The Masters: Putting Contest? Or Long Drive Exhibition?
By Merf under The Masters

Tiger Woods lamented during his Tuesday press conference that he’s given away a few Masters because of poor putting — gee whiz! Johnny Miller, afterall, has coined the Masters “The Annual Spring Putting Contest.”

And of course, ever pro golfer has scapegoated putting for every event he didn’t win. But Steve Elling took a look at Phil Mickelson’s two-driver setup this week, painting a picture that screams “IT’S ALL ABOUT THE LONG BALL!” at Augusta.

“This week is the one week where I swing the absolute hardest,” Mickelson said Tuesday in an incredibly entertaining interview session. “I’ve been working out for it. I saw a back specialist last night, just to make sure that my back hangs in there.

“It feels terrific, but I’ve been working on it for some time to make sure it’s strong enough to withstand the type of rotational speed that I’m going to be trying to apply this week, because I believe it’s a big advantage if you can move it out there.”

Mickelson also used two drivers when he won in 2006 — one that was easier to fade and another that was easier to draw. This week, the difference in the two drivers is more like the difference between a 3-wood and a driver. His big dog driver has just 5.9 degrees of loft. (I would love to try that one, right-handed of course.)

Mickelson is toting the same driver from last week, where he won in Houston thanks to 18 weekend birdies. For you equipment techies, it’s a 45-inch model with a low center of gravity and 7.5 degrees of loft. It produces a lower ball flight. That’s his stock driver.

The new cannon is an inch longer, has only 5.9 degrees of loft, and features a higher center of gravity to generate a higher ball flight.

We have liftoff.

“They both draw and fade the same,” he said. “That’s not the purpose of it. I have an inch longer shaft and different loft.  It just goes about 15, 20 yards farther.”

To compensate, Mickelson is benching his 3-iron and a hyrbid.

And in a nice touch, Mickelson also promised to have as much fun this week as we would have if we got to play Augusta.

“I could easily forget, week in and week, out playing the PGA Tour, how lucky I am to play this game.

“When I come back to Augusta National, I just remember how much I loved it as a kid, dreamed of playing the Tour, dreamed of playing in the Masters and winning this tournament and being a part of it.

“All of the feelings come back when I drive down Magnolia Lane.  It just reinvigorates my passion for the game.”

Of course, how could golf not be fun when you can reduce it to swinging out of your shoes?

(AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)