I’ve been fortunate to see Phil Mickelson’s rise to greatness from up close. Phil and I worked together extensively early last year and in the weeks before each of the year’s majors. I can help you understand what he changed in 2004, so you can take your own game to the next level this year.
|The Phil Factor|
|Total Strokes||1394||1428 |
|*As of 11/1/04|
He beat Tiger Woods by 37. Phil was in contention to win all four majors as he played the 72nd hole. By taking five fewer shots, he could have won the Grand Slam. In short, he played the big events better than anyone.
Hone your short game
Phil’s wedge game has always been strong for three reasons: 1) His mechanics are good. 2) He has bountiful talent. 3) He practices a lot. But in 2004, Phil and I worked on eight different occasions, six to eight hours a day, hitting wedges to distances we knew precisely, fine-tuning his feel for the difference between, say, a 100-yard shot and one from 98. His control became very good, and I expect it will become great in the next few years.
Be a smarter gambler
Phil Mickelson is instinctively a go-for-it player, and always will be. Last year, though, he decided to be more conservative in his strategy, while maintaining an aggressive execution of that strategy. The change has served him well. If you remember, when he came to the 72nd hole at The Masters, an uphill 480-yard par 4, he needed birdie to win. Even though he was driving the ball well, he chose a 3-wood off the tee, upping his odds of hitting the fairway. Conservative strategy with an aggressive execution. It worked for Phil, and it will work for you.
Keep misses to one side
With Rick Smith, his full-swing coach, Phil has worked diligently to eliminate missing shots to the right (and hazards on the right side of the course). He has given up a little distance in developing a gentle fade, but he hits more fairways now. The better he drives the ball and the fewer greens he misses right, the lower his scores.
Pick the right ball
Do you know which ball has the best distance, spin and trajectory for your game? Phil did some experimenting last year and chose the Titleist Pro-V1 over the Pro-V1X. Even though it tested slightly shorter off the tee, it helped him stop his short shots consistently closer to the hole. We have continued testing in this area, and Phil recently switched to the Callaway HX-Tour ball, which is giving him the best distance control to date.
Adapt and conquer
Every course tests golfers in its own ways, particularly around the greens. Phil and I spent long hours walking around each major venue the week before the tournament, trying to learn which greenside shots worked best for him. Then he and Rick walked another day to evaluate the best lines and shots for his long game.
|5 More Ways To Step It Up|
|1. Get In Shape Phil has vastly improved his stregnth, balance and stamina by working out under the watchful eye of trainer Sean Cochran. Work on improving your body–ideally in concert with a fitness specialist.|
|2. Find the Best Putter For Your Stroke Before his first tournament last year, Phil used a test I developed to compare one putter to another. (Go to the Pelz Golf Institute section of pelzgolf.com.) Once we knew his blad putter–old 8802 shape–worked best, he committed to it for the year.|
|3. Improve Your Green Reading Phil has used a learning aid called the Putting Tutor all year. It helps him start putts on-line. He also worked hard on his lag putting. Even the great players go for help with their putting. Go to your pro, or come to one of our schools, but don’t try to fix your own putting problems.|
|4. Get Good Advice “Bones” Mcay might be the best caddie in the game. He’s a fine player and has a great attitude. Phil even sent him read greens. Bones can give an independent opinion in the heat of battle. Point is, listen to your caddie or the best player in your group, but make the final decision yourself.|
|5. Add New Shots Phil used to be a high-ball hitter–almost exclusively. Now, after countless hours practicing different trajectories, he can play a wide variety of shots. Expand your ball-flight arsenal by learning to hit low bump-and-run shots as well as high floaters.|