Big Play: Mickelson's big drives Sunday at the Houston Open

Big Play: Mickelson’s big drives Sunday at the Houston Open

Mickelson's tremendous length on Sunday at the Shell Houston Open propelled him to victory.
Michael Cohen/Getty Images

Tour players usually don’t swing at full strength. With the driver, they usually keep 15 to 20 yards in reserve to help keep the ball under control. But under pressure, like there was on Sunday afternoon when Mickelson was battling Scott Verplank, pros can dial it up and unleash monster shots.

Mickelson did that on Sunday. His 323.8-yard driving distance average in the final round topped his second best daily average of the week by 5.3 yards. Mickelson was especially juiced up on the two long par 5s on the back nine at Redstone. At 13, Mickelson hit a 321-yard drive into the left rough, and then from a mediocre lie bashed his 15-degree fairway wood 247 yards near the front of the green to set up a key birdie. At 15, Mickelson pounded a 326-yard drive and hit a 274-yard fairway wood to the green, 27 feet from the hole.

Byron Nelson was perhaps the best driver in history, hitting over 70 percent of the fairways he played during his career. Mr. Nelson once shared with me his secret to hitting it so straight. When he absolutely needed a straight drive, Mr. Nelson would tee up the ball a little lower than normal. That all but assured that his driver club face would contact the ball on the lower part of the face, thus giving the ball a lower trajectory and less sidespin than if the ball hit the upper part of the face. Lower trajectory and reduced sidespin yield a much more controllable and straighter ball flight.

Golf Magazine Top 100 Teacher Shawn Humphries is the director of instruction at Cowboys Golf Club in Grapevine, Texas. For more information and instruction tips, go to

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