LAST PIECE OF THE PUZZLEA few years ago, I took a long look at my game and concluded that more consistent iron play was critical if I was going to contend more often, especially in the majors. With a lot of help from Butch Harmon, I've worked hard to make my swing with the irons sharper and more efficient. It's been an ongoing process, but I'm definitely seeing results. Not only am I hitting more shots close, my misses are more acceptable, so I'm saving more pars. --Phil Mickelson__AGE:__39 | HEIGHT: 6-feet-3 | IRONS: Callaway X-Prototype (5-iron through PW); Callaway X-Forged (4-iron) BALL: Callaway Tour i (z) | __PAR-3 BIRDIES (2009 RANK):__Birdie or better 17 percent of the time (4th)
HOW TO NAIL YOUR IRONSMickelson's shorter, wider iron swing is paying offHOW TO NAIL YOUR IRONSYou'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*
Phil's stance used to be narrower and less stable, the ball a shade too far back (see inset photo).
I look at the flex in Phil's back leg here. I want to make sure it doesn't straighten on the backswing.
When his arm is parallel to the ground, Phil's wrists are already fully cocked.
His swing was long but narrow, with his hands too close to his head (see inset). See how wide he is now.
His arms are in front of his body; the shaft hasn't flattened and dropped behind him.
Phil's hips and legs are quiet here, letting his arms swing past him and square the clubface.
Check out the extension of the trail arm. The club went down the line and is just now moving inside.
You can't ask for better balance, especially on a full 5-iron like this.
Proof that his arms haven't outpaced his shoulder: His hands peek just above his shoulder here.