NEWS FROM THE TOUR VANS
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It must be among the most unique gear-related decisions in Masters history.
Back in 2006, Phil Mickelson won his second green jacket by implementing a seldom-used equipment strategy – he went with two 9.5-degree Callaway Big Bertha Fusion FT-3 drivers.
Before that year’s tournament, Augusta National had been lengthened by 155 yards. That additional challenge, coupled with the course’s many doglegs that require curving the ball each way, led Mickelson to the concept of having one driver to hit fades and another to hit draws.
The driver setup relied mainly on differing lengths. The first driver, the “draw-biased” club, was lengthened to 46 inches and had an internal weight inside the clubhead repositioned to allow him to hit the ball right-to-left. It went about 20 to 25 yards farther than the “fade-biased” one, which had more of a standard setup that afforded him enhanced control when necessary.
Mickelson decided to put the concept into action the week before at the now-defunct BellSouth Classic. He blitzed the field by going around TPC Sugarloaf in 28-under 260, 13 strokes clear of Zach Johnson and José María Olazábal.
The following week at the Masters wouldn’t be quite as dominating for Lefty, but he had a comfortable lead throughout most of the final day and his only bogey of the round came at the 72nd hole. He won by two strokes ahead of Tim Clark, who holed a bunker shot on the last hole to bring the final margin closer than the way things felt as the day played out.
So how important was the two-driver strategy? Mickelson did lead the field in driving distance, but that was more a sign that he needed his draw-biased driver more than he anticipated.
“I needed it to combat the added length here at Augusta,” Mickelson said of his longer driver. “I started going to that driver exclusively, only on holes that I thought I would play cuts. Like on (Nos.) 14 and 17, I ended up hitting that draw driver because I needed the extra length.”
Mickelson never has been afraid to think differently with his equipment setup, no matter the stage. In the 2006 U.S. Open, he replaced his 3-wood with a 64-degree Callaway X-Tour wedge and nearly won the tournament.
His choices in club setup haven’t always worked. At the 2008 U.S. Open, Mickelson attempted to tackle a beastly Torrey Pines by going driverless. The idea was to use a 13-degree Callaway FT Tour 3-wood bent to 11.5 degrees and then also use a hybrid to help keep the ball in play. The experiment lasted two rounds and he added a driver back into the bag for the weekend.
And last year at the U.S. Open, Mickelson had a plan to find magic in the two-driver setup once again. He played the Memorial Tournament the week before using two 8.5-degree Callaway Epic Flash drivers that were different lengths and, despite leading the field in driving distance through two rounds, missed the cut. It led him to rethink the strategy, and he did not use both drivers at Pebble Beach.
Regardless of other times when the two-driver or no-driver systems have failed, Mickelson will always have the memory of the 2006 Masters.