Phil Mickelson will unveil a secret weapon, a second driver designed specifically to offset the lengthened Augusta National Golf Club layout, when he opens the defence of his Masters crown on Thursday.
The 36-year-old United States southpaw used two drivers last year when he captured his second Masters title in three years and third major crown overall. This time, he has spent six months plotting just what is needed for another green jacket.
”It’s a driver that I’ve been working on specifically for the Masters because the length of the golf course is so long that I needed that extra length to combat it,” Mickelson said. ”We’ve been working six months on this club for this tournament.”
Last year, Mickelson used new technology to fight an Augusta National layout stretched to its limits by technological advances. It worked so well that there is little reason for Mickelson to switch now.
”I plan on using it a reasonable amount,” Mickelson said. ”The longer driver, the square-headed one, goes 20 yards longer than my regular one. When I try to hit little low shots or work around the trees on 10 or 13, I’ll use the regular-shaped driver.”
In addition to dropping his sand wedge for the extra driver, Mickelson will replace his three-wood with a 64-degree wedge. Both banished clubs have been made useless by the combination of Mickelson’s game — and a notorious collapse at the finish of last year’s US Open, double bogeys at 17 and 18 to lose to Australian Geoff Ogilvy, has made him more determined to avoid such a meltdown again.
”It wasn’t as big a confidence killer. I’m not thinking about the US Open as much as I’m thinking about defending the Masters championship,” he said. ”Dealing with good and bad is part of life. You have to deal with failure so often in golf. I’m not trying to downplay it. It stung. But it also challenged me in areas to improve my driving so it doesn’t happen again.”
Mickelson said he has never felt more comfortable in a final round than when he played here last year, a calm he will need to reclaim despite not playing the week before the Masters as he typically did, and two bad showings in his final Augusta tune-ups.
”I’m a little bit nervous about not being in competition in so long or having been in contention in a while,” Mickelson said. ”That’s probably my biggest concern.”
Mickelson, who arrived here last week for practice rounds with his swing coaches, has 10 top-10 finishes in his past 12 Masters starts. His first major win came here in 2004 and was followed by the 2005 PGA Championship and last year’s Masters victory.
Mickelson won at Pebble Beach earlier this year, his first victory since last year’s Masters, and reached a play-off in Los Angeles before losing to Charlie Howell. — Sapa-AFP