The storylines are a plenty coming out of this past week’s spectacular PGA Championship, but the emotions are running rampant. The wind blew hard and the course played tough, but fair. All things we expected. What nobody expected was a 50 year old Phil Mickelson to hoist the Wannamaker trophy Sunday evening. But like so many times before, golf gives us something we didn’t expect, but totally wanted and deserved.
It’s pretty ironic that the people’s champ delivered in front of the first major where the people were actually back in droves. Sure there were galleries at The Masters, but in half the numbers that were at Kiawah, and half the madness. Reminiscent of Tiger at the 2018 Tour Championship, his maiden return to the winner’s circle, the ropes were taken down and Phil pretty much crowd surfed to the 18th green where a 20 footer for a closing birdie awaited. Brooks Koepka didn’t find the mob scene quite as appealing, which is no surprise. He just closed with a 74 and his putter had totally left him. Phil did call the scene “pretty awesome but a little unnerving.” As he marched to the green after that thrashing 9 iron from 175 yards, a couple idiots grabbed him from behind and he lost his balance for a second. He then paused for Brooks to hit, and used that time to take a couple deep breaths and compose himself.
Koepka emerged from the mob about a minute after Phil arrived to the green, and he couldn’t get out of there faster. He tapped in for par and didn’t even acknowledge the gallery. It was time to go. On the other hand, Lefty threw out more thumbs up than the Fonz during an entire season of Happy Days. This was his first major win with brother Tim on the bag, and his first major win in 8 years. This was a different win for Mickelson. Age aside, it was a mature, veteran win. He took some risks but he had a very calculated, well sought-out gameplan for the Ocean Course. It was a Tiger-like performance and perhaps he took a page from his old pal.
Top Secret Driver Equipment changes and strange decisions aren’t foreign to Phil Mickelson, especially at a major championship. He once played the Masters with 2 drivers and played the longest U.S. Open course on record, Torrey Pines, with no driver. He technically had a 2-driver setup this week, although the one he played as a 2-wood. His driver was a Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond with 6° loft, adjusted to 5.5°. The triple diamond model is extremely low spinning. He played it at a length just shy of the competition length permitted by the USGA at 47.9”. This allowed him to activate his calves, glutes, and everything else and hit those “hellacious seeds” he often brags about on his social media. The second driver in the bag, or 2-wood, was Taylormade’s “Original One” Mini driver. This was set at 11.5° and he often teed it low and stung it out there as a fairway finder. I’m not sure what Philly played it at, but the standard length on the One is 43.75”.
What’s interesting is Callaway was in a mad frenzy to get this special driver ready in time for the PGA. Phil was quietly working his way up to gaming a driver close to 48” in length, a move spurred on by buddy and fellow distance monger Bryson DeChambeau. Lefty played a 47.5” Callaway MAVRIK Sub Zero at Augusta but they just couldn’t get the loft dialed in correctly for that long of a shaft. The fact is Phil hated the way it sat at address. Like all adjustable drivers on the market, when you adjust the loft down, it opens the face. And Phil wanted it to sit neutral. Callaway engineers took the new 6° Epic speed head and retooled it, specifically making it lighter to match the longer shaft. The head weight on Phil’s new driver is 188 grams, compared to the industry average of 200 grams. That doesn’t leave you much room to add or move weight around to dial in the ideal spin and launch you’re looking for. They were then able to give PM a square face at address while set at 6°. Not that Lefty is technical or precise, but he had ideal spin rates in mind when hitting a draw and a fade. He wanted to get to around 1900 rpm’s of spin on draws and 2400 rpm’s of spin on fades. This obviously comes with many hours on the launch monitor. The next piece of the puzzle to get him there was the shaft, and all of this was accomplished with the Fujikura Ventus Black 6 TX.
What’s next? A lot comes with Phil’s epic 6th major, not just jubilation, glee, and a highlight reel that will play in our hearts and on our TV’s for decades to come. A couple weeks ago he received a special exemption to play in the one major that eludes his career grand slam…the US Open. Well now he’s exempt to play in the next 5. He also moves to 15th on the Ryder Cup points list. The cup will be held in September. We haven’t played a Ryder Cup without Tiger or Phil since 1993. And I think that streak should continue because unless come August Phil is hitting it backwards, I’m putting him on that team. Sunday’s performance was also incredibly inspiring. Philly Mick became the oldest player to ever win a major at just one month shy of his 51st birthday. If anyone could break that record we knew it’d be him. He is an incredible worker and in arguably the best shape of his life with no sign of that long flowing swing getting any shorter any time soon.
It would be a monumental task and extremely selfish of us all to start talking about Phil’s chances at next month’s U.S. Open…but is it really that outlandish? It’s being held at Torrey Pines, his home track as a junior player. He’s also won 3 Farmers Insurance Opens there. A lot can happen between now and then, but the stars and moons could also align and we could enjoy another tear filled, goosebump fuled Sunday march up the 18th fairway with the Mickelson brothers on Father’s Day.
PGA Club Pro Shines at Kiawah Two of the 20 PGA Club Pros who qualified made the cut at The Ocean Course. Brad Marek from Corica Park, CA shot all 4 rounds in the 70’s, which is an awesome achievement, but Ben Cook did a little better…and then some. The Director of Instruction from Yankee Springs in Michigan finished t-44 and shot 69 on Saturday…the second lowest score of the day. He actually led the field in stroked gained tee to green during the 3rd round. A great look for the PGA of America and incredibly inspiring to all the club pros out there who work tirelessly to grow the game every day.
Enjoy the game and each other,
Seth Zipay – Head Golf Professional