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Monday, July 22, 2013

Two Incisive Takes On Phil's Open Championship

Frequent contributor Mike Diffley, head pro at Pelham CC, had this to say in his newsletter about Phil Mickelson's win in the Open yesterday:

Muirfield - Wow, we haven't seen anything like that in a while. The commentators said that it is the least quirky and rewards the purest golf shots of all the courses in the Open rotation. The speed of the greens were Augusta and US Open like to go along with the speed of the fairways which were both described as 11.5 on the stimp. Links golf which is associated with a course along a coastal area with dunes and undulating surfaces. It is associated with firm turf and a running game. The grass is short and lacks moisture, the rough is wispy long grass. Muirfield certainly was all of the above. You think! If you look at the past Champions in the modern era at Muirfield, Phil fits right in with Player, Nicklaus, Trevino, Watson, Faldo and Els.

Phil Mickelsen - The riverboat gambler pulls a straight flush on the last hand. Phil played what he called the best round of his life on Sunday. He birdied 4 of the last 6 holes with his up and in on 16 probably being more important than any. He hit a great iron in but just missed carry it to the top of a ledge and his ball rolled back 30 plus yards to a tough pitch. He wedged it to 7 feet and made it. A great recovery mentally to not let the disappointment of getting a bad break affect him. He kept his momentum going!

Give Phil credit for going over to play in the Scottish Open the week before to get himself adjusted to the style of play needed on links.

Phil played his 2nd major in a row without a driver. The ability to hit an iron off of most tees and I believe a hybrid on the last hole let him keep it in play. Approach shots of 200 yards in were common, but they were hit with short to mid irons. His short game has no rival and he putted incredible the last day. He never seemed to be in the high grass as almost everyone else was. He was out in front of the leaders and was not in protection mode. That is how he likes to play, protecting a lead is very different than freewheeling an hour in front of the leaders. He kept going, his 2nd shot on 18 was a yard from the bunker and turned out perfect. Phil can't play safe, it's not in his golf DNA.

Mental Notes- Phil played his game and seems to know he can't play the other way (conservative). He found golf clubs to put him in the fairway and let his strengths carry him home. Playing from behind allows a player to freewheel, some players are great at that. Phil is, Tiger is not. Tiger has won all 14 majors while holding the lead going into the last day. Phil is better being a little behind, it fits him and his aggressive style. Be who you are, sometimes it works out, sometimes not but that is the beauty of sports. you never know what is going to happen, but you better be true to yourself and putt good!

Finally, just a thought, yes Phil played great and it's easy to smile and look like your having fun when good stuff is happening but not one other player looked like they were enjoying the experience of being in the hunt of a major.

Tom Patri had some interesting thoughts, too. Tom is President of TP Golf LLC. The following is reprinted from his Naples News article:

As many of you know I have often in this column been critical of Phil and errors he has made at critical junctures during various championships. This past week however Mickelson was flawless not only in his mechanical execution of his ball flight and shot selection but his management of the golf course was that of the Phil I would love to see on the golf course every week!

I think both Phil and Bones have together matured in their view of Phil's enormous talent and how best to use it. Major championship golf on the world stage is an evolution. We have watched so many young talents struggle early on learning to win. Some have gone through their tour careers only winning on certain types of courses and certainly never winning any major championship . Andy Bean comes to mind. Others had trouble with both certain types of courses as well as the heat only to mature and overcome their weaknesses! Tom Watson comes to mind as a player who figured it all out and went on to win in a wide variety of venues.

My hat is off to Mickelson and as one of his biggest critics I'm extremely happy for him. This past week in my opinion he changed his place in golf history with his final round execution at Muirfield. Give Bones his due as well. They are a great team and have grown together. Another round of loud applause must be given to Butch Harmon. Funny how Butch shows up in a players camp and that player plays major championship golf well ! Hmmmmm--make no mistake about it the Harmon DNA is a powerful tool .

The other player of clear note is of course Tiger. Remember when Phil couldn't find a fairway or manage a golf course and now it seems its Tiger who doesn't control his ball in the heat of Sunday majors? It's amazing how much a world class coach really does matter! Butch Harmon is a stud in the swing analysis department but even better as a prep coach in getting his horse ready for any given race.

Jack's major championship record seems safer with each passing major. With each weekend at a major when the Thursday-Friday Tiger slips into the Saturday-Sunday Tiger the record of The Golden Bear seems safer from the once weekend Tiger turned pussyca ?!  Will he catch Jack? Mathematically certainly still possible. Does he look and act like the Tiger who once amazed us? Not even a shadow of the once dominant champion, at least at majors.

Stayed tuned here comes The PGA Championship !

---Thanks for the thoughts, guys.

Among many other books, Dave Donelson is the author of Weird Golf: 18 tales of fantastic, horrific, scientifically impossible, and morally reprehensible golf

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