Phil Mickelson: Making birdie from “unknown”

Phil Mickelson had one of his legendary adventures on the par-5 15th hole in the 3rd round of the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He was far enough back at the beginning of the day that he started on the 10th tee.

But he was not discouraged because he knew he was playing well, but most important, he knew why he was playing well:

Q. You’ve been hitting the ground running from the beginning of the season. Are you surprised you’re playing this well this early in the season?

PHIL MICKELSON: Am I surprised I’m playing this well? No, I mean, I had a great offseason, put in a lot of work. I knew from the details, the divot pattern, shot dispersion and so forth, that I was playing well. It was one thing to hit the ball in the hole, but in the past my divot would be going one way and the ball would be going the other and I would kind of save it with the hands.

Now the divot is going down my line where I want it to. The ball is exiting and taking off down where the club is swinging. There is no manipulation. I’m just hitting a lot of good shots very easily. 

Heading into the year, I knew I was playing well, which is why I’m playing six out of seven events. I don’t want to put the pressure on me to have to perform well in a select couple or few events. I wanted to have plenty of opportunities to get competitively sharp, because I knew starting the year that I was hitting the ball as well as in past years.

Pretty much. This is what the ShotLink data looked like for him on the 15th hole:

  • Shot 1 303 yds to right fairway, 255 yds to hole
  • Shot 2 231 yds to unknown, 63 yds to hole
  • Shot 3 57 yds to green, 15 ft 8 in. to hole
  • Shot 4 in the hole

The key line is the second one: Shot 2, 231 yards to unknown

The reason that ShotLink said “unknown” is that Phil blew his second shot across the lake between the 15th and 11th hole and onto the 11th fairway. ShotLink is designed to measure shot results if the ball is on the hole you’re playing. Phil had a tongue-in-cheek explanation about how this could have happened.

Q. You made a birdie from 15. Can you talk us through that hole, where you went and how you got there.

PHIL MICKELSON: Well, the pin was all the way to the right and a tough angle. I thought if I went all the way left I could shoot right across, wouldn’t have to go over the bunker and all that stuff.

Q. You wound up left of the water [on the second shot]?

PHIL MICKELSON: Yeah. Over on the 11th fairway you have a perfect angle, across the green and the green just flows right down to the hole. Yeah, it was beautiful. Beautiful. That was a terrible shot. (Laughter.)

Q. I was going to ask if you were trying to go there.

PHIL MICKELSON: It was the worst shot of the year and I ended up making a birdie.

Q. You didn’t have any yardage from back there or anything.

PHIL MICKELSON: Surprisingly Bones, when he walks the course, comes up with a few of those yardages. I have been known to be in some odd places, and he tends to have some kind of number on that.

The joy of having a great and trusted caddie. And the joy of being able to maintain a state of grace no matter what’s happening. When you hit it 63 yards left of your target, it can be shocking. Phil’s experienced enough to have the thought, “Hey, I can still make birdie.” And then hits it to 16 feet and makes the putt.

We may not be as good as Phil, but it’s a great lesson to at least try to think like he does while we’re working on our big mistakes.

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One Response to Phil Mickelson: Making birdie from “unknown”

  1. Anonymous says:

    Great story, Bill. Keep it up! ~ John S. ~