Phil Mickelson’s resurgence

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By Murray Smit TGSE Coach

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While Jason Day, Jordan Spieth and Rory Mcilroy have captured much of the limelight in 2016 as golfs next “Big Three,” Phil Mickelson has quietly shown signs of getting back to his very best under new coach Andrew Getson.

Mickelson’s game had gradually begun to deteriorate since his British Open triumph at Muirfield in 2013 and culminated in a winless 2015 season on the PGA Tour. While a second place finish at the Masters and three additional top ten’s would suffice for most players, it was a poor year for the Hall of Famer who has five major titles and 42 career PGA Tour victories to his name.

Mickelson decided to split with long time coach Butch Harmon in November and got to work. While many pundits were talking about the flaws he had developed in his swing, the reality is his slump in performance was a result of his declining scoring ability and not just about being a few degrees out in certain positions of his swing. His stroke average had declined from 69,7 in 2013 to 70,58 in 2015, and while this doesn’t seem like much, it’s the difference between finishing 4th and 38th on the money list, worth approximately $3 000 000.

Taking a look at Phil’s statistics, we can see where he had regressed. His driving accuracy had dropped from 57.3% in 2013 to 55,98% in 2015, while his greens in regulation had gone from 66,67% to 61,51%. Phil’s incredible scrambling had remained very much the same at 58,55% in 2013 and 59,38% in 2015 but he had gone from being ranked 5th in Strokes Gained putting to 41st. It was clear that Phil’s ball striking needed improving, and under the tutelage of Arizona based Getson, he has made some nice technical adjustments that have paid immediate dividends. Mickelson’s hitting 3% more fairways at 58,57% so far in 2016 and nearly 6% more Greens in Regulation at 67%. More importantly though, Phil is back to his finest in terms of his shortgame, he is making an incredible 65% of his scrambles (6% more than in 2015) and is ranked 8th in strokes gained putting. These improvements, which may seem minor, have resulted in him having the lowest stroke average to date for the season at 69,4. With the Vardon Trophy winner (low stroke average) going on to win the money list 15 times in the last 18 years, Mickelson is set up for a very promising season.

The important message here is that you should only make a change if you believe it will improve how efficiently something works, not just how it appears. Work out what really needs to improve for you to take fewer strokes and then find an instructor who can guide you with effective ways of practicing it. Mickelson definitely improved his skill set over the off-season, in terms of both his ball striking and shortgame. Don’t be surprised to see “Lefty” win again this season and possibly even be in contention for that elusive US Open title and his career Grandslam.

Written April 2016