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The 2012 Masters champion could have easily been a different lefty

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It’s said that a player needs a break to win a major championship. In Phil Mickelson’s case at the 2012 Masters, it took two bad breaks for him not to win.

Mickelson did something neither Bubba Watson nor Louis Ooosthuizen did during the 72 holes of this year’s Masters tournament. He made a triple bogey. Actually, he made two, and he still only finished two shots out of the playoff and a possible fourth Green Jacket.

Not to take anything away from Bubba, whose creativity allowed him to make 19 birdies at Augusta National Golf Club without carding anything worse than a bogey. But Mickelson was the original Bubba, or the “Second Seve,” depending on your generation.

Pure Mickelson, to me, was the third shot Lefty played on No. 15 in Round 3 of the tournament. Mickelson bombed a drive down the middle of the par-5 15th, but his second shot bounced over the green, setting up one of the most delicate chip shots on the course. From a tight lie with water behind and little green to work with, Mickelson made a full slash with his wide-opened 64-degree wedge, which seemed like an impossible amount of swing speed for such a short shot. A nod to the gods? No, this shot went high enough to touch them. And when the ball came down, it landed a few feet from the cup and set up a short birdie putt that Mickelson converted in route to his third-round 66.

But with Mickelson, there are most always high highs and low lows. In Round 1, he found disaster at No. 10, a 495-yard par 4, where he hit his tee shot miles left into the trees. Despite the huge gallery that he always draws, no one was able to find his ball. If they had, Mickelson could have likely found a way to salvage at least bogey or double-bogey. But a little bad luck sent him back to the tee and resulted in a triple-bogey seven.

On Sunday, Mickelson had three chances to make birdie putts on the first three holes, but was unable to convert any of them. The leaderboard had changed dramatically in that short time. Oosthuizen holed out for double eagle on No. 2, the first deuce recorded on No. 2 in Masters history, vaulting him to the top of the leader board at 10-under. Third-round leader Peter Hanson got off to a sluggish start, falling to 7-under after three holes, three shots back of Oosthuizen and one back of Mickelson.

Mickelson said that his strategy as he approached No. 4, a 240-yard par 4, was to hit a 4 iron either on the left edge of the green, in the left bunker or even on the hill to the left of the bunker. From there, he could easily get up and down for par, he said. But his shot struck the metal railing of the grand stands to the left of the green and bounded into the trees. A shot in the grand stands would have been fine — he would have gotten a free drop. A shot that landed just short in the crowd would have been fine as well. With his short game, Lefty would have probably made at worst a bogey, probably a par. But’s that’s not what happened.

Mickelson was in a tough spot. His ball was buried deep enough that he was forced to lift his ball to identify it. Once he was sure it was his, had had to choose between three unpleasant options.

No. 1 — Play the shot right handed, and try to chop his ball a few yards forward into an unobstructed area where he could pitch over the greenside bunker and onto the green.

No. 2 — Take an unplayable lie, which he said did still not allow him to make a backswing.

No. 3 — Go back to the tee and try again (he would be hitting his third shot).

Mickelson, as he almost always does, went with the riskier shot, No. 1. He flipped his lefty club upside down and chopped at his Callaway right handed. The ball moved a foot or so forward — not much improvement. He was forced to play a similar shot, again right handed, one that almost hit him in the left leg as it scampered a few yards toward the green. Mickelson, now playing his fourth shot from tight, trampled down grass, attempted his signature super flop, but was not as successful as he was the previous round. He hit the shot slightly fat, which put him in the greenside bunker lying four. He nearly holed that shot, setting up a tiny putt for triple-bogey six.

A conservative estimate is that Mickelson’s two bad breaks cost him three shots — one shot in Round 1 where he lost a ball, two shots in Round 4 where he hit the grand stands. In reality, however, the bad breaks probably cost him more. But the conservative estimate of three shots still would have given him his fourth Green Jacket.

Should Mickelson have gone back to the tee on No. 4 in the fourth round, which should have resulted in no worse than a double-bogey on the hole? Probably. But that’s not Mickelson’s style. Fans think of Lefty as a swashbuckler — a gambler who sometimes doesn’t know when to fold ’em. But like his flop shot in Round 3 on No. 15, Mickelson pulls off shots other players can’t, and more importantly, he prepares as thoroughly as anyone to help his imagination become reality.

