By now you know the story: Phil Mickelson visits Dave Stockton Sr. in mid-September at the behest of caddie Jim Mackay, and suddenly Mickelson starts to putt like, well, Mickelson. Check that Mickelson at his absolute best. "It took Michelle Wie five days," Stockton says. "I told Phil, 'You won't even need that. In two days you're going to make everything you look at.'"
Mickelson didn't make everything he looked at the first time he applied what he learned under Stockton and sons' tutelage at the Tour Championship, but he came close. "He just wasn't seeing the line like he used to," Stockton says.
Mickelson's setup had also sagged. "He got into his address and then (Dave) Junior nearly pushed him over with his index finger," Stockton says. "Phil is smart — it didn't take much after that."
He's right. The photos here show how the small changes that Stockton made to Lefty's approach paid immediate dividends, and why the golf world is suddenly on edge for Tiger v. Phil 2010. With a star-studded coaching lineup that features swing guru Butch Harmon, strategist nonpareil Dave Pelz and now Stockton, Mickelson may well have his biggest year yet.
CHANGE 1: GRIP
"Phil overlapped the index finger of his lead hand over the knuckles of his trail hand, like a lot of golfers do," Stockton says. "But that straight finger creates tension all the way up your lead arm. Tension is a killer when putting."
2 of 5Ian Walton/Getty Images
"Instead of pointing his index finger straight down, we added a crook to it, so it doesn't overlap as much," Stockton says. "This immediately cut the tension in Mickelson's right arm. It also gave his finger a bit of a trigger look, just like his full-swing grip. And now that's what he uses to start his putter back smoothly without jerking it off path."
3 of 5Kevin Cox/Getty Images
CHANGE 2: PRE-PUTT PRACTICE
"You'll still see Phil occasionally take practice strokes at the ball, which I don't recommend," Stockton says. "But you'll also notice that he doesn't look at the hole five or six times like he did before. Instead, he'll give the hole one good seven-second look while he sets his feet, then shift his focus to the speed and the line."
CHANGE 3: HAND POSITION
"Phil asked us about forward-pressing his hands at address, something he used to do when he was younger," Stockton says. "I told him 'I love it.' If it makes you feel comfortable, then do it." Mickelson has recently added loft to his putterface to offset the forward press.
4 of 5John Biever/SI
CHANGE 4: STANCE
"Phil is a golfer just like you," Stockton says. "So he's prone to fall into bad habits. These showed up in his stance. His feet got real close together with his trail foot square to his line and his lead foot open. His angles were all over the place."
"Phil's new stance allows him to putt more across his body," Stockton says. "We kept his left foot the same but squared up the right." Phil's new stance also is wider. "It had become too narrow, which made it hard to remain steady during his stroke."
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CHANGE 5: PRACTICE
"Just after the Tour Championship, Phil asked if we could work over the winter, and how many days a week he should devote to practice. 'Days?' I said. To me, a solid practice session is 20 minutes, tops. Some guys have you putt balls until you can sink 100 in a row. That would make anyone go mad."
"Phil loves games, so I gave him one," Stockton says. "Peg a tee in front of the hole, and try to draw and cut putts around the tee and into the hole. Once you get good at putting into one side of the cup, imagine how easy it will be when you get the whole hole."
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