Belly Putter Takes Backseat to Lefty’s Ballstriking
By Stephanie Wei under FedEx Cup

Phil's 63: Not a belly revolution

Phil Mickelson fired an eight-under 63 Sunday morning to surge up the leaderboard at the Deutsche Bank Championship. There’s been quite a bit of chatter regarding his decision to play with the belly putter this week, but his great round today wasn’t necessarily due to his prowess on the greens.

The longest putt he made was an eight-footer on No. 11 for birdie, but he also didn’t miss any short putts or any within eight feet — the distance he was struggling from — which perhaps can be credited to the belly putter.

“It was a good ball-striking round,” said Mickelson after his round. “It was one of the best I’ve had. Putting-wise, the longest birdie I made was an eight-footer on 11 and then the next was four feet on 10. I had a couple of two-putt birdies and tap-ins. And then I holed out on 12.”

Mickelson pushed his drive to the left and from 173 yards in the thick rough, he holed out for eagle with a 7-iron.

“On 12 it was the one bad drive I hit,” he said. “The first two days I’d been leaving them out left. It was one time I left the drive out a little bit left and it was in the thick rough. Obviously it was a lucky shot, but I was just trying to get it to the middle of the green, and with the stance I had, it was going to hook quite a bit. It hooked a little bit more and it went in. It was fun to see.”

Mickelson admitted that he’d been focusing his practice on the trying to adjust to the belly rather than hitting balls, but he spoke to swing coach Butch Harmon last night and sorted things out. Lefty only needed to make a slight adjustment because he’d been “striking it well.”

“After last week’s Barclays event I spent only time on putting and trying to get that down for this week,” said Mickelson. “I neglected my ball-striking a little bit and consequently I didn’t hit it very well the first two days.”

Though he didn’t miss any short putts (which have been costly at times in recent years), he still doesn’t sound completely sold on the belly.

“I need to spend a little more time on the long putter and I’ll probably do that in the off-season,” said Mickelson. “It comes off at a different speed. It’s a lot heavier, so it’s taking some adjustment from me on the breaking putts. But on the straight putts it’s great because it seems to start the ball on line very easily.”

Asked if he would continue to use the long putter for the remainder of the season, Mickelson wasn’t sure.

“I think there’s some things I really like about it, and there’s some things that are challenging,” he said. “I’m not sure what I’ll do at the start of the year next year, but my curiosity was very high, especially after not putting great last week. I may experiment some more with it tomorrow or Chicago, I may not. I’m just not sure.

“But it was fun to play well and hit some shots and finally shoot a low number.”

(AP Photo/Michael Dwyer)