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