Mickelson's Five-Point Plan
Ready to Rumble
Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have never been close, even
though they trod the same turf in Southern California, where
Woods eclipsed most of Mickelson's junior records. Michelson,
30, is five years older than Woods. He doesn't lavish praise on
Tiger the way Ernie Els does or hang out with Woods like David
Duval. What Mickelson relishes more than Els or Duval, though,
is coming down the stretch with Tiger, and in the last few
months he has made five key changes to improve his chances of
Equipment. Last fall Mickelson switched to a nonwound ball,
Titleist's new Pro V1, and immediately saw an improvement.
Because he has a steep downswing and tremendous clubhead speed
(more than 120 mph with the driver), Mickelson used to spin the
ball excessively. His new ball produces a more penetrating
flight and more run. An extra 15 yards with the driver makes
Mickelson almost as long as Woods. Left with shorter approaches,
Mickelson has added a fourth wedge, one with 50 degrees of loft
and eight degrees of bounce.
Swing. Mickelson and his coach, Rick Smith, have worked on
tightening the swing to eliminate the untimely loose shot that
has bedeviled Mickelson in the majors. (He has never won one,
although last year he finished 16th or better in all four.)
Specifically, Mickelson has shortened and firmed up his backswing
and quieted his lower body on the downswing. Excessive knee
action had been causing his body to sag in the hitting area,
restricting his swing and requiring him to compensate with hand
action to square the club.
Wedge play. No one is better at the flop shot or the other wedge
shots with a high degree of difficulty, but Mickelson, in
reality, has been erratic around the greens for most of his
career. This fact is underscored by his ranking in the Tour's
scrambling stat: Through the 1999 season Mickelson had been 114th
or worse on four occasions and never higher than 13th. Last year,
however, he brought his scrambling rank up to a personal best of
sixth by eschewing the spectacular shot in favor of the practical
and returning to the Ping L-wedge he grew up with.
Putting. Three years ago Mickelson began taking trips to Houston
to meet with 77-year-old Jack Burke Jr., one of the great putters
and teachers. Last month Mickelson also enlisted the aid of
putting specialist Dave Pelz, who concluded that Mickelson,
brilliant on long putts, is ordinary from 10 feet and in. His
biggest weakness is a tendency to take the putter inside on the
backswing, closing the club face and then pulling the ball.
"We're going to move carefully and slowly," says Pelz, who has
yet to recommend any changes, "but I know Phil can become more
Desire. Anyone who's serious about taking on Woods has to match
Tiger's work ethic. Although he won four times in 2000, beating
Woods in the Buick Invitational and the Tour Championship,
Mickelson is still thought of as the gifted kid who never had to
work hard. Smith senses a new urgency in his pupil. "Don't let
his softer looks fool you," he says. "Phil is driven, and inside
he's churning. His attitude now is, What do I need to do? Tiger
has taken him to a new level of competitiveness."
Electronic Yardage Book
A Gizmo Golfers Might Go For
Breakthrough product is an overused term in the gimmick-rich golf
industry, but SkyGolf GPS, a distance finder used in conjunction
with a Palm Pilot or a Handspring Visor handheld computer, could
be one. SkyGolf, which costs about $400 and will debut at this
month's PGA Merchandise Show in Orlando, uses the U.S. military's
Global Positioning System to give exact yardages to as many as 40
targets per hole. To calculate a distance, a golfer need only
push a button. Data on some courses can be downloaded from
About 800 of the 17,000 courses in the U.S. are equipped with
cart-mounted GPS systems, but SkyGolf is the first handheld unit.
"Any golfer who can afford it would want one," says Jim Deaton,
golf director at Bay Hill Club and Lodge in Orlando. "It's easier
to use than a range finder and more accurate than the cart
systems. It's the future."
What do these players have in common?
They won last year's season-openers on the Senior, LPGA and PGA
tours, respectively. Archer won the MasterCard Championship, Webb
the Office Depot and Woods the Mercedes Championships.
Which of the four World Golf Championships do you prefer to
Match Play 45%
NEC Invitational 30%
American Express 15%
World Cup 10%
--Based on 2,772 responses to our informal survey
Next question: Do you think Tiger looks better with blond or
black hair? Vote at golfplus.cnnsi.com.
SYNONYMS for a CADDIE
Baby-sitter, beast of burden, bird dog, bobo, Bundini, dummy,
executive assistant, flag holder, Gunga Din, jockey, long-toed
boy, looper, mission control, mule, Sancho Panza, Sherpa, shrink,
silent partner, Tonto, tranquilizer, whipping boy, wife.
This week Woods is going for his 25th Tour victory in only his
105th start. Here's how many starts it took some of the greats to
get 25 wins.
Sam Snead 114
Jack Nicklaus 152
Byron Nelson 188
Arnold Palmer 197
Tom Watson 233
Lee Trevino 345
It takes heart to play golf for a living. We criticize tour pros
for coming off as robots but forget that many need to be stoical
to endure such a cruel game. Steve Stricker fits the description,
yet when the emotional fortress that he had built during a
four-year slump crumbled in his postvictory interview in
Melbourne, it was a moving reminder of how much passion the pro