A good example of Mickelson’s meticulous nature is an iron shaft switch he made during the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship. Since the mid 1990s, Mickelson had been using Project X shafts in his irons. But at Doral, he put a set of KBS shafts in his 4-PW. The change was helped by the relationship between Mickelson and Kim Braly, designer of KBS (Kim Braly shafts). Braly was lead designer of the Project X iron shaft as well, and the person that fit Mickelson for his iron shafts more than a decade ago. In 2008, Braly started KBS, and Mickelson briefly tried the company’s KBS Tour shafts at that time. He liked the shafts in his long irons, but said his mid irons and short irons put too much spin on the ball, and opted to return to his Project X shafts.

Braly and his team worked hard to develop a lower-launching, lower-spinning product for Mickelson, which became the KBS Tour V2. The midsection of the stepped shafts is slightly wider in diameter than the KBS Tour shafts (about 0.1 inch), which accounts for the difference in performance.

What separates Mickelson from other players on Tour is the way Mickelson tests his irons. Lefty tests each club individually, where as a player like Ernie Els switched to a full set KBS shafts after hitting a few shots with his 6 iron. Mickelson’s testing process resulted in him using the original KBS Tour shaft in his 3 and 4 iron (x-flex, 130 grams, tipped 1 inch), while using the KBS Tour V2 shafts in his 5-PW. But Mickelson’s shafts weren’t the only things to change — the switch also forced him to change the lie angle on his irons. During testing, Mickelson noticed that his shots were flying more consistently, but slightly to his right at launch. Braly said that this was because the new and more stable shaft doesn’t “droop” as much at impact, and he suggested that Mickelson have his clubs bent 1 degree flatter to account for the change.

“A lot of players would have seen the ball start a little off their target line and gone back to what they were comfortable with,” Braly said. “But not Phil. He’s very excited about the new shafts, and worked hard to get them right.”

Braly and Mickelson still have some work to do according to Braly to get the 3 iron and 4 iron shafts perfect, and fit Lefty for KBS shafts in his 56-degree and 64-degree wedges.

Like the game of golf itself, equipment changes seem to be a never-ending quest for perfection for Mickelson. After all, he’s the guy who switched equipment sponsors shortly before the 2004 Ryder Cup, played two drivers when he won the 2006 Masters and played the 2008 U.S. Open without a driver in the bag. He’s not scared to try any club, and likewise, not scared of any shot.

This week Mickelson should have won his fourth Masters title, but for one reason or another, it wasn’t meant to be. But one thing’s for sure — at 41, he’s still trying to get better. And win or lose, he’s always fun to watch.

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

You can follow Zak on Twitter @zakkoz.

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Zak is the Editor-in-Chief of GolfWRX.com. He's been a part of the company since 2011, when he was hired to lead GolfWRX's Editorial Department. Zak developed GolfWRX's Featured Writer Program, which supports aspiring writers and golf industry professionals. He played college golf at the University of Richmond (Go Spiders!) and still likes to compete in tournaments. You can follow Zak on Twitter @ZakKoz, where he's happy to discuss his game and all the cool stuff that's part of his job.

6 Comments

6 Comments

  1. Jim England

    Jun 18, 2012 at 9:36 am

    Please answer with projected cost!

  2. Jim England

    Jun 18, 2012 at 9:30 am

    See above!

  3. Jim England

    Jun 18, 2012 at 9:27 am

    I would like to be fitted for a full set of KBS Tour V.2 X-Flex Shafts. 4 thru PW. and three pitching wedge’s.

    What would be the price for this fit?

    I live in St Petersburg, Florida, is there a pro-shop close by?

    Thanks.
    Jim

  4. Jim

    Apr 14, 2012 at 8:17 am

    I was right under Phil’s ball on # 4… if it hadn’t hit that high on the stands it would have still have most likely ended up in the same place. Same said if it had hit the hill… it slopes severely right to where his ball ended up.

    I was very surprised the bamboo thicket wasn’t marked as a hazard… it certainly looks like a bog down there.

    Anyways his ball was left and going letter… he didn’t get a bad break.

  5. Pingback: The 2012 Masters champion could have easily been a different lefty « wgtgolf

  6. Pingback: The 2012 Masters champion could have easily been a different lefty | Augusta Blog

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Courses

Barnbougle Dunes: World Class Golf

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We arrived to Launceston Airport in Tasmania just before sunset. Located on the Northeast Coast of Australia’s island state, Tasmania, Barnbougle is almost as far from Sweden as it gets… yet it immediately felt like home when we arrived.

Launceston Airport, Tasmania. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The drive from the airport was just over an hour, taking us through deep forests and rolling hills before we arrived to Barnbougle Golf Resort, which consists of two courses — The Dunes and Lost Farm — a lodge, two restaurants, a sports bar and a spa. Unfortunately, it was pitch black outside and we couldn’t see much of the two courses on our arrival. I would like to add that both Johan and I were extremely excited about visiting this golf mecca. We later enjoyed a tasty dinner at the Barnbougle Lost Farm Restaurant before we called it a day.

