NORTON, Mass. – There are those who will off-handily credit Phil Mickelson’s card-of-the-tournament 63 on Sunday at TPC Boston to that new, highly scrutinized belly putter. But this one was all about ballstriking.
For the day Lefty hit 79 percent of his fairways and 83 percent of his greens in regulation, and on one of the rare occasions when he missed the short grass on the par-4 12th he holed his 7-iron approach shot from 172 yards for eagle. His 29 putts, Mickelson reasoned, were a byproduct of a stellar long game, not a longer-than-standard-length putter.
“The longest putt I made was 8 feet at (No.) 11. After that it was 4 feet at (No.) 10,” said Mickelson, who explained that he’d focused so much on adjusting to the new belly putter this week that he neglected his long game in the process.
An impromptu phone lesson from Butch Harmon on Saturday night, however, helped Mickelson dial his swing back in and when he walked off the golf course nearly two hours before the leaders were scheduled to tee off he was just three strokes back and in a strangely familiar position.
Earlier this year Mickelson rallied with rounds of 63-65 to win the Houston Open, and the six times he’s shot 63 in his Tour career he’s gone on to victory, but he seemed less concerned with his title chances than he was his rediscovered swing.
“It was a good ballstriking round, which was nice after the first two or three days,” said Mickelson, who opened with rounds of 70-73 and made the cut on the number.
As for the belly putter, the learning curve continues and Mickelson wasn’t even willing to say the long implement would make it to Monday’s final round.
“I’ll probably spend some more time with it in the off-season. I may experiment with it some more tomorrow or in Chicago (at the BMW Championship in two weeks). I may not,” Mickelson said.
At issue is the weight of the new putter and his ability to control the speed on quick putts with lots of break.
“The longer (putter) is 400 (grams), I’m not sure about the shorter (putter), but it makes my driver feel like a feather,” he said.