2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Lefty at the Crossroads
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
“Ugh, it’s in the bunker!”
Mickelson often likes to bill himself as the smartest guy in the room — remember that pavlova story from earlier? — but two swings into his round, you’re already wondering if he outsmarted himself this time.
He carried two drivers at the 2006 Masters, then employed that same strategy for last year’s Memorial Tournament. He played the 2008 U.S. Open without one, replaying that plan during the 2017 Open Championship. And he carried five wedges while winning at Colonial in 2008, again doing so at the U.S. Open and PGA Championship five years later.
There are few players in the history of the game who have tinkered with their tools as much as Lefty, who owns a storied history of not only employing varied equipment, but putting this equipment into play during crucial weeks.
Still, you have to wonder whether going with six wedges was a little overboard.
It’s tough to criticize when that strategy so far has led to rounds of 69-68-68, brilliant consistency on the leaderboard, if not on the individual scorecards.
This has been a very Mickelson-esque week so far, plenty of ebbs and flows, up and downs, but at the end of each day, his final total has shown more circles than squares.
Just as you start to question him, he proves you wrong again.
From the greenside bunker, Mickelson sticks one of those half-dozen wedges tight, leaving him a tap-in par. That initial wedge shot notwithstanding, you’re about to find out that he’s dialed in with these clubs today. Forced to lay up on the par-5 second, his third shot spins back to the hole, leaving him an easy birdie putt.
On the third, you do the math and realize that he owns 18 different driver-wedge combinations in the bag this week. Whichever one this is, he knocks it to eight feet and converts yet another birdie.
Throughout the week, Mickelson has been reticent to offer too much info as to which wedge does what. The driver question was an easy explanation for him, as was the question about not carrying a 6-iron or 8-iron. But when it comes to the wedges, he’s only offered the following: “It’s kind of a secret. I know exactly what I’m doing with them, but I don’t want to say it publicly, because I think everyone else will want to do the same thing.”
As it stands right now, it appears there are only two possible outcomes remaining: Mickelson looks like a genius when his tinkering leads to a fourth Masters title, or he eventually outsmarts himself and hits the wrong wedge at the wrong time.