Phil Mickelson played this week's Deutsche Bank Championship with a belly putter for the first time in competition and nearly missed the cut. But he followed that with a third-round 63. Should he chalk it up to an experiment gone awry, or should Mickelson stick with the belly putter at BMW Championship? GolfChannel.com senior writers Rex Hoggard and Jason Sobel weigh in.
BY REX HOGGARD
Phil Mickelson should ride this belly putter experiment into the BMW Championship and beyond, not because he posted a round-of-the-week 63 early Sunday at TPC Boston but because it’s the correct competitive choice.
To be accurate, Lefty’s 63 was the byproduct of near-flawless ballstriking, not the perceived magical powers of the belly putter, and his longest putt this week is just 11 feet. But that line misses the subtle benefits of the long implement.
Mickelson has hit 68 percent of his greens in regulation and is averaging 29 putts per round this week, statistical matches to his season-long averages of 66 percent and 28.98, respectively. Yet he’s recorded just a single three-putt (at No. 13 on Saturday), which is well ahead of his year-to-date clip which ranks him 147th on Tour in three-putt avoidance.
Most long-putter converts will tell you that their “good” putting rounds are not as spectacular with the belly or broom-handle versions, but their day-to-day consistency is much better than it was with a short putt. And let’s face it, Lefty could always use a little more consistency.
But the biggest reason Mickelson should stay with the belly putter through the playoffs is because he looks natural using it.
“I asked him how long he’s been using it and he said since Monday,” said Gary Woodland, who was paired with Mickelson for Rounds 1 and 2 in Boston. “He made everything short and looked really comfortable with it.”
BY JASON SOBEL
Phil Mickelson is a consummate tinkerer. He's tinkered with two drivers in the bag. No drivers. Five wedges. And now, a belly putter.
Nice idea based on the recent success of anchored-putter champions Adam Scott, Keegan Bradley and Webb Simpson, but if Lefty wants some immediate success of his own, he may want to tinker his way back to the standard-model flatstick that has served him so well for years.
In his first two competitive rounds with the belly putter at TPC-Boston this week, Mickelson needed 29 and 31 putts, respectively, giving him an average higher than his season-long number of 28.97 to date.
In the wake of his third-round 8-under 63, knee-jerk reaction is to proclaim that Phil made the right call. The truth is, though, he still needed 27 putts despite an eagle hole-out on No. 12; he missed seven putts of between 10-17 feet; and he didn't sink anything longer than an 11-footer on the 11th hole.
Sure, he'll gladly take a 63, but he must be left wondering what could have been had he employed the blade putter that's helped him find so many winner's podiums.
After the Deutsche Bank Championship final round, Mickelson will have a bye week to figure out the belly putter. Really, though, he'd be better served to go back to the girl whom he brought to the dance in the first place. She's been a valuable partner for years – and hey, after a week away, it'll seem like he's tinkering with something new.
Just like old times.