by Jeff Skinner
Phil Mickelson starts his 2014 campaign this week at the Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship. Phil the Thrill joins a deep field at the Abu Dhabi Golf Club which features four of the top ten golfers in the world: Henrik Stenson (3), Phil (5), Rory McIlroy (7) and Sergio Garcia (10).
The first start of the season is always something that gets Phil’s juices flowing and he’s always the eternal optimist. And if it’s a new season we all know what that means: a new driver for Phil.
No one likes to tinker, that’s a mild description, more than Phil when it comes to his tools and the driver seems to hold the title of “Most Likely to Change.” Phil is constantly hounding those Callaway engineers to build something new, tweak something old and generally play mad scientist to come up with the latest and greatest club that Phil can test.
It’s with good reason that Phil continues to look for a driver he can hit better. In 2013, even though he won twice and captured the Open Championship he did it, for the most part with an amped up three wood. “As I look back on 2013, I played some of my best golf and had some huge breakthroughs but I did most of it without a driver.”
A solid driving game has eluded Phil for years and last year was no different. Even though he was first on the PGA Tour in birdies and twelfth in scoring average he was 149th in driving accuracy. In fact Phil hasn’t come close to finishing in the top 120 of driving accuracy in a decade.
Well if the boys at Callaway have done their job 2014 will be different, Phil has a new driver. New to his bag is the Callaway Big Bertha Alpha, 9 degree and true to form, Phil is in love with it. “This year I have the best driver I’ve ever hit that lowers my spin rate just like my three-wood. I drive it longer and straighter with my driver than I did with my three-wood,” Phil boasted. “It’s a whole different weapon in my arsenal now and if I drive the ball well, like I have been in practice and in the off-season, heading into this 2014 season it could be the best year of my career for that simple reason.”
It really is mind boggling to think that Phil has had a Hall of Fame career while always searching for a reliable driver. Maybe this is the year the driver turns into strength rather than a weakness. And that will be a joy to watch. Are we thinking U.S. Open at Pinehurst? I know Phil is.