2005: PGA Analysis- Short stick, short game propel Mickelson

Springfield, N.J.

Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship at Baltusrol for several reasons. Any analysis should start with the putter and end with the lob wedge. One would boost him early, the other late. Those bookends and a lot in between would enable him to put a left hand on the Wanamaker Trophy.

Mickelson holed six birdie putts of at least 20 feet in opening 67-65 for a three-stroke edge. He took only 25 putts in Round 2. Then he cooled off. Making those bombs enabled to him to hang on for a one-stroke victory over Steve Elkington and Thomas Bjorn despite a 72-72 weekend.

A birdie at the last would clinch. In deep rough 50 feet from the pin on the short side, Mickelson lobbed an L-wedge shot to 15 inches.

“That’s his game,” Elkington said. “That’s what he’s good at.”

People long will remember that drop-and-stop Backyard Shot, for it won Mickelson his second major championship.

“It’s a chip I hit tens of thousands of times in my backyard,” said Mickelson, whose San Diego home as a youth featured a 30-yard patch of Bermudagrass for short-game practice. “That’s what I was thinking about on 18 – that this was no different than what I did in my backyard.”

Yet, to hear his caddie of 13 years, Jim (Bones) Mackay, that pitch wasn’t even Mickelson’s best shot on that hole. Mackay called the lefthander’s 302-yard cut drive onto the fairway the “best shot I’ve ever seen him hit. He hammered it and had to have it.”

Mickelson would make 16 birdies for the week, second best. His next best statistic was tying for eighth in greens in regulation. But a stat sheet won’t come close to explaining his victory.

He won because he reversed two slides on the weekend – one Saturday, the other Sunday. He bogeyed three of his first six holes in Round 3 but regrouped to play the last 12 holes in 1 under and end up as 54-hole co-leader with Davis Love III.

“When things don’t go your way, you just have to gut it out,” Mickelson said.

He led by three strokes through five holes of the fourth round, but then found himself two shots behind after bogeying four of the next five holes. But he would end the day one up on Elkington.

He won, too, because Elkington and Bjorn failed to birdie the last hole. Because Tiger Woods got off to a slow start (75) before charging to finish two shots behind. Because he hit the fairway with all three of his tee shots Monday morning. Because his misses were good; he hardly ever short-sided himself, making par-saving easier.

“My biggest misses were 3, 4, 5 yards from the fairway,” Mickelson said. “That led to keeping the score in check. That’s probably the biggest factor (in winning).”

A nonfactor in 2005’s first three majors, Mickelson won because he came in with increased confidence after three weeks of solid preparation. That work included devising a plan to take the right side of the course out of play with cut drives – tee balls that he hit about 25 yards shorter than he could have. That way, his ball was less likely to run into rough.

To his credit, he never deviated from the plan.

“He kept hitting the cut when there’s a temptation to bomb it,” said Rick Smith, Mickelson’s instructor. “His discipline was incredible."

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