Phil's Ills Why hasn't Phil Mickelson won a major? We asked a panel of swing experts to pinpoint his problem and come up with a cure

April 07, 2003

There may be only one, arguably two, golfers in the world better
than Phil Mickelson. He has won at every level of the game, from
the 1980 Optimist Junior World, when he was 10, to last year's
Greater Hartford Open, his 21st Tour title. Yet after 42 tries,
Mickelson hasn't won a major. To find out why, we asked six of
Golf Magazine's Top 100 Teachers to analyze his swing. The bottom
line: Mickelson succeeds because he has the best hands in golf,
but when the heat is on, some fundamental flaws lead to errant
shots. Interestingly, all six agreed that Mickelson's swing is
too long, that he has a reverse pivot at the top and that his
lower body is too active. Our teachers differed on specific
trouble areas. Here are their conclusions along with a drill to
correct each problem.

T.J. TOMASI
EMERALD DUNES GOLF COURSE
WEST PALM BEACH, FLA.

FLAW: In his takeaway, Mickelson's right knee juts out toward the
target and slides too far behind the ball. This excess leg action
makes him slide his upper body toward the target during the
downswing.

FIX: Mickelson should move the ball slightly back in his stance
and maintain a flexed right leg to avoid dipping, and flaring his
right foot. He should have someone hold the butt end of a club on
the target side of his head while he swings. That would cut down
his lateral movement and keep him centered and behind the ball.

MIKE PERPICH
RIVER PINES GOLF COURSE
ALPHARETTA, GA.

FLAW: Mickelson doesn't cock his right wrist early enough because
he doesn't synchronize his shoulder turn and the folding of his
left elbow at the beginning of his backswing. When Mickelson's
right arm is parallel to the ground in the backswing, there's a
130-degree angle between his right arm and the shaft. The angle
should be 90 degrees, with the clubhead pointing to the sky.

FIX: I'd have Mickelson address the ball and lay a club on the
ground along his stance line, with the butt end touching his back
foot and the clubhead touching his golf bag behind him. Keeping
his back foot planted, I'd hand him the same club and have him
take a normal swing, turning his shoulders away from the target
and folding his left elbow simultaneously. If he folds his left
elbow in sync with his shoulder turn, his right wrist will cock
earlier and the clubhead won't touch the bag.

TOM PATRI
NAPLES GRANDE GOLF CLUB
NAPLES, FLA.

FLAW: Mickelson overrotates his lower body, causing the club to
cross the line (pointing left of the target instead of at it) at
the top of his backswing. That puts Mickelson in a do-or-die
situation: He can either make compensating moves in the downswing
or hit a bad shot. The trouble begins in the takeaway. The left
hip overrotates, and his right knee collapses beneath him,
causing a slight reverse pivot at the top.

FIX: Mickelson should hit shots with a basketball between his
knees, with the logo of the ball facing his golf ball. At the top
of the backswing the basketball's logo should still be facing the
golf ball. That will make his swing shorter and more compact.

MITCHELL SPEARMAN
MANHATTAN WOODS GOLF CLUB
WEST NYACK, N.Y.

FLAW: During the transition from the backswing to the downswing,
Mickelson's swing radius--the distance from his hands to his
chest--is too narrow, causing too steep an angle of attack. I also
suspect that Mickelson has a "long" right thumb, meaning he
extends his right thumb too far down the grip. A long right thumb
(the left thumb for a righthander) is a problem that can have a
ripple effect, leading to loose swings and errant shots.

FIX: I'd inspect Mickelson's grip. Next I'd have him swing to the
top of the backswing and stop. Before he begins his downswing,
I'd put my left hand against the butt end of his club. As he
swings down, I'd ask him to push his grip into my hand, which
would create resistance and force him to widen his swing radius.

BRAD REDDING
HARTEFELD NATIONAL
AVONDALE, PA.

FLAW: Mickelson doesn't cock his wrists until just before the end
of his backswing. Then at the beginning of the downswing he does
something very strange: He continues cocking his wrists. He
generates tremendous power by doing this, but without perfect
timing it's impossible to consistently square the club face at
impact. The excessive wrist cock causes Mickelson to have an
extremely narrow swing arc on the way down, with his hands much
closer to his body than they were in the backswing.

FIX: To help Mickelson set his wrists earlier and widen his
downswing, I'd have him cock them at address and then, with the
clubhead already up toward his face, make his hip turn away from
the target and complete his swing.

CRAIG SHANKLAND
LPGA INTERNATIONAL
DAYTONA BEACH

FLAW: Mickelson should watch video juxtaposing his swing with an
iron and with a driver. With irons, especially the wedges, he
goes back just short of parallel and stays balanced. His driver
swing, though, goes way past parallel and is loose and out of
control, causing instability in his lower body. His right foot
slides and his left knee actually moves away from the ball. He
also has too much weight over his back foot in the downswing.

FIX: I'd have Mickelson hit drivers while sitting on the edge of
a barstool. That way he'd learn what it feels like to swing with
a quiet and stable lower body. Then I'd have him alternate
between a driver and an iron every few shots to get a feel for
making the same swing with all his clubs.

To view the Mickelson videos used by our panel of experts, go to
golfonline.com.

SIX COLOR PHOTOS: MICKELSON SEQUENCE: VIDEO STILLS BY DAVID BERGMAN FLAW COLOR PHOTO: GABE PALACIO FIX COLOR PHOTO: GREG FOSTER FIX COLOR PHOTO: JOHN IACONO FIX COLOR PHOTO: BEN VAN HOOK FIX COLOR PHOTO: ANDREW GOMBERT FIX COLOR PHOTO: BILL FRAKES FIX

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)