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Swing Sequence: Phil Mickelson

April 2010
Phil Mickelson

HOW TO NAIL YOUR IRONS

Mickelson's shorter, wider iron swing is paying off

You've seen the dossier on Phil Mickelson's game. Massively long yet sometimes wayward. Spectacular from 100 yards and in, especially the lob shot. Pure magic with the putter. Streaky, nerveless competitor. The book on Phil hasn't changed in his 18 years as a pro.

Missing is almost any mention of Mickelson's skill with the middle and long irons, core parts of every player's game. So how good an iron player is he?

"Underrated," says Butch Harmon, Mickelson's teacher since 2007. "You don't win 37 tournaments with three majors without terrific feel and control. I felt that if Phil's technique were better, he'd go from good to phenomenal."

When Mickelson first met with Harmon, he swung his arms back too far relative to his shoulder turn, says Harmon, creating a long but narrow arc with the club across the line at the top. His hip turn was excessive, his leg action loose. Result: a downswing in which he had to "save" a lot of shots with last-second manipulation of the clubface. He was brilliant at times, inconsistent at others.

Mickelson's swing today is about where Harmon envisioned it (see Harmon's comments on each frame). Phil's backswing is wider and more effective at setting the club and his body at the top. His boilerplate shot--a high, tiny fade--is brought off with ease. "Phil hasn't lost any of his creativity at working the ball and adjusting his trajectory," Harmon says. "The difference is, he doesn't have to work as hard to do it."
--Guy Yocom

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