Mickelson choosing his weapons carefully for Muirfield challenge
American won’t have a driver in his bag but will use his Callaway fairway wood for accuracy
Phil Mickelson speaking at a press conference during practice day three for the 2013 Open Championship at Muirfield yesterday.
The research and development nerds have a lot to answer for.
Once upon a time, as a 14-year-old, Phil Mickelson came across a 64-degree lob wedge which allowed him to develop a wizardry with the club that has allowed him to pull off sensational shots.
No lie was too bare, no obstacle insurmountable. It became a part of his DNA, the magic coming down to even hitting seemingly eye-defying chip shots where the ball is spun back over his shoulder.
If the discovery of that 64-degree lob wedge – which is in his bag, as usual, this week – was the making of Mickelson’s ability to pull of what he calls “crazy shots”, then the addition of the Callaway X Hot 3Deep fairway wood would appear to provide the perfect solution to his driving.
Mickelson won’t have a driver in his bag this week. Instead, the XHot version of the three-wood with its taller face will be his weapon of choice. The club allows Mickelson to work the ball in both directions, while retaining similar distance averages to that of using a driver. The only difference between the clubs is in the outcome: with the souped-up three-wood, he is usually on the fairway.
Of not making a driver available, and remember this is the player who has often put two in his bag at the Masters, Mickelson explained: “I’m able to hit that three-wood on this firm ground every bit as close enough in distance on the holes. And distance on any tee shot is not even in my mind. It’s(about) avoiding bunkers, avoiding rough, getting the ball in the fairway. And I can do it a lot easier with clubs other than driver.”
Mickelson dispatched his family – wife Amy and children Evan, Amanda and Sophia – to Barcelona for the past few days since his latest tour triumph in the Scottish Open. Whilst they have soaked up the architecture of that city, Mickelson has immersed himself in getting ready for a Major that has consistently befuddled him.
Yesterday, he paired up with Rickie Fowler to take on Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka and won the money.
His first introduction to links golf came in the 1991 Walker Cup at Portmarnock and he travelled over to attempt to qualify for the following year’s British Open where his experience of playing North Berwick provided what he recalled yesterday as a “rude awakening”.
Yet, he has travelled back across the Atlantic each year with a desire to include the championship on a CV that already features US Masters and US PGA triumphs. The closest he came was in Sandwich two years ago, where he finished runner-up to Darren Clarke.
But the Scottish Open win over the contrived links terrain of Castle Stuart has, quite possibly, given him a key to the door. “From an opportunity-to-win standpoint I would say that Muirfield or Troon would offer the two best chances, because of the way the holes move. It’s very comfortable for me off some of the tees, getting the ball in play, as well as around the greens. I like it a lot.”
As it so often does with Mickelson, the chance to win or not will likely come down to his putting. On that front, he has what amounts to a permanent smile on his face.
“I’ve not putted (links) greens well with these little subtle nuances and rolls, with the crosswinds that come into play, as well as the strong blades of fescue grass. But I am really optimistic about this week and going forward because I’m starting to putt as well as I ever have.
“I putted great last week, and more than that I’ve been putting well now for months, and feel like I’ve really keyed in on something . . . finally I believe I have found the secret to my own putting . . ..”
He added: “And every single day now for the last year it’s been the same thing, and I’ve been putting really well. And hopefully that one common thread that’s given me problems here, I hopefully have solved.”
There was a time when Mickelson was utterly frustrated in his attempts to play links golf. That all started to change in 2004 when he took to travelling over with Dave Pelz to develop a shot that got the ball closer to the ground, “getting rid of the big misses when the ball gets up in the crosswinds and it takes 50 yards off the edge of the fairway and into the deep heather . . . it’s a hate/love (relationship.). I used to hate it and now I love it.”