FARMINGDALE, N.Y. – Returning to a major at Bethpage State Park for the first time in nearly a decade, Phil Mickelson got his PGA Championship prep started a little early.
Mickelson saw the Black Course during playoff events in both 2012 and 2016, but he decided to fly to New York last week for three days of preparation in advance of this week’s major championship. It was a scouting trip reminiscent of one he might make to Augusta National in advance of the Masters each spring, and it helped the 48-year-old build a strategy as he looks to lift the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time.
“It gave me a chance to kind of map out a game plan, see the golf course, know what clubs I’m going to use,” Mickelson said. “It also allows me this week to not have to worry about getting out on the course, learning the course and doing prep work. I can just worry about my game.”
The game plan includes a change to his bag, as Mickelson has pulled a 2-iron from his usual rotation this week. Instead he’ll add a 5-wood, a club he believes will give him more flexibility and options when trying to extract shots from the lush rough that lines the fairways on the Black Course.
Mickelson will likely have plenty of chances from the thick stuff this week, as he’s hardly the straightest driver on Tour under the best of circumstances. He enters off a surprising missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, with a T-18 finish at the Masters his lone top-25 result since winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February.
The lack of recent positive results have put Lefty in a bit of limbo heading back to a layout where he has had considerable success in majors, having finished third at the 2002 U.S. Open and fifth in 2009.
“Well, (the game) feels good, but it felt great in Charlotte and I missed the cut,” Mickelson said. “So, just because I feel like I’m playing well doesn’t always translate to lower scores.”