Farmers Insurance Open

Torrey Pines (South and North)


Swing Sequences

The Kings of Augusta: Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson

Why Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods have ruled the Masters for 20 years
April 04, 2016

Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have figured into the story at the Masters just about every year for the past 20. They've won more titles—Tiger with four, Phil with three—than any other active players, and each has 11 top-fives since 1995.

Why have these guys been so effective at Augusta? Their games fit the course perfectly, and they know nothing sets up a great year like grabbing the first major. On the technique side, they're high-ball hitters who create tons of spin, which gives them distance control, allowing them to hit—and hold—the correct part of the green. That's big at Augusta. When they do miss shots, they show the skill and bravado to recover, even shine.

And then we get to the greens. If I had to choose one player to get a ball up and down to save my life, it'd be Tiger or Phil. Both are terrific bunker players, flop-shot artists and fast-green putters. Phil's greenside creativity is unsurpassed, and Tiger's is right there.

Augusta National, with its huge slopes on and around the greens, demands everything in the short game. Not many players in history have had all the gears, but you're looking at two of them. —With Roger Schiffman

I've long thought Tiger gets into the ideal address position. His knees pinch in, and he uses the inside muscles of his legs, like Ben Hogan did. Tiger's arms and shoulders form an upper-body triangle above a lower-body triangle. That produces stability for the speed to come.

Tiger is left-eye dominant, which allows him to make a huge shoulder turn without losing sight of the ball. He has a relatively short arm swing, but his left shoulder rotates well behind the ball, setting up a high launch angle. At impact, his head stays back, and he's really leveraging off the ground.

Through impact, Tiger's upper body acts as a counterweight to his lower-body drive, which, like in Phil's swing, results in a slight reverse-C finish. This promotes that super-high ball flight. Check out his balance and tall posture here—have you ever seen a more elegant finish?

Like Tiger, Phil has beautiful lines in the finish. Tall and fully unwound. Notice both players' belt buckles are dead level, and their backs almost face the camera. That indicates freedom of motion through impact and a full release of the club, resulting in big power.

The opposite of Tiger, Phil is right-eye dominant, which likewise allows him to make a massive turn off the ball. At impact, Phil's bottom hand actually loosens on the grip, proving he makes an unrestricted release. It's how an old-fashioned swinger of the club, which Phil definitely is, generates maximum speed.

As big a turn as Tiger makes, Phil's is bigger because he lets his front knee move back more. He also has a longer arm swing and more wrist cock. But Phil's moon-ball drives start at address, with the ball way up and his shoulders tilted back. It's a setup that screams distance.


4 wins
13 top-10 finishes
0 missed cuts
$7,360,473 earned

3 wins
15 top-10 finishes
0 missed cuts
$7,702,187 earned

Golf Digest Teaching Professional Jim McLean is based at Trump National Doral, in Miami.