Phil Mickelson continues to defy logic, his game and career changing, evolving and – yes – improving as he gets older. Here’s what he had to say on how he has turned a corner at this late stage in his career, and how he feels heading into his 27th Masters Tournament.
Phil Mickelson is an enigma wrapped in a riddle. He’s always changing something, always working on something in his game. Perhaps that’s why he won a 44th PGA Tour victory earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach. He thinks it’s possible for older players to improve because he has.
Over the last six to nine months, he picked up between five and six miles per hour swing speed for his driver. He’s still working on speed to maintain the gains he achieved, and he did that in practice this week.
“I anticipate distance being a big factor,” he said about the Masters. “If it rains, distance will be an even bigger factor.”
According to the forecasts, there is a good chance for rain on the weekend.
In an Instagram feed, he explains part of gaining distance is also it is technique.
He is now trying to push off his front leg, which he likened to Bubba Watson’s swing.
While Augusta National has plenty of room for players to hit the ball off the tee, it has less than it used to.
“Now we have tree-lined on 17 and we have so many more trees on 7 and a number of holes,” Mickelson noted. “It not as though it’s wide open, but there’s enough room where you don’t feel handcuffed, where you feel like you have to steer the ball. So, I kind of let loose, and like I say, if I drive the ball reasonably straight, I’m going to be fine.”
Adding length is not the only change he’s made over the years. Another area that he’s worked on is putting, as he explained in his pre-Masters press conference.
“I remember five years ago, I was struggling with the putter. I was terrible in stats,” he admitted. “And then I had, the last two or three years, I’ve been Top 10 in just about every stat, by working on it and figuring some stuff out and spending the time on it.”
He’s used the claw. He’s changed grip used for different lengths of putts. He’s done whatever he needed to do to get the golf ball into the hole. In addition, Mickelson cited better information available to players regarding fitness, bio mechanics, nutrition and more that should allow older players to perform well.
“I think that players that have had success can figure it out. It just takes a little bit of effort, a little bit of analysis,” he said. “I think you can turn back the clock.”
Now that he’s on a course that he really likes, his expectations must be high.
“This is a place that you drive up Magnolia Lane and things just change for everyone,” he said. “You just have that special feeling, that special remembrance of when you were a kid and dreaming of coming here and playing, and it brings out oftentimes the best in everyone.”
It was important in terms of building confidence, wining at the AT&T was important for him.
“I enjoyed that tournament, AT&T, very much,” he noted. “I think there’s a very similar style of play during those weeks as there is here, and I’m looking forward to getting on this golf course where I don’t feel so handcuffed that I can go ahead and let loose a little bit.”
However, even though he’s won 44 PGA Tour events, Mickelson’s never been accurate off the tee. He is 208th in driving accuracy this season. Last year, he was 189th for the season. The best he’s been in the last ten years is 140th and that was 2014. He was 78th in 2001 and 127th in 2000, but most years, his accuracy off the tee has not been a feature of his game.
“If I drive the ball reasonably straight, I’m going to be fine and there’s plenty of room to drive it straight here,” he said. “If I drive it well, my short irons, wedge play, putter will take over.”
But the tee shot is not the only part of the game that Mickelson works on. He’s legendary for his short game. If you wonder why, go to his Instagram page where he has many short game tips.
One tip in chipping to the green using what he calls “back foot restore.” He says it is a high percentage play shot. That means it’s one we should try instead of trying the crazier ones. The best part is he does some of his tips in flip flops!