Q&A WITH PHIL MICKELSON

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Phil Mickelson, who leads of the Players Championship, talks to the press after the second round on Friday.

DOUG MILNE: Phil, welcome back. Thanks. Even par, 72 today. Just a couple of comments about the round, the conditions and how you feel.
PHIL MICKELSON: It didn’t play anywhere near as difficult as the first day so we saw a lot of low scores. I didn’t play well enough to shoot a low score, but fought hard to keep it around even par. And was fortunate to make an eagle on 16 coming in.
I’ll gladly take 72. I didn’t put myself in some great spots, so relied on my short game to keep me in it. I’m pleased heading into the weekend to top the leaderboard and hopefully turn it around.
Q. 13 one-putt greens, it’s nice to know when you’re undergoing swing changes you have reliable putting?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Yesterday I hit a lot of great shots and played aggressively. But today I played some very poor shots off the tee and didn’t give myself very many chances to make birdie. I’ll have to improve on that. I don’t feel like it’s far off. My misses today were a lot bigger than they were the first day.
Q. What was the yardage with the 6-iron on 16? And talk about mentally what that meant to get the eagle and get back to even par.
PHIL MICKELSON:
To the hole I think it was 208. I was – 194 was the number I was worried about, trying to carry the left side of the bunker. I hit 6-iron and there was a little bit of help with the wind. I was able to just get it over the bunker and it kicked down perfectly.
Q. Just mentally what it meant to get that eagle and get back to even par.
PHIL MICKELSON:
I think it was a big boost to get it back to even. I was trying to make a 4 there and see if I could get a birdie on 17 or 18. But to have eagled 16, I was just trying to make par on 17 and 18 and shoot 72. Given how I played and some of the spots I put myself in, I’m very excited to shoot even.
Q. You aimed away from a couple of flagsticks out there, was that by design?
PHIL MICKELSON:
That’s kind of where I’m aiming, yeah (laughter).
Q. Is it good to know that while you’re making these swing changes your short game hasn’t slipped?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Yeah, I’ve spent time on it to make sure it’s sharp. I felt good coming in here. But I do want to get my ball-striking turned around. I felt like it was really coming yesterday. And the severe winds, I was able to keep it within a small parameter, but today I let a few – had quite a few loose shots, especially the front nine.
Q. The stats say the last two winners here have led the field in, A, fairways, and B, greens in reg. How are you pulling this off?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Well, it’s different this year, though. There’s a lot of chipping areas around the green. The fairways are a little firmer and there’s not as much rough so you can get up by the greens.
The biggest thing, short game is now important here, whereas before rough was so tough you didn’t have a chance. So hitting fairways and greens was the most crucial part. Now it’s a more complete test, so I’m able to salvage pars when I hit less-than-perfect shots.
Q. How do you think the tournament is going to play this weekend in terms of the course? You said it was going to be double digits?
PHIL MICKELSON:
I do think it’s going to be double digits, especially with the wind. With the greens being hard to get at, the guys can take advantage of the par-5s and roll those putts in and make some birdies. And I think we’ll see more of those low scores this weekend.
Q. You talked about firm, other players have talked about how slow the greens are, can you talk about that?
PHIL MICKELSON:
I wouldn’t say that they’re slow. They’re just not Masters or U.S. Open speed. But given the wind, given the firmness, if they were at those speeds we wouldn’t be able to hold any of the greens.
It’s probably playing exactly how it should, and given the scores not really taking off and going too low, I think they set it up well.
Q. How much of the difficulty of contending here on any kind of consistent basis has to do with the course and how much of it is just the overall quality of the field?
PHIL MICKELSON:
How is the overall quality of the field about contending? I missed that.
Q. It’s been difficult for you to consistently contend here.
PHIL MICKELSON:
Are you talking about me, specifically?
Q. How much is the course and how much is the quality of the field?
PHIL MICKELSON:
I think in the past it has always been a preparation for The Masters. It has not really been a tournament that most of the guys come in geared up and ready to play. They don’t want to peak too early, they want to win The Masters. Given it its own identity, I think you’re going to see more of the top guys gear up for this event and be sharp when it comes around.
Q. There were a lot of guys that were around the lead and dropped a lot of shots coming down the stretch. On this course is that almost as important as what you make, as what you don’t miss coming in?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Possibly. I know in the afternoon the greens got very difficult to hold a shot. On 15 I hit what I thought was a well-struck shot. It was right on the pin, landed in the middle of the green; it was a 7-iron, and still released over the green. It’s hard to get the ball close to the pin because of the firmness of the greens, especially as the afternoon wore on. You had to be careful because if you hit some shots it was tough to get up-and-down.
Q. Will you settle a juicy argument in the booth between Johnny Miller and Nick Faldo? On your bunker shot on 11, did you hit a rock?
PHIL MICKELSON:
No, it just came out quick. There wasn’t as much sand. It didn’t. It certainly looked like it. It came out with no spin and came out fast. But I didn’t see a rock there. But it didn’t come out anywhere near as I hoped.
Q. So Faldo was wrong?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Technically you could say it looked like it hit a rock. Maybe it did, I didn’t see it (laughter). I would call that even.
Q. Is it harder to putt on greens that you’ve putted for so many years and now they’ve changed them to read them differently than to putt on a new course that you’ve never seen the greens?
PHIL MICKELSON:
Actually they’re not that different from years past. There may be subtleties, small differences, but for the most part they did a great job in having the same breaks and contours as before. And so a lot of my notes from years past talking about reads and how the ball breaks is actually pretty consistent and pretty similar.
Q. Phil, those three hit flagsticks, which were good breaks and which were bad breaks?
PHIL MICKELSON:
They actually all turned out okay. Usually about ten times a year I’ll hit a pin and it will cost me a shot, it will spin back 40 feet, a shot that would have been close, what have you. But the one on 9 ended up five, six feet and I ended up making that.
The one on 14 certainly didn’t hurt because the ball