Leading into the Tour Championship the final tournament of the FedEx playoffs the top 5 players have their destiny in their own hands. This means that if they win they will win the FedEx Cup and the bonus US$10 million PLUS the winner’s cheque on offer for the Tour Championship.
The East Lakes Golf Club which is the oldest golf club in Atlanta (founded in 1898) and was the home club of the legend Bobby Jones. It is a great test of golf for the final thirty golfers who have made it through the playoffs.
In fact the winner will also be presented with a replica of Jones’s famous putter “Calamity Jane” which he used to win thirteen Majors and the Grand Slam (US Open, US Amateur, British Open and British Amateur) in 1930. The putter has 8 degrees of loft compared to modern day putters which have less than 4 degrees of loft.
So who are the favourites after Rory and Tiger the obvious choices at #1 and #2 in the points? With East Lake being a long course and with rain softening the course recently and fast greens the longer hitters who can also handle the flat stick will have the advantage.
One name jumps out and it’s Phil Mickelson who is currently 4th in the FedEx points, bombs it off the tee and is ranked 5th in strokes gained-putting. His recent form also suggests he is peaking after a T38th in the Barclay’s, T4th at the Deutsche Bank and T2nd at the BMW.
'Lefty' also won at East Lake in 2009 and all the signs are pointing to the most competitive final tournament of the playoffs since its inception in 2007. Mickelson has been an exciting golfer that galleries love watching as he plays aggressively and has recovery skills that are second to none.
It is this cavalier style that won him the US Amateur title in 1990, and at the age of 20 in 1991 whilst still an amateur he won the Northern Telecom Open on the PGA Tour, the last to achieve this incredible feat.
In his early pro career Mickelson worked with swing coach Rick Smith and also short game guru Dave Pelz. In 2007 after the Masters he announced he was changing swing coaches and Butch Harmon became his swing instructor.
In 2009 Dave Stockton took over the reins from Pelz officially coaching Mickelson with his putting and short game.
Now I have observed Mickelson's swing and performances before and after the changes with the coaches he has worked with and I have not seen any changes in his full swing technique.
But as we know at Pro Tour Golf College golf performance on the golf course is the true indicator.
So I have crunched his statistics in the categories of;
The results are interesting and revealing...
Under the guidance of Rick Smith, Mickelson was 6.59% more accurate off the tee, hit 2.65% more greens in regulation, won 3 Majors against 1, and had one more tournament win.
Under Butch Harmon, Mickelson earned an average of $313,922.00 more per year mainly because 2003 was his worst year winning $1,623,137.00 which was way down on his average earnings per year, and it was the only year he did not win a tournament.
This year is the 1st year he is ranked better then 40th (he's ranked 5th) in strokes gained-putting and it’s since he has adopted the “claw” grip which proves that golfers especially those who make a living on playing for a living will do whatever it takes to score low.
And if changing the coach is perceived as the solution so be it.
Although in Mickelson’s case the statistics don’t support it.
Conclusion; Phil Mickelson is a very successful modern day professional golfer who gets the job done no matter who is coaching him.
David Milne and Lawrie Montague - Pro Tour Golf College