The locals at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

The next day, we woke up early and got out to The Dunes Course as very first guests out. Well, to be quite honest, we weren’t actually the first out. There were a few locals — Kangaroos, lots of them — already out on the course. The natural landscape at Barnbougle is fantastic and my cameras almost overheated with the photo opportunities. After two intense hours of recording videos and producing photos both from ground, we headed back to Lost Farm for a wonderful breakfast (and view). After our breakfast, it was time to try our luck.

“Tom’s Little Devil.” Hole No.7 at Barnbougle Dunes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Before describing our experience playing the courses, I would like to mention about Richard Sattler, a potato farmer and owner of Barnbougle. In the early 2000’s, Richard was introduced to U.S. golfing visionary Mike Keiser, who had heard about his amazing stretch of farmland in Tasmania and came down to visit. Mike convinced Richard that Barnbougle (which at that stage was a potato farm and still grows potatoes and raises cattle today) might be perfect for creating a top quality golf course.

After an introduction to well renowned golf architect Tom Doak and the formation of a partnership with former Australian golf pro and golf architect Mike Clayton, the development of the Barnbougle Dunes Course commenced.

The walk between the 3rd and 4th holes. (C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Featuring large bunkers dotted between fun rolling fairways shaped from the coastal dunes, Barnbougle Dunes offers the golfer some tough challenges, in particular on the first nine. This is indeed a course that will entertain all kinds of golfers.

After our round, we looked back at some fantastic highlights such as playing the iconic 7th hole, a short par-3 called ”Tom’s Little Devil,” as well as the beautiful par-4 15th. We were just two big walking smiles sitting there in the restaurant to be honest. Lets also not forget one of the biggest (and deepest) bunkers I’ve seen at the 3rd hole. The name of the bunker is “Jaws.” Good times!

As a small surprise for Johan, I had arranged a meeting after our round with Richard Sattler. Richard, ever the farmer, entered the car parking just in front of the clubhouse in a white pick-up van with a big smile un his face. We talked to Richard for almost 30 minutes. He is an extremely humble man and left such a warm impression on us. Richard explained the Barnbougle story: how it all began and the property today.

To me, this is a high-end golf destination offering something very unique with two world-class courses in Barnbougle Dunes and Barnbougle Lost Farm, both ranked in the top-100 greatest golf courses by Golf Digest and Golf Magazine (U.S.). With the courses located just next to each other, it’s probably one of the best golf resorts you can find down under and a golf resort that I would like bring my hardcore golfing friends to visit. Everything here is exceptional with the resort providing spacious rooms, comfy beds, good food and spectacular views.

(C) Jacob Sjöman. jacob@sjomanart.com

Barnbougle Dunes is a real treat to play for any golfer and will leave you with a sweet golfing memory. Compared to the golf courses available on the more remote King Island, Barnbougle is accessible (given Tasmania is connected by better flight connections) and the hospitality and service at is much more refined.

The golf resort is one of the absolute best I’ve been to. I can also highly recommend playing Barnbougle Dunes; I had great fun and you can play it in many ways. Tomorrow, we will be playing and experiencing the other course at Barnbougle: Barnbougle Lost Farm, a Bill Coore/Ben Crenshaw course with 20 (!) holes.

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Podcasts

Geoff Shackelford and Louis Oosthuizen join our 19th Hole podcast

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Louis Oosthuizen and Geoff Shackelford join our 19th Hole this week. Oosthuizen talks about his prospects for the 2018 season, and Shackelford discusses Tiger’s setback at the 2018 Genesis Open. Also, host Michael Williams talks about the PGA Tour’s charitable efforts in the wake of tragic events in Parkland, Florida.

Listen to the podcast below on SoundCloud, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: 2018 Honda Classic

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It’s off to Florida this week for the Honda Classic, as the lead up to the year’s first major continues. PGA National has been the permanent home of this event since 2007, and it has proved to be one of the most demanding courses on Tour since then. The golf course measures just under 7,200 yards, but it is the often blustery conditions combined with the copious amount of water hazards that make this event a challenge. There is also the added factor of “The Bear Trap,” a daunting stretch of holes (Nos. 15-17) that are arguably the most difficult run of holes we will see all year on the PGA Tour.

