Mickelson's arms, Smith said, are noticeably bigger due to an off-season workout regimen. His upper arms are huge, Smith told me. I mean huge.
Which has resulted in a good kind of tightness. Anything that can make his swing more compact, Im all for it, Smith said. If it tightens up his golf swing from a tension standpoint, thats wonderful.
And the driving numbers, in two events, bear Smith out. Mickelson is 16th in total driving in 2007. Last year, he finished tied for 66th in that category.
The big problem Smith sees right now is distance control. And, he says, the reason for the problem may be that same tightness that has helped Mickelson off the tee.
I wonder, Smith said, if Phil is still adjusting his feel.
Mickelson struggled to a T45 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and skied to a 78 in fierce Sunday winds. At the Buick Invitational last week he posted 73-74 on the weekend and wound up T51. His scoring average this year is 71.52. Thats more than two shots worse than his 69.50 for all of 2006.
Obviously his arms are a different size, Smith said. He just has to get acclimated to that. Maybe hes not quite there yet. ... Jack Nicklaus once told me he could win when he was a little left or a little right but not when he was long or short.
Distance control was not a problem for Mickelson with the scoring clubs last year. He ranked 15th in approaches between 125 and 150 yards. So far this year he ranks T160 in that same category.
Im sure well start dialing it in, Smith said. I just dont want him to lose patience.
THE LAST MAN:
Trevor Immelman is in fast company. Hes the last man to beat Tiger Woods in a PGA TOUR event. And that counts for something seeing that Woods has won seven straight official tournaments since Immelman birdied three of the last four holes at the Cialis Western Open last July to edge Woods by two strokes.
Woods is attempting to break the PGA TOUR record of 11 consecutive wins set by Byron Nelson in 1945. The last player to beat Nelson before he began his historic run that year was Sam Snead at the now defunct Jacksonville Open.
What does Immelman think of Woods streak?
Its a little bit concerning, Immelman told me over the phone from Arizona, where he will play in this weeks FBR Open. Its good for the game but it would be nice if someone else could win for a change.
Immelman, the 2006 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year and the 12th-tanked player in the world, watched Woods out-duel several relative unknowns'Brandt Snedeker, Jeff Quinney and Andrew Buckle'down the stretch before finally holding off Charles Howell III by two to win the Buick Invitational Sunday.
But he does not despair. All the top golfers think, when theyre playing their best, they like their chances, Immelman said. But I dont put winning 11 straight out of his (Woods) reach.
What does Immelman like best about Woods? He does a great job controlling the things around him. They run very smoothly. There havent been too many great sportsmen in the history of golf that have really understood how to do that. Tiger gets it.
Actually, the last two players not to lose to Tiger Woods (in an event Woods played in) are Immelman and Australian Matthew Goggin. Most people have forgotten that Goggin shot four rounds in the 60s at Cog Hill to tie Woods for second place behind Immelman. The last American to win a PGA TOUR event in which Woods participated was Phil Mickelson at last years Masters.
In case you were wondering, those were members of Tigers extended family standing behind the 18th green Sunday at Torrey Pines. Along with Tigers mother, Kultida, and his wife, Elin, were Elins father, Thomas Nordegren, and Elins young siblings, Samuel and Isadora.
CHECK THIS STAT:
My favorite statistic on Woods current dominance is this one: Jim Furyk, ranked No. 2 in the world, is closer in world ranking points average to No. 1300 John Elliott than he is to No. 1 Woods.
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