Phil Mickelson: Seeing and feeling his way into form

The boys are pretty much having their way with the courses at the Humana Challenge in La Quinta, California. They’re on the Palmer Private and Nicklaus Private at PGA West and La Quinta Country Club just down the road. They are all par 72 and playing right around 7,000 yards.

For players at this level, it’s like taking candy from a baby, particularly with little wind, although it’s supposed to be up some on Saturday. The courses are basically flat and immaculately groomed. The greens are like marble table tops; it you can see the line and hit it on the line, it will go in. A lot of guys are seeing the line.

And for Phil Mickelson, it was about feeling rhythm and seeing the shot. He’s not one of the leaders, but he shot 6-under 66 on the day to get to 7-under for the tournament. And that kick started his game. And he had a pretty good explanation for how it happened: 

It took me 31 holes to get my game to click and birdieing the last five was a nice feeling and hopefully I’ll be able to keep it going tomorrow. The rhythm started to fall in place and the putter felt better and it was a good way to finish the round with five birdies.

And there was something in particular that allowed that to happen:

Just momentum.  Just momentum and just kind of the feel for the game, feel for the round.  It just took awhile, after being out for four months, to focus on the shot…focus on the shot, and seeing the ball where you want it to go.

When you haven’t played [in a while] you start to see where you don’t want it to go.  I hit some of those shots, too.  But the last five, it’s got dialed in.

The game’s where I want it to be, but now the last bit is that final touch of focusing, seeing shots and putting together the score.

And there was one last element that came together that had nothing to do with swing mechanics:

Just the rhythm.  I hit one good 8-iron into — after missing a 5-footer for birdie on the par-5, I hit one good 8-iron to about six feet and that was the feel that I was looking for. And I made those swings coming in, the same kind of feel through impact and was able to hit a bunch of good iron shots.

The leader is Matt Kuchar at 15-under after shooting 65, 64.

Michael Putnam and Bill Haas are 14-under and T2 after shooting mirror-image scores: 63, 67 and 67, 63.

Nick Watney, rookie sensation come to life, Justin Thomas and rookie, Scott Pinckney are at T4 after shooting 13-under.

The round of the day belonged to Ryan Palmer who shot 11-under 61. He parred the first two holes and then went on a run of 2 eagles and 5 birdies that had him shooting 27 on his front nine. And then he birdied 10:

But walking off 10, after I got to 10-under, I just, I didn’t know, I was staying calm, trying not to think about anything, just trying to keep my momentum going, my pace with my walk.  It’s hard not to think about it.

Good in theory, but it didn’t work this time. He bogeyed 11 and 12…and then bounced back with three birdies over his last six holes.

But a couple loose swings there on [my 11th and 12th], but a great putt on the next par-5 to get back. Then to finish at 11-under, what a memorable day.

And that’s what everybody will be going for on Saturday, another memorable day. There will be no rest for the weary…and with the wind forecast for 10 to 15, it should make it a more fair test. More fair to the golf courses, that is.

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