Ball strikers have excelled here in the past, with Adam Scott, Sergio Garcia and Rory McIlroy all boasting fine records at PGA National. The par-70 golf course contains six long Par 4’s that measure over 450 yards, and players will be hoping that the wind isn’t too strong — when it does blow here, the course can turn into a brute. Last year, Rickie Fowler posted 12-under par to win the event by four strokes over Morgan Hoffmann and Gary Woodland. It was the first time in the last five years that the winning score reached double digits.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Rickie Fowler 8/1
  • Rory McIlroy 10/1
  • Justin Thomas 11/1
  • Sergio Garcia 18/1
  • Tyrrell Hatton 28/1
  • Tommy Fleetwood 30/1
  • Gary Woodland 30/1

Previous champions Rickie Fowler and Rory McIlroy are sure to be popular picks this week, but it’s Justin Thomas (11/1, DK Price $11,300) who I feel offers slightly more value out of the front runners. Thomas has begun the year well, finishing in the top-25 in all four events he has played. The numbers show that his game is getting better all the time. His iron play has steadily improved, picking up more Strokes for Approaching the Green week by week. Last week he gained six strokes approaching the green at the Genesis Open, which was fourth in the field.

At the ball strikers’ paradise, Thomas fans will be glad to know that he ranks fourth in the field for Ball Striking over his last 12 rounds. He is also ranked fourth for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green and second in Strokes Gained Total. Comparatively, neither Fowler nor McIlroy rank inside the top-50 for ball striking and the top-40 for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green over the same period.

Thomas’ accuracy on his approaches has been sensational lately. He leads the field in Proximity to the Hole for his past 12 rounds, and on a golf course that contains many long par 4’s it should play into Justin’s hands, as he’s been on fire recently with his long irons. He is third in the field for Proximity on Approaches Between 175-200 yards, and second in the field for Approaches Over 200 yards in his last 12 rounds. Thomas has a mixed record at PGA National, with a T3 finish wedged in between two missed cuts, but I like the way his game has been steadily improving as the season has progressed. It feels like it’s time for the current PGA Champion to notch his first win of the year.

On a golf course where ball striking is so important, Chesson Hadley (55/1, DK Price $7,700) caught my eye immediately. The North Carolina native has been in inspired form so far in this wraparound season with four finishes already in the top-5. The way he is currently striking the ball, it wouldn’t be a major surprise to see him get his fifth this week. Hadley is No. 1 in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, Strokes Gained Tee-to-Green and Ball Striking, while he is No. 2 for Strokes Gained Total over his last 24 rounds.

Having taken last week off, Hadley returns to a golf course where he has finished in the Top-25 twice in his three visits. Yet there is a sense that this year he’ll be aiming even higher than that. Chesson is fifth in this field for Proximity to the Hole from 175-200 yards and fourth overall over the past 24 rounds. With that level of accuracy on such a tricky golf course, Hadley will be confident of putting himself in position to claim win No. 2.

My next pick was a slow sell, but with the number so high I couldn’t leave him out. Adam Scott (55/1, DK Price $7,700) has been struggling for some time now. He has slipped out of the World’s Top-50, changed his putter from the short putter to the long putter and back again over the winter break, and he doesn’t have a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour since the FedEx St. Jude Classic last summer. Despite all of this, I don’t feel Scott should be as high as 66/1 with some bookmakers on a golf course where he has excelled. To put it in perspective, Scott is the same price to win this week in a modest field as he is to win The Masters in April.

There are also signs that Scott blew off some of the rust last week in LA. The Australian was 12th in the field for Strokes Gained Approaching the Green, which indicates that things might slowly be coming around for a man who is known for his prodigious ball striking. Scott’s achilles heel is the flat stick, and I wouldn’t expect that to change this week. He’s been very poor on the greens for some time now, which must be incredibly frustrating for a man who gives himself so many looks at birdie. But average putters have performed well at PGA National in the past, where it seems that excellent ball striking is the key for having a good week. Scott won here in 2016, and on his two other visits to PGA National in the past five years he twice finished in the top-15. If he can continue to improve his iron play the way he has been, I feel he could forge his way into contention.

My long shot this week is Sean O’Hair (200/1, DK Price $6,800). The Texan hasn’t done much so far this year, but he is making cuts and he arrives at a course that seems to bring out the best in him. O’Hair has five top-25 finishes in his last seven appearances at PGA National, which includes a T11 at last year’s edition. At 200/1 and with a DK Price of as little as $6,800, there is little harm in taking a chance on him finding that form once more this week.

Recommended Plays

  • Justin Thomas 11/1, DK Price $11,300
  • Chesson Hadley 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Adam Scott 55/1, DK Price $7,700
  • Sean O’Hair 200/1, DK Price $6,800
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19th Hole

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