It didn't take long for Butch Harmon to tweak Phil Mickelson's swing back into championship form. And though they're both mum on the subject of what specifically they've worked on, it's obvious that three changes to his setup have made Lefty's swing tighter, more balanced and easier to control.
Sources inside Phil's camp report that the once-slumping-now-hottest-player-on-Tour Mickelson is surprised at how rapidly Harmon's fixes have taken effect. He shouldn't be—the address position is the most-powerful segment of the swing. Changes here have an immediate impact on whatever that follows. It doesn't matter if you're a 16-handicap with a chronic slice or a three-time major winner with a monkey off his back.
Fix 1: Square left foot
Check out Mickelson's alignment—both feet are square to his target line. Photos of him at last year's U.S. Open show Phil with an open stance, and he'd been known to flare open his back foot, a move that decreased the resistance in his left hip and allowed him to take the club back farther and with more hip rotation. The square left foot seen at the Players Championship acts like a stop sign, restricting his turn and keeping his weight within his hips rather than outside, so there's less need to slide forward on the downswing.
Fix 2: Weight moved back
This one's a bit more subtle, but dramatic in its consequences nonetheless. Our sources indicate that Harmon has moved Phil's weight from his toes slightly back to the balls of his feet at address. The whirling flourish of hips, legs and arms seen in previous Mickelson swings has been replaced by a more stable turn through the ball with more of his spikes in contact with the ground. There's less weight on his right heel through impact because there was less of it on his toes at address. The new Phil is tighter (check the distance between his hands and thighs) so he can release the club with his body, not with his old flip move with his hands.
Fix 3: Shorter backswing, tighter coil
The most apparent change in Lefty's technique is his abbreviated backswing—well, abbreviated for him. A backswing that once went way past parallel now stops short of full. A lot of this has to do with Fix 1, squaring his stance to the target line and increasing the resistance of his left side. But also check out his left elbow—he's keeping it tucked close to his left side, even with a driver. The change hasn't compromised his coil (note the position of the logo on his shirt). In fact, it has tightened it and made it even more powerful.
Tip of the iceberg?
The absence of a huge gap between his knees post impact indicates that Phil is swinging with greater control. His improved balance is the most important result of the work he and Butch Harmon have done—mild tweaks to what Rick Smith had built over the past 15 years and guided to 29 Tour victories. Will the changes stick? Stay tuned for the Memorial and the U.S. and British Opens this summer.
|• Phil's new coach reminds us that he's already taken two players to No. 1 in the world, \"and they both fired me!\" Read the whole story|