PINEHURST, N.C. – Leave it to Phil Mickelson to make a last-second change at a major.
This, of course, is a man who has won tournaments with two drivers and no drivers, five wedges and something called a Phrankenwood. Now, on the eve of arguably the most important tournament of his career, Mickelson revealed that he will at least begin this 114th U.S. Open with a tweak to his putting grip – he’s returning to the claw.
“This is giving me a chance to put the best roll on the golf ball,” he said.
While also acknowledging that this move may be temporary, Mickelson said that he is more confident on 5- to 8-footers, the range that is so critical at the Open. The claw grip – in which the bottom hand comes off the putter – allows Mickelson to have lighter grip pressure, to create a softer roll on the ball, and to eliminate some of the “hit” or “pop” in the stroke.
Mickelson used the claw grip during a final-round 72 at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, a tournament, he said, that he should have won “by eight” if he had been putting “decent.” For the season he is ranked 103rd in strokes gained-putting.
“Right now the game plan is ‘X’, but it could be ‘Y’ in a matter of minutes,” he said.
If you think this move is risky, consider what Mickelson did in 2002. He changed the loft on all of his irons after the first round at Bethpage Black, and he and caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay “had a heck of a time” trying to pull a club for the next 54 holes. The unorthodox decision resulted in the second of his record six runner-up finishes at the year’s second major.
“You have to be willing to take risks and be accountable,” he said.