Phil Goes Phreaking Low Phor His Phorty-Phirst Win

Phil Mickelson captured his third victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Phil Mickelson was the life of the party at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. And THAT is saying something.  Long known as the PGA TOUR’s largest outdoor cocktail party, Phil provided his most “spirited” play at TPC Scottsdale since his final round 64 to win the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. After a cruel lip-out for a would-be 59 in round 1, Phil followed with rounds of 65-64-67 to tie Mark Calcavecchia’s tournament record of 256 (-28). Phil’s victory is his third at the Phoenix Open (’96, ’05) and makes him one of a handful of players to win the same event in three different decades, including Tiger Woods; who accomplished the same feat last week at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Mickelson admitted that his new Callaway RAZR Fit Extreme driver was the secret to his great driving at Phoenix.

RAZRFitExtremeDriver

He cited lower spin and more loft that allowed him to average just under 299 yards off the tee and hit 32/56 (57.1%) fairways for the week. Phil added that the misses with his new driver are smaller; meaning that he does not miss as far left or right. It should also be noted that Mickelson also had a session with swing instructor Butch Harmon Wednesday morning. Harmon said that he worked with Phil to keep his downswing from getting too steep. Phil also spent some time with putting coach Dave Stockton early in the week. Mickelson’s claw grip was modified and loft was added to his putter. These modifications led Phil to average 27.5 putts per round and lead the field in the Strokes Gained Putting statistic, gaining 7.406 strokes on the field with his putting. In total, Phil made 29 birdies for the week, including 19 on the back 9.

The shot of the week for Phil came during Saturday’s third round. At the famous 16th hole, completely enclosed by grandstands and skyboxes and full of well-served fans, Mickelson nearly aced the 170 yard par 3. The former Arizona State Sun Devil (located in nearby Tempe, AZ) set the hole on fire, almost literally. His shot ended about a foot from the hole and Phil tapped in for birdie. His 4 shot win was his 41st in his PGA TOUR career, moving him into 9th place all-time behind and trailing Walter Hagan’s 45 for 8th place.

Other notes from this week…

…This was the 8th time on the PGA TOUR that Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have won in back-to-back weeks and the first time since Woods won the BMW Championship and Mickelson won the TOUR Championship in 2009. The bigger question now becomes what golf fans can expect from the two best players of this generation. 12 months ago, Tiger was still looking for his first win since the ’09 BMW and Phil had just boat-raced Woods in their head-to-head final round pairing at Pebble Beach, 64-75. Now it seems we are looking at a scene from the mid-2000s. Certainly the next 7 weeks will help to set the scene for The Masters with 2 WGCs and the Florida swing, historically more Tiger-friendly, due in large part to Woods’ record at Bay Hill in Orlando. Nonetheless, both Phil and Tiger are back in the World Top 10 (10th and 2nd respectively) and appear primed for a run up to Augusta and another pair of strong showings at the season’s first major…

Brandt Snedeker recorded his second straight runner-up finish in Phoenix. Sneds has moved into the early season lead for the FedEx Cup. Snedeker has improved his ball-striking this season to go along with his phenomenal putting. I picked Brandt to get his first major at the PGA in August, but I’m starting to wonder if he’ll beat my prediction…

…The Waste Management Phoenix Open had another strong attendance year, if not record-setting. Over 173,000 turned out for Saturday’s third round, always the highest attended day for the tournament, due to the final round falling on Super Bowl Sunday…

…This is the last week for players to secure their spot in the top 64 of the Official World Golf Rankings to earn a spot in the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship. Here is a list of the last five players in and first 10 out (as of February 3):

60)  Stephen Gallacher; 61) Chris Wood; 62) Marcel Siem; 63) Charles Howell III; 64) Shane Lowry;

65) Bernd Weisberger; 66) Miguel Angel Jimenez; 67) Anders Hansen; 68) Scott Jamieson; 69) Geoff Ogilvy; 70) Greg Chalmers; 71) Brendon de Jonge; 72) Thaworn Wiratchant; 73) Fredrik Jacobson; 74) Bud Cauley

…Check out rookie James Hahn’s Gangnum Style celebration after a birdie at the 16th.

…Finally, kudos to NBC’s coverage of the Phoenix Open. Normally this is a CBS tournament, but the network had the Super Bowl this year so coverage moved to the Peacock. I also feel like NBC’s coverage makes a tournament feel more important, and I can’t put my finger on why. But Producer Tommy Roy along with announcers Hicks, Koch, Maltbie, Rolfing, Jacobson, and even Johnny Miller did a great job of capturing the incredible scene at TPC Scottsdale and the incredible play of Mickelson. Special kudos goes to Peter Jacobson who was stationed at the 16th tower all weekend. The 16th is normally the spot of CBS’ Gary McCord, a Scottsdale resident whose personality is in line with the craziness of 16. Jacobson was a perfect fit for the 16th. He is certainly known for his own fun personality and isn’t afraid to crack a one-liner during coverage. Jacobson’s band, Jake Trout and the Ball Washers wrote a song in tribute to the 16th and premiered the video during Saturday’s coverage.

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