THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. – Phil Mickelson has often said he owes a lot to Tiger Woods.
The 50-year-old knows Woods helped golf’s popularity soar, and with it, so did the purses and exposure for sponsorship opportunities. This allowed someone as successful as Mickelson to have a very fruitful career.
But as Mickelson returns to the PGA TOUR at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP @ SHERWOOD this week, fresh off claiming his second PGA TOUR Champions win in as many starts, he was praising Woods for another aspect of his own career. His longevity.
Mickelson has been competitive on TOUR since winning as an amateur in 1991.
“Looking back, I wish I had been a little bit more committed fitness‑wise in the height of my career… (but) Tiger pushed me to start training a little bit more, which has helped me elongate my career,” Mickelson said Wednesday at Sherwood Country Club.
During the last few years, Mickelson has significantly added length to his game despite his age, but while he wished he’d been even fitter, he says he doesn’t regret not chasing “bombs” earlier in his career. As Bryson DeChambeau sets new marks for ball speed and distance, Mickelson says it just wouldn’t have been feasible in his time.
“During the prime of my career we really didn’t have launch monitors, so we weren’t able to dial a lot of this stuff in. A lot of this was by feel and seeing the ball and using vision to see, oh, it’s spinning too much, it’s floating. We didn’t have the precision to dial things in the way we do now,” Mickelson said.
”Now guys that are hitting it in the 180‑mile‑an‑hour ball speeds are getting pushed to go to the 190s because of Bryson and a lot of guys have to do that to keep up.”
While Mickelson will continue to work on the speed that is comfortable for him and his play, the 44-time TOUR winner is mindful of accuracy with driver. It has been a problem for him throughout his career.
“I actually feel there’s a point of diminishing return about 182‑ to 185‑mile‑an‑hour ball speed. I think once you get over that, I don’t know if you’re really getting out of it what you put in, meaning a lot of courses won’t allow for that advantage to be taken if you get in the 190s,” Mickelson explained.
“Holes dogleg, you have tighter landing areas, there’s only a couple holes a golf course where it can really help you and I feel like most guys are already at that optimum distance of 182‑ to 185‑mile‑an‑hour ball speed.”
The veteran is full of confidence again after another victory against his former foes. He became just the third player to win in his first two starts on the PGA TOUR Champions with a win in the Dominion Energy Charity Classic last weekend. But he knows he needs to step it up to compete on the PGA TOUR.
“I’m excited to compete and come off of last week’s event on (PGA TOUR Champions) and try to play, compete against the young guys. This is a fun opportunity for me,” he said.
“It’s been really fun for me to play and compete on (PGA TOUR Champions), a lot more so than I thought it would be. I’m surprised how much fun I’m having, how much fun it is to see some of the same guys that I’ve seen for so many years and haven’t had a chance to be with them for a number of years now. I seem to get a little bit of confidence and I’m hoping to bring that over into this event.
“But the penalty for a miss is much more severe on the regular TOUR, the pin placements are a little bit more difficult. The length isn’t as different as I thought. We play the back tees on the Champions Tour and it can play every bit as long, but the courses out here are a lot more penalizing. I have to be a little bit more precise.”
Source: PGA tour