Phil Mickelson Finally Figured It Out

Phil Mickelson and "Bones" on the 18th tee developing a strategy to preserve his two-stroke lead. Photo by FMFP PHOTO/FM

It would be fair to say that Phil Mickelson has had a disappointing season until today.

Coming in to the Humana Challenge in Palm Springs, he was super-excited about all of the work that he’d been doing on this swing. He finished T49.

Coming into the Farmers Insurance in La Jolla–his home tournament–he was extremely super-excited about all of the work that he’d been doing on his swing. He missed the cut and left in a state of shock.

Coming into the Waste Management Phoenix Open–his home after graduating from ASU–he was full of renewal and very hopeful that he’d be able to regain his footing. He finished T26. But he was not very confident that things would come around:

But today it all came together in a performance that cleaned up the early-season disappointment:

It’s one of the more emotional victories for me than I’ve had, and the reason is, I’ve had some doubt these last couple of weeks, given the scores that I’ve shot, yet on the practice range, playing and practicing, having these great practice sessions, I started to wonder if I’m going to be able to bring it to the golf course.  So this gives me a lot of confidence and erases the doubt.

It also gave him his 40th career victory and made an emphatic statement to a resurgent Tiger Woods who took an eleven-stroke drubbing: Phil was 8-under, Tiger, 3-over.

It seemed like Phil couldn’t make a mistake. He hit 13 of 14 fairways (a welcome disparity from recent perception) and 14 of 18 greens. But the biggest stat was that he gained 4.8 strokes on the field in putting; he only needed 26.

But the raw stats don’t really do justice to the psychological blow his hot start landed on Tiger:

It was like nothing was going your way, does that weigh on you when you’re struggling to work your way through these issues?

What was frustrating is that I had a chance and all I had to do was get off to a good, solid start today and I didn’t do that.  I was 1‑under through 6, which Phil was 5‑under through six, and that was kind of the start I was hoping to get to, 3‑under through six or something like that.  I didn’t do it and thought I could get it in the middle part of the round, but instead I went the other way.

But that wasn’t the worst of it. From there he could have gotten it together and rallied. But as he said, it went the other way…in a big way…and quickly: he bogeyed 7, 8 and 9. But it was worse than that. He appeared to be stumbling, vulnerable.

And that subliminal que was all it took to relax Phil. He cruised through the back nine adding three more birdies. It was so good, it looked like better than the 64 it all added up to.

For Phil, it was a very emotional win. He flew Amy up, it was just the two of them, and he and Bones meshed better than ever before:

Bones and I have been through a lot the last couple of years, and we are working at our best. After 20 years now, we are working at our best.  And he was able to so many times get my mind refocused.  The [par 5] 14th hole, even with wedge, you make a lot of bogeys there, and he erased all doubt and said, let’s get a grip and make the bird, we need one more here.

It just got me aggressive and into a positive frame of mind.  He and I are working well together.  To share it with those two people that I love so much at a place that I care about so much makes it a very emotional win.

This is why I always like using photos of the winner with his caddie.

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