PACIFIC PALISADES, Calif. -- Twenty-three putts in a round of 1-under 70 Friday at the Northern Trust Open was a welcome sight for Phil Mickelson, who seems like he's been struggling on the greens early in the season. And while it's true that his putts per round average is slightly worse than a year ago, Mickelson isn't disheartened.
In fact, just the opposite.
"I have felt great with the putter this year. I have been putting better than I have in a long time," Mickelson said after completing 36 holes at Riviera CC in 1-under 141, seven behind leader Fred Couples. "I know a lot of them haven't gone in. But I have lipped more putts out and had the ball tracking on line so much more than in the last two years. I knew they were going to start to go. And they will start to go, because I have much better pace. I'm much more aggressive. The ball's tracking on my line. I can see the tighter roll. And when I miss they're catching lips. I had more lip-outs in the last two weeks, and that's actually a good sign. That tells me that I'm close."
Mickelson gets input on his putting from Dave Pelz, former PGA champion Dave Stockton and his swing coach Butch Harmon, but the best tip he has received recently came from the computer at the Callaway Putting Studio. An analysis of his stroke in the offseason revealed a flaw in his technique -- a flaw that surprised him.
"I thought I was swinging the path from inside swinging out with a closed face when I was actually pulling across it with an open face," the reigning Masters champion explained. "When I finally saw it on the computer, what I was actually doing, that the face was open, I was able to make some adjustments, and work on my alignment, work on my path, and now the ball's tracking really nicely.
"I haven't putted with this much confidence and aggression to where I can run them two, three, four feet by and feel like I can make them coming back, and, consequently, I'm making more eight, 10, 15 footers than I have in a long time."
-- Dave Shedloski