 4- or 5-under par.

But if it stays like it did today, then my goal will be to try to keep the total score right at even par going into Sunday.

Q: When you get to 5-under and you have a two- or three-shot lead, how difficult is it for you to change your whole mindset in terms of going out and not, you saying, taking a gamble on 5, not taking those gambles and just playing a little more conservatively?

Phil Mickelson: Well, you can't alter your style of play. I can't alter what got me to 5-under par. I had some risk/reward shots today, risk/reward shots yesterday and that was one that just didn't come off.

The difference today was that I did not offset that mistake with any birdies, whereas yesterday, the couple of bogeys that I had, I made six birdies to offset it and I had a good round. I thought the biggest difference for me today was actually, well, two things. When I missed the driver, it was to the right, which is not good for me. Yesterday it was to the left and that was okay.

And the second thing was, I didn't make any putts. I didn't hit bad putts; I just didn't make any. It's very tough to make them, but yesterday I was able to and today I just wasn't.

Q: How about on the seventh hole, was there any discussion about what club to hit there? Obviously the conditions, I think changed a little bit.

Phil Mickelson: There was a variety of clubs that I could have hit there. I could have hit 3-iron, 4-wood or driver. It was a huge variance. The mistake I made there was trying to draw it, trying to start it down the left side and hit a draw because my draw was missing right. You just can't miss a right on this golf course. All of the water is on the right and I had tried to hit a hold or a cut, I hit my cut shot pretty good today, I probably should have tried to have done that.

Q: How do you feel about the saves you made today, because you kind of balanced some pretty big saves with some missed birdies early on; the double bogeys aside, how would you assess the saves versus missed chances?

Phil Mickelson: Well, I had some pretty good up-and-downs on 8 and 9, and had some birdie chances early on the back side that I wasn't able to take advantage of that, could have gotten the round back close to even par before I bogeyed a couple of holes coming in.

I thought that, again, not getting the putts to fall was difficult because it's hard to hit it four feet here. If you can hit it, if you can make some 15 -, 20-footers, you have a feeling in the fairway that you don't have to get it close; that you are just hit it 15, 20 feet. It's not as -- it makes the shot into the green not as difficult.

When I wasn't making any, like today, I was trying to get it too close and it was just hard on the irons, even though I hit them well.

Q: Certainly there is a strong sense in the crowd of really pulling for you to get this to be your first major; how does it affect your game in the weekend given your current standing?

Phil Mickelson: I think it's very flattering that the people have been as supportive as they have. I find that very flattering.

It does not change the way I go into the weekend. I still have to play some great golf going into the weekend, and that doesn't really affect the style of play that I'm going to have or the shots that I'm going to try to hit. It certainly is uplifting and hopefully I'll be able to use that as momentum and hit some good shots and maybe take advantage of the situations.

Q: This seems to have a feel of the major that they play in June, if that's the case, when did you get a sense of that, and secondly, you shot 75 today; on the other hand, you're two strokes back going into the weekend, what kind of feeling do you have there?

Phil Mickelson: Well, that's kind of a glass half-empty, glass half-full question and I'm going to go with half-full.

I'm a couple shots off the lead heading into the weekend and I feel like I'll playing pretty well. I'm going to spend a little practice session in the morning before the round with Rick and try to get the missed shots to be left again and basically get rid of the hook. And if that's the case, I feel like I'll be able to be more aggressive and attack a little bit more off the tee and into the greens.

What was the second part of the question?

Q: This seems to have a feel of the one in June.

Phil Mickelson: The PGA Championship is an interesting championship because it doesn't have a specific identity. It has a lot of variety. We can play Valhalla and have 16 -, 18-under par; or we can play it like a U.S. Open that's brutal where even par is an incredible score. I didn't really think it was going to play this difficult until about halfway through the round today. In the practice rounds, all day yesterday, I thought that the course was very fair, the greens were receptive holding shots, which makes chipping around the green and out of the rough much easier. You can get the ball close but when they are hard like they were today, it's very tough.

I didn't think it was going to play anywhere near this difficult until after about nine holes today, then I realized that par was going to be a pretty good score.

Q: So much discussion about missed tee shots because of the rough. Where on this golf course from the fairway, allowing for hole locations, are the real dangerous approach shots?

Phil Mickelson: From the fairway?

Q: From the fairway.

Phil Mickelson: I think by far the hardest approach shot on the entire golf course is No. 14 if you hit iron off the tee. Because the pin is always in back, you're hitting an elevated tee shot where the ball always comes in a little bit lower, which takes a bigger skip. And you cannot miss it long or you're looking at bogey.

So I think that's the most difficult approach shot. Now, a lot of guys have been combatting that by trying to hit drivers and 3-woods off the tee. I've been trying to hit 3-wood just underneath the bunkers and then be able to chip it to those back pins. But hitting a wedge or 9-iron to those back pin, probably the toughest approach.

I also think that 18 is a deceptive approach shot because the green is slightly elevated and a lot of shots seem to come up short there.

Front side, I think 3 is a very tough shot, the par 3. And the reason for that is the wind, you cannot feel from the tee box, and it hits the ball at the apex of its flight and you're just not sure exactly how it's going to hit it.

Julius Mason: Phil Mickelson, folks. Thank you very much.

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