Short form: Mickelson takes on Merion without driver

Phil Mickelson left the driver out of his bag for Thursday's first round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

Phil Mickelson left the driver out of his bag for Thursday's first round of the 2013 U.S. Open at Merion.

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— Phil Mickelson potentially winning the U.S. Open without a driver in his bag is not exactly what the U.S. Golf Association had in mind when it brought the national championship back to this 101-year-old golf course.

USGA officials regard the U.S. Open as a stern examination of all the clubs in the bag and all the various skills expected of a national champion.

Driving the golf ball with distance and accuracy is a fundamental skill associated with the game of golf. A major champion hitting zero drivers during 72 holes of competition? This is not the brand of golf played by the 25 million to 30 million golfers in the United States.

When purists argue against any form of bifurcation – or separate sets of rules for elite golfers and everybody else – they invariably say it is important for all golfers to play the same game with the same equipment.

Mickelson, who carried a 3-wood, a 4-wood and no driver in the first round of the U.S. Open, violated this principle. He not only played a game with which the rest of us are unfamiliar, but he also left his driver in his vehicle.

How many amateur golfers have played any round of golf in their entire lives without a driver? Practically none. Ordinary golfers are not capable of emulating Mickelson. They aren’t strong enough or long enough.

Mickelson added a 64-degree wedge in place of his driver. That gave him five wedges. He said he was willing to sacrifice 20 yards off the tee (hitting a 3-wood) for the opportunity to save a shot or two with his ultra lob wedge.

His 3-wood was a 13-degree Callaway X Hot 3Deep. His 4-wood was a 17-degree Titleist 980F. (Gone was the Phrankenwood he unveiled at the Masters. That unique club featured a clubhead the size of a large 3-wood with the 8-degree loft a driver.)

Mickelson’s complete bag: Callaway X Hot 3Deep 3-wood (13 degree), Titleist 980F 4-wood (17 degree), Callaway X Forged irons (4-PW), Callaway Jaws wedges (52 and 56 degree), Callaway Mack Daddy 2 wedges (60 and 64 degree), Odyssey Versa #9 putter and Callaway Hex Chrome + golf ball.

Mickelson played once before without a driver – in the first round of the 2008 U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in San Diego – and was unhappy with the results. He shot 71.

But here he was again, using the same strategy on a different golf course. It will be interesting to see if he continues to use this bag configuration in the next three rounds.

• • •

Mickelson’s bag

Fairway woods: Callaway X Hot 3Deep 3-wood (13), Titleist 980F 4-wood (17),

• Irons: Callaway X Forged irons (4-PW)

• Wedges: Callaway X Forged Jaws wedges (52, 56), Callaway Mack Daddy 2 wedges (60, 64)

• Putter: Odyssey Versa #9

• Ball: Callaway Hex Chrome +

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