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Mickelson still basking in the glow of victory

Posted: Wednesday, April 14, 2004

SAN DIEGO Back in his hometown, Phil Mickelson walked into an exclusive country club looking a lot like he did at dusk two days earlier at Augusta National.

''I said Sunday night that it was going to be hard to wipe away the smile and take away the jacket,'' said a beaming Mickelson, clad in green again Tuesday at La Jolla Country Club.

''They tried to pry it away when I left, but I'd have none of it. So here it is,'' added Mickelson, who won the Masters with a thrilling 18-foot birdie putt on the last hole.

Mickelson must have had the jacket pressed, because his wife, Amy, said he slept in it Sunday night.

''It was me, Phil and the green jacket,'' she said. ''We might be sleeping with that green jacket for a while.''

Lefty returned to the Left Coast on Monday, spending what he called a relaxing day with his family. On Tuesday, he held a news conference at La Jolla Country Club, where he's a member, before heading to Burbank to appear on ''The Tonight Show with Jay Leno.''

Mickelson was reminded that he went from being labeled as the best player to have never won a major to being the only guy with a shot at the Grand Slam this year.

''Yeah, how quickly it changes,'' said Mickelson, who had been 0-for-42 in majors as a pro. ''It's been such a nice change. I'm certainly not thinking that far in advance. I really just want to spend the next few weeks enjoying this.

''But I can't wait to get out and play,'' he quickly added. ''I'm enjoying playing the game so much. I'm enjoying all my practice sessions, I'm enjoying my time off the course with my family. It's just been such a wonderful year starting out, and this just makes it special.''

Mickelson knows the next few weeks will be hectic, but otherwise, he doesn't anticipate that his life or career will change.

He said Mondays and Tuesdays will remain family days. He won't play again until New Orleans at the end of the month, which will give him time to take his three kids to the zoo, Sea World and Legoland.

Mickelson said it was special sharing the Masters victory with his family.

''To have my children there was awesome, to walk off the 18th green there and to see my wife experiencing the whole thing with me and feeling the same emotion that I felt,'' Mickelson said.

''I'm very lucky because of that, to have such a wonderful spouse, to have three wonderful healthy kids. I'm just very lucky, especially given what we went through last year.''

Amy Mickelson nearly died during the birth of their third child, son Evan.

With his family OK, Mickelson can concentrate on golf and, now, on trying to win another major.

''I do feel that the second will not be as difficult as the first,'' said Mickelson, who smiled all the way through his back nine Sunday, when he shot 31 with birdies on five of the last seven holes.

''Because every time I would get in contention, it was almost as though it was an opportunity not to succeed, but an opportunity to fail. I never looked at it like that, but at times, when things began to slide, it was harder for me to turn it around.''

Mickelson also divulged what President Bush told him in a phone call shortly after his jump for joy on the 18th green.

''It was awesome that he called,'' Mickelson said. ''And he roughed me up. The President of the United States roughed me up. He said, 'Now I understand why last year you tried to throw a baseball instead of a basketball.' I said, 'What do you mean?' and he said, 'I saw you try to jump.'

''So my seven-inch rise wasn't good enough for him, I guess.''

Last summer, Mickelson threw batting practice to 18 Toledo Mud Hens players, most of them pitchers, hoping to earn a chance to pitch in a real game for Detroit's Triple-A affiliate. But the Tigers didn't offer him a minor league contract.

Asked what he'll have on the menu for the Champion's Dinner before next year's Masters, he said: ''I hadn't really thought about it, but I love a little lobster ravioli in a creamy tomato sauce, a little garlic bread and Caesar's salad.

''But who's thinking about it?'' he said, smiling.



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