You would be hard-pressed to find a player on the PGA Tour who knows more about golf equipment — and who is more willing to experiment — than Phil Mickelson.
In 2004, Phil won the first of his two Masters championships carrying two drivers. He won the 2008 Colonial carrying five wedges, and in what many characterized as a miscalculation, Mickelson played without a driver during the opening rounds of last season's U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.
This year, Mickelson started the season with a Callaway FT-5 driver in his bag because the USGA had not yet put his customized Callaway FT-9 driver on its conforming list. Unlike other FT-9 drivers, Mickelson's has a hosel.
After experimenting with new shafts in his irons during the offseason, Mickelson had his old Royal Precision Rifle Project X shafts re-installed. Why was he experimenting with his iron shafts in the first place?
"I don't know this for a fact," Mickelson said to a group of True Temper representatives recently, "But I've heard that when True Temper bought Royal Precision, that the tooling it used to make the Project X shaft was not purchased and was not part of the deal. And that the manufacturing of the new Project X by True Temper has not been as good or as consistent. So I have been trying to look into some different stuff. We have three sets on back-order from inventory before the purchase. But is that not accurate?"
Mickelson was assured that information was not accurate, and that the only difference between the Project X shafts now made by True Temper and those previously made by Royal Precision is the satin finish. In fact, the True Temper reps assured Mickelson that if he provided them with his clubs — or a backup set — they would guarantee that the shafts the company provides would match his preferred numbers and specs.
"Okay, so it's just the satin finish," Mickelson said happily upon hearing the good news. "Well, I don't care about the finish. There is not a problem with consistency then." But Mickelson's 2009 equipment story doesn't end there. Lefty is carrying a new Callaway Big Bertha Diablo 3-wood this season. He used the club extensively off the tee on Sunday at the Northern Trust Open to help him successfully defend his title.
When I spoke with Mickelson about it, he said, "This club has a lower profile [than his previous 3-wood, a Callaway FT], so you can see how thin it is in the back. My other 3-wood had a taller face. And because the CG is low, the spin rate is low. So instead of having an 11.5° 3-wood, I have 14° 3-wood. I'm able to get the ball up more easily because of the extra loft, but it doesn't float, which is the problem I've always had with 3-woods."
Unlike the Big Bertha Diablo driver, which is 100% titanium, the Big Bertha Diablo fairway woods are 100% stainless steel. However, similar to the driver, the Diablo fairway woods have an internal weight chip. In the draw-bias version, the weight chip is positioned near the heal of the club to help close the face more easily. In the neutral version, the chip is positioned in the rear to enhance workability. Mickelson uses a Mitsubishi Rayon Fubuki shaft in his 3-wood.
So, how long was the adjustment period for his devilish new Diablo 3-wood?
"Hmmm ... two shots," he said with a grin. (Top Image: Chris Condon/Getty Images; lower: Stuart Franklin/Getty Images)