One comment I heard repeatedly regarding Phil Mickelson’s play at the
WGC-CA Championship was about the satisfaction with his new driver, hitting it both further (304 yards on average) and straighter (52% of fairways hit). Anyone remotely associated with this glorious game of golf understands how this translates to lower scores. I have yet to hear a 19th hole conversation that started with “if only I could have hit my driver a little shorter and off to the right more often” or more rarely “I think I’ll head to the range and try to turn this *^%&)@$ power fade into a real banana slice.”
Phil’s recent success off the tee has had a trickle down effect on the rest of his game. Statistically (driving distance, driving accuracy, scrambling, sand saves, putts per round, putts per GIR, and GIR) he has improved in all categories save one, putts per round. In this category he has remained at #13 according to www.pgatour.com through March 22, 2009. Of course when you are chipping in from off the green on a frequent basis the significance of putts per round is a bit muddier.
So what is Phil hitting off the tee these days? He has transitioned to the Callaway FT-9 driver this year (after settling some groove issues with the USGA). The face is lofted at 7.5 degrees and sits upon a Mitsubishi Fubuki series graphite shaft. Mitsubishi claims that this new shaft material provides a more responsive feel, generates less spin, and delivers consistent launch characteristics.
The word ‘Fubuki’ implies blizzard or tempest-like in Japanese. The shaft’s signature symbol, a throwing star, is made to look like a snowflake, and is based upon one of the traditional weapons of the mysterious and deadly ninja. Phil has been coolly efficient with his driver of late, if not downright icy.
In my 2009 season preview I suggested that Phil may be well served to wail away with the driver and rely on his short game when the situation demands. It appears there is some merit to this strategy though I’m sure Phil Mickelson would remind us that the year is young. But with this weapon, er..driver, in hand, good things may be in store.
Dare we dream, Augusta in April??