On Tuesday, Phil Mickelson took to Twitter and shared that he had binged the Netflix drama “The Queen’s Gambit,” a fictional tale that chronicles the life of an orphan chess prodigy and her pursuit to become world champion of chess. (Make it two thumbs between Phil and yours truly.)
Mickelson is on a similar quest to win another Green Jacket and like all great chess players, he’s trying to be three moves ahead of the field. Mickelson revealed during a podcast sponsored by Callaway Golf that dropped Tuesday that while Bryson DeChambeau has been experimenting with using a 48-inch driver at the Masters in hopes of added distance, he’s already been playing with a 47 1/2-inch driver at his past two tournaments and will do so again this week with an eye on next week’s Masters. In typical Mickelson fashion, there is a method to his latest tinkering madness.
“At Augusta, most of the [drives] carry the bunkers, and up the fairways a little bit,” Mickelson explained. “So on No. 1, to carry the bunker on the right, to carry the bunker on 2, to carry the bunker on 8 and to get it over the hill on 14 and 17 … you really want to fly the ball 315-320 [yards] minimum, and that seems like a lot, and it is a lot.
“It’s just that if you fly it there, you have a chance to take advantage of some of those holes.”
He highlighted the first hole, a 445-yard par-4, as an example of why adding distance to carry his driver at least 315 yards off the tee would make a difference.
“If you can carry that bunker [on the right side of the fairway], it’s a sand wedge in, and you’re thinking birdie,” he said. “If you have to hit a 3-wood off of the tee and go to the side, or if you can’t carry it and you have to play more to the left, it’s a 6- or 7-iron into the green, so you’re thinking par. So, there’s the ability to attack a number of holes if you can fly the ball a little bit farther.”
Mickelson has always been one to tinker with his equipment setup at majors, including carrying two drivers at the 2006 Masters – one to hit draws and one to hit fades, which led to a victory – and no driver at the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines, which was an epic fail.
Once I starting watching The Queens Gambit, I couldn’t stop. What a show and is now one of my all time favorites.
No point to this tweet. I’m flying to Houston and just thought I’d share.
— Phil Mickelson (@PhilMickelson) November 3, 2020
The Rules of Golf restrict shaft length to 48 inches. Mickelson had been using a 46-inch Maverick Sub Zero 9-degree head, but switched to a 47 1/2-inch shaft in winning on the PGA Tour Champions at the Dominion Energy Classic three weeks ago in Virginia as well as at the Zozo Championship, where he finished second-to-last in the limited 78-man field two weeks ago. He said he planned to use the 47 1/2-inch driver this week at the Vivint Houston Open. A three-time Masters champions, Mickelson last won the title in 2010 and has finished outside the top 15 in each of his past four starts there.
Mickelson also explained why he is switching to Callaway Epic Forged short irons, a model he already used for his long and mid irons. Mickelson said it is due to the fact that Augusta National mows its fairways from green to tee, making the ball sit down on the fairways and causing him to “catch it a groove low.”
“It’s funny, because [the Epic Forged] is kind of a higher-handicap club, because the ball takes off the face so fast,” he said. “But I have such a high spin rate already that I’m looking to reduce some of that spin. And this gives me a chance to come into the shots, into the greens at Augusta, much higher and softer.”
Mickelson also mused on how playing in November this year instead of April and having less daylight could impact who ends up with a Green Jacket in their closet.
“At about 6 o’clock at night, when the wind dies and you’re going through Amen Corner, without any wind, you can be much more aggressive and not have as big a fear of the wind swirling and pulling the ball into the water on 12, and 13, and 15 and so forth. And so you have much better playing conditions the later you tee off in April,” Mickelson said. “But because it’s going to be dark by 5 o’clock, and I think we’re set for a 3 o’clock finish, that may not be the case. Because the leaders are going to be going through the back nine with swirling winds just like the rest of the field. And I think that you might see the winner come from the group that is three or four groups ahead of the final pairing this year.”