After playing with a belly putter in Thursday’s pro-am at the Deutsche Bank Championship, Phil Mickelson is likely your latest convert. C’mon, don’t act too surprised! It was bound to happen sooner or later. Like I said this morning, Lefty, the ultimate tinkerer, is so unpredictable that he’s predictable.
Chances are Mickelson will have a putter anchored to his belly during the first round at TPC Boston on Friday. While he admits it feels awkward, he figured it was worth a try since so many players have had success with it recently, such as Adam Scott, Martin Laird, Brendan Steele, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley — who have all won at least once with an unconventional putter.
“I just got the (belly putter) on Monday,” said Phil on Thursday afternoon. “Last week I didn’t have any idea about the idiosyncrasies of it, and I played with Keegan Bradley, and I asked him a bunch of questions, and ended up having Odyssey make up the exact replica of the putter he has…I’ve been talking to him (Keegan) on the phone a little bit, (asking him for) little tidbits on ball position, setup and so forth.”
According to an Odyssey rep, these are the specs to Phil’s belly putter: XG Sabertooth, 46.25″, 70* lie, ski pole shaft and Winn Flat top grip.
Bradley, a rookie who became the first to win a major with a long putter at the PGA Championship, has credited Mickelson’s guidance for his smooth transition and success in the big leagues. Now, it’s Bradley who’s giving his mentor advice. Oh, how the tables have turned!
“Yeah, it is funny,” said Mickelson, who was paired with Bradley in the first two rounds last week’s weather-shortened Barclays. “You can always learn, and he putts it extremely well, and it rolls so nicely off the face.
“I was asking him questions throughout the round last week when we were paired together about, again, ball position, eye position, hands, grip, all that stuff to get it to swing a proper way. So I was able to kind of jump over a lot of the learning curve with it, I think, because of him.”
However, Phil didn’t putt great in the pro-am, needing 34 putts, including 18 on the front nine.
“I was a little shady with it on the front nine, but a little bit better with it on the back,” he said. “Look, I don’t mind trying new things. I’ve hit two drivers and no drivers, and I don’t mind trying something different. We’ll see.”
In the last few years, Mickelson has struggled with putts for shorter distances. According to the experts, I’m told the belly putter is supposed to help smooth out the stroke and cure those ills.
We’ll see how the experiment works. I don’t see the harm. After all, Phil is No. 11 in FedExCup points and the top-70 advance to the BMW Championship, so it’s not like he’s in danger of not advancing to the third leg.
Worse comes to worst, Phil can always put his regular putter back in the bag.
(AP Photo/Stew Milne)