ORLANDO, Fla. – Phil Mickelson’s trip to Bay Hill Club & Lodge was a littler shorter than he expected.
A Wednesday pro-am followed by some of his worst golf of the young PGA Tour season with rounds of 73-79-151 (far off the projected cut line of 2-over, 146), Mickelson is on his way to see Butch Harmon on a mission to find his game.
“Obviously I played terrible and I deserved to shoot a score like this,” Mickelson said after his worst round since a first-round 79 at the Memorial last year. “But I felt like if I hit good shots, I could make birdies. I thought the setup was great.’
The process of playing two tournaments with less than his best effort and then a solid third week is not uncommon for Mickelson.
He started the year struggling at the Humana Challenge and the Farmers Insurance Open, where he finished T-37 and T-51, respectively. Then he put on a clinic of ball striking and short-game prowess in winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open by four shots on a week when he nearly broke 60 in the first round.
After his victory in the desert, Mickelson started a familiar pattern of playing poorly for two events with a T-60 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where he was the defending champion.
He followed with a T-21 at the Northern Trust Open and a T-3 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship.
Two weeks ago at Doral, Mickelson was second in greens in regulation, third in birdie average, fifth in ball striking and fourth in proximity to the hole, including first in the proximity category from the rough. In each of these categories, with the exception of birdie average, Mickelson was better than or tied with Tiger Woods.
But despite all that good news from tee to green, Mickelson’s putter has been erratic.
At Doral, Mickelson had 113 putts to Woods’ 100, and the trend of struggling on the greens continued this week at Bay Hill.
“Well, fortunately they didn’t count the first one on the fringe,” Mickelson said of the four-putt that could have been a five-putt on the 13th hole from 4 feet 11 inches. “But I don’t know what to tell you. I don’t know what to say.”
As an aside, Mickelson’s four-putt was his 19th career four-putt or worse and his first since the third round of the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional Country Club.
Four-putts are also not that uncommon this year, with 60 four or more recorded on the PGA Tour coming into Bay Hill, but it’s not what you want going into the Masters in just three weeks.
“I’m glad I played because had I shown up at Houston and had this happen, I wouldn’t have an opportunity to get in the competition,” Mickelson said. “I’ll go back and work with Butch and see if I can get dialed in for Houston. But I’ve got a ways to go.”
Mickelson also has decided to go back to his old blade style of putter that he used at the back half of 2012 season, presumably the Odyssey Prototype 1x 18, and put the new Odyssey Versa #9 White-Black-White that he put in the bag starting at Northern Trust into hibernation.
“I actually made a lot of good putts yesterday,” Mickelson said of Thursday’s first round of 28 putts. “From 5 feet in, I was not good, but outside of 5 feet, I was really good. So I’m not sure what exactly, other than just practicing and spending a little time.”