Phil Makes Split Decision
By Stephanie Wei under PGA Tour

Early in Phil Mickelson’s first round at the Houston Open, he called over a rules official and asked if he could replace his driver, which had a tiny crack in it. His request was denied because the crack wasn’t large enough. Watching the telecast, I noticed Phil kept using the driver, but it was clear he was concerned about the potential crack. Turns out it might not have been a problem. He’s still switching to his backup driver, just in case, though.

“I’ll probably switch to a backup,” said Mickelson. “It looks like it’s okay. It flew fine there on the end after I thought there might be an issue, it flew okay.”

According to Roger Maltbie, Phil told him he cracked two drivers last week at Bay Hill, as well. But Phil, being the model pitchman, may not have wanted to attract negative attention to his sponsor, Callaway, so he played down his concerns afterward.

“It actually looked like the driver that was made from a stronger titanium,” said Mickelson. “It actually does that, kind of creates a little spider-like crack.  It doesn’t affect the performance.  I’ll be fine to use it. Sometimes it has that look.  The shots I hit after were great. The ball flew very well. There wasn’t an issue, but it just scared me when I looked down and saw it.”

After getting off to a bumpy start, Mickelson, who was three-over through seven holes, birdied six of his remaining holes to come in with a two-under 70.

Phil, the defending Masters champion, spent Monday through Wednesday practicing at Augusta. He says he got some good work in on Tuesday when the weather held up. And it sounds like despite his recent mediocre play, it’s hard not to think Lefty will contend next week in the season’s first major.

“That course (Augusta), the thing about that for me is that yes, I’m going there to practice and prepare, but I get excited about the game of golf,” said Phil. “I feel like a kid when I play Augusta. It gets me rejuvenated, energized, and just really look foward to practicing hard and working and playing golf.

“There’s something very spiritual about Augusta for me.”

(AP Photo/J Pat Carter)