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Questions For Phil Mickelson

After his back-to-back wins and going wire to wire at Pebble Beach, we wondered, What will Phil do next?

SI: HOW DOES IT FEEL TO BE IN SUCH A ZONE?

PM: "I DON'T WANT TO SAY THE GAME IS EASIER, BUT IT FEELS A LITTLE BIT EASIER."

SI: Two weeks, two sub-63 rounds. Can you keep this up?

PM: That's not a given, but I've been playing well and it's been a lot of fun. You have to understand, [playing golf] is something I've done my whole life, but putting everything together for two straight weeks--it feels terrific.

SI: Suddenly that 59 in Hawaii at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf last November doesn't look like such an anomaly.

PM: I felt as if I had made some changes in the off-season that would allow me to shoot some pretty low scores. I really spent a lot of time working on my wedge play. When I picked up that extra 20 yards off the tee, I knew I'd be hitting more wedges. I also knew I'd be able to carry bunkers that I was having to thread the ball between. Now, all of a sudden, I'm hitting all these short irons and wedges, and I'm making those surges. At Spyglass Hill, I hit a lot of short irons in and made birdies. I don't have to hit mid-irons in. They were all wedges or eight- or nine-irons.

SI: Is a 62 at Spyglass, a notoriously difficult course, as good as the 59 at Poipu Bay?

PM: That's hard to say, but it's pretty close.

SI: Did it cross your mind that the last time someone had as big a third-round lead at Pebble Beach it was Tiger Woods in the 2000 U.S. Open?

PM: I didn't realize that, no. I was thinking, This is not an easy course to protect a lead, because there are hazards on about every hole. To hold on to the lead you have to keep hitting aggressive shots, especially into the greens.

SI: You said you enjoy playing against Tiger, Vijay and Ernie. What's it like?

PM: It's fun being in that group, competing against those guys. I think the Match Play (Feb. 23--27) is going to be a wonderful event. I feel like there's a good chance that a lot of the top guys will win the first few matches and square off in the final rounds, and that makes for an exciting tournament.

SI: After two straight wins are you thinking about No. 1?

PM: Not yet. I didn't play well in '03, so it's a two-year process to get to the top. Last year was my first good year. If I have another 12 months of good play, I should be able to start thinking about it.

SI: All this cake and ice cream with the kids can't be good for you.

PM: For me, it's not very healthy, but it's a good problem to have.

--Chris Lewis and RealTime Reporters

A List What golfers are talking about

• GIRLS' RULE The Ladies Golf Union says that transsexuals can play in the Women's British Open. At least one ruling body isn't worried about equipment changes ruining the game.

• SINGH OUT Vijay missed his first cut in a year. No worries, though. He was happy to have the extra practice time.

• SANDBAGGER VANCE Bill Murray's fond of a Cinderella story, but he played the AT&T as a 15 handicap. There's your fairy tale.

• HOT SHOT Olympic softballer Lisa Fernandez became the first woman to make the Pro-Am cut. Jose Canseco might accuse her of using steroids.

• DEPANTSED The Tour dropped the hammer on Rory Sabbatini because his camouflage slacks made him stand out too much.

• WORLD CUP The U.S. team of Beth Daniel and Meg Mallon placed 14th. Michelle Wie and Paula Creamer would have at least won Best Earrings.

• THREE CENTS Tom Pernice got on Tiger Woods for not being more of a presence. Woods was unavailable for comment.

KEY STAT

14 Wins on the West Coast swing for Mickelson, tying Arnold Palmer for the most ever.

COLOR PHOTO

ROBERT BECK (MICKELSON)

COLOR PHOTO

STEPHEN DUNN/GETTY IMAGES

LISA FERNANDEZ