Re-creating Phil Mickelson's famous hospitality tent shot at Ridgewood (which wasn't as hard as it looked)
PARAMUS, N.J. — It’s one of Phil Mickelson’s most famous Phil moments, and one that will likely be replayed during coverage of this year’s Northern Trust, which returns to historic Ridgewood Country Club for the first time since 2014. The A.W. Tillinghast design will be routed a bit differently for the first leg of this year’s FedEx Cup Playoffs, specifically in regards to a hole that Mickelson caused a bit of chaos on during the second round in 2014.
The hole, which played as the fifth in 2014, is known as the “five and dime” par 4, earning that moniker thanks to Byron Nelson, who would hit a 5-iron and a pitching wedge (a 10-iron way back when) as the club’s assistant pro in the 1930s. One of the first drivable par 4s before those became commonplace, it plays 291 yards, which sounds like it could be a soft 3-iron for Dustin Johnson. But the “five and dime” plays anything but soft, featuring one of the most narrow greens players will face all season, one that’s guarded by five bunkers, two left of the green and three right.
Just ask Mickelson, who pulled driver in the second round in 2014 and ended up in the most Phil spot ever:
While still a memorable moment, it’s still surprising that Mickelson couldn’t knock it on the green and at least save par. He played the hole even for the week and made the cut but did not finish, further proof that not taking advantage of the pesky par 4 could prove costly for a player’s week. That week’s winner, Hunter Mahan—yes, that Hunter Mahan—played the hole in three under.
On Monday at the Northern Trust Media Day, Whee Kim, Golf Channel’s Gary Williams, a few kids from The First Tee of Metropolitan New York, and, unfortunately, myself, got to experience the hole’s volatility first hand, including the famous “Phil was here” shot as part of a charity shootout. First up was the tee shot, and a resulting hole-in-one from any of the participant’s would have netted $1 million for charity, half going to “Tackle Kids Cancer” and half to The First Tee.
Believe it or not, no one aced it, not even Kim, who, fresh off a T-2 in the RBC Canadian Open and operating on three hours of sleep, still managed to start one right at the flag and create a little buzz among the small gallery of media, First Tee kids and others on hand. Williams, on site for a spot on Morning Drive, striped one without even a single practice swing, also coming up short and earning some good-natured ribbing from Kim:
After my hands were done shaking the camera from anxiety as I attempted to take this video, it was my turn to take a hack. And a hack is what occurred, despite my best intentions to add to the impressive $48 million that has been generated for New York/New Jersey Metropolitan-area charities by The Northern Trust since the tournament began in 1967. My nerves and trigger-pulling issue I’m going through at the moment got the best of me, leading to an all-time duck hook:
Yikes.. Seriously, I am putting Sergio Garcia’s performance at the 2002 U.S. Open at Bethpage to shame with the re-gripping. As they say, the first step to solving a problem is admitting you have one. Also, pro tip: don’t allow the “I’m probably going to duck hook this in front of all these people” thought enter your mind before the duck hook occurs. Can’t help your chances of avoiding said duck hook.
As for the three First Tee participants, a strong showing from both 17-year-old Cameren Dawkins and 18-year-old Tyler Kim, who boldly went with long irons from the forward tee. Neither reached the green, but both found the fairway with a baby draw. Dawkins, who is set to play in this year's Pure Insurance Championship at Pebble Beach alongside a PGA Tour Champions player, is heading into his senior year at Union Catholic High School, where he plays on the varsity golf team. Kim, now an alumnus of the First Tee of Metropolitan New York, played at Pebble a year ago alongside Joey Sindelar, who offered Kim a great breathing tip when he noticed Tyler was nervous early in the round, telling him to close his eyes right before he hit and take a deep breath for a total of 10 seconds, and then hit the shot. If only Kim had mentioned this before I stepped up to the tee.
The real fun began up near the green in the hospitality tent, where it was time to recreate Phil’s shot, with some added challenges. For starters, Phil had a pretty clear path to the green upon second viewing of the video. On Monday, those who got a chance faced a narrow window, not to mention the pole positioned directly in your backswing. But we persevered, including Whee and yours truly, finding the green with relative ease with just one try. No big deal:
With a few second and third tries, just about all of the First Tee participants who took a swipe at the "Phil was here" shot hit the green, including one kid that nearly jarred it on the fly on his first try. Of course, it was the first shot I stopped filming for, adding to the legend.
Overall, it was a fun day at Ridgewood, which has proven to be one of the better host sites since the inception of the FedEx Cup Playoffs. This year's event should provide plenty of excitement as well, and with the way Phil's season has gone, who knows, maybe the New York/New Jersey crowd will be treated to some more Mickelsonian chaos at the short par-4 12th.