Mickelson seeks out Stockton for putting woes
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – You won't typically see Phil Mickelson on the range or a practice green on Mondays, especially after he played in the previous week's PGA Tour event, but under a cloudless Florida sky Monday at TPC Sawgrass, Phil the Thrill was grinding with putting guru Dave Stockton.
Mickelson started the final round of last week's Wells Fargo Championship only two shots behind leader J.B. Holmes, but after shooting 76 he left Charlotte in a tie for 11th. His putting Sunday at Quail Hollow was awful. Mickelson was -4.474 in strokes gained in the fourth round, meaning that his putting cost him almost 4 1/2 shots against the field for the day.
According to Stockton, Mickelson's right hand (his top hand) was rotated too far clockwise, pointing his palm skyward. Ideally, Stockton said, Mickelson should have his right thumb on the top of the putter so the back of his right hand faces the hole.
Stockton said that he has not worked much with Mickelson this season, aside from a brief discussion they had in the days leading up to the Masters. He said he was very surprised to see how Mickelson was holding the club.
"He couldn't get through," Stockton said after he and Mickelson were done. "I want him to hit it so the back of his right hand goes right out to the hole."
At several times Monday, Stockton held the grip of a putter in front of Mickelson and then made him strike a putt and extend his hands down the line so they touched the grip.
"It's only about another inch or two," Stockton said. "What I don't want him to do is, as soon as he gets to the ball, do something in his stroke that causes him to flip the club and change the face of the putter."
Not only was the timing of the session unusual, but so was the duration.
"Most of our lessons last 30 to 45 minutes, but he's trying to get the feel right now," Stockton said.
While Stockton thinks that Phil could putt effectively with a shovel, he and Mickelson asked the Odyssey tour reps to install a new, tapered, SuperStroke JP40 grip on Mickelson's Versa #9 putter. He had been using a SuperStroke Slim 3.0 grip. Mickelson used the Versa #9 in Charlotte, but used his Odyssey White Hot XG Blade putter during most of his lesson with Stockton.
"Where he had his hands, it totally shocked me," Stockton said.
"Phil is good because he generally thinks about it before I mention something, so today's lesson started with him saying, 'I think my hand is over here too much.' You could see how much softer he was rolling the ball from what I saw at the beginning."