By Guy Yocom
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- While Phil Mickelson played in the Par 3 Tournament Wednesday afternoon, caddie Jim (Bones) Mackay prepped for some final pre-tournament preparation. Bones donned the heavy white coveralls, the signature of the Masters caddie, and performed a perfunctory inventory of Phil's tour bag.
The shorter clubs were with Phil and the Mickelson children (Amanda, Sophia and Evan) over at the Par 3 Course. But the heavy lumber, which has often determined Phil's fate at Augusta, remained with Bones. The star of the lineup, resting under a large white clubhead cover, was the Callaway X Hot "Phrankenwood" he's putting into play this week.
Bones couldn't tell my eyes were riveted on nothing else but the Phrankenwood. "They've got to find a way to make this outfit lighter," he said of the caddie uniform. "They make a warm day even warmer."
"Your man ready?" I said.
"Oh yeah," Bones said. "We got this." Bones palmed the Phrankenwood, which Phil began dropping hints about at the Shell Houston Open.
"The Phrankenwood!" I said. "How's it working out?"
Bones winked. "He's killing it. The ball is coming off with almost no spin. The center of gravity is high, the ball is tumbling, and isn't picking up as much mud on the fairways. Want a closer look?"
Bones removed the clubhead cover like he was presenting jewelry. He handed me the club, which I waggled, hefted, grounded and inspected. "Tell me more," I said.
"It's about the size of a driver from about 1999," Bones said. "About 250 cc's, but much better technology. Again, it's the ball flight. It has less than 9 degrees of loft, but more than 8.5. Phil's hitting it straighter than his conventional driver, and long. He doesn't bend the ball as much as he does his driver, but that's OK. He can shape it enough."
The Phrankenwood sets up nicely. The head is glossy black, sets up nice and square, and to the eye has even less loft than the 8.5-9 degrees Bones alluded to. That may be because we just aren't use to seeing small-headed metal woods with so little loft. Phil's grips are slightly oversized. The shaft, of course, feels murderously firm -- there is so little play when you waggle the club.
Mickelson has made effective adjustments with his set composition before. At the 2006 Masters, he used two drivers -- one that produced a hook, the other a fade, and drove the ball monstrously long and straight en route to winning his second Masters. He's adopted sand wedges with a tad more bounce to deal with Augusta's incredibly tight lies.
The switchups have given Phil a tactical edge and a psychological boost as well. He enjoys the stimulation of trying new stuff, and having the feeling he has something the other players don't.
"He has a look in his eye when he pulls out the Phrankenwood," said Bones. "He's excited. It might be the thing that makes the difference for him this week."