2020 Masters Choose Your Own Adventure, Tiger Woods vs. Phil Mickelson: Lefty Triumphs
Harry How/Getty Images for The Match
Mickelson wins the Masters.
Walking with the final pairing, you notice how much of a chore it is for Mickelson to pick a club before each shot. Even on the tee, he’ll toss some grass to check the wind and talk to his brother Tim, who’s also his caddie, gesturing with his hands as to whether he wants to hit a draw or a cut or a dead-straight ball. It all feels too much. It feels like he’s expending more energy on club selection than it’s worth.
And then it dawns on you: That’s exactly what he trying to do.
Mickelson is a smart dude. He loves thinking his way around a golf course, often in a less conventional manner than most other players.
Employing three drivers and six wedges isn’t just a strategic technical play. It’s also a way of keeping his mind sharp on the course. Every other player mindlessly grabs driver on most of the par-5 and par-4 holes, then hits his favored shot shape. Mickelson has so many options that he knows he needs to pick the best one and commit to it each time.
It’s a brilliant bit of self-dependence, one you continue to admire more and more as the round progresses.
Sure, if it all backfired, Mickelson would be roundly criticized for trying something new and having it fail on such a grand stage like this one, but he’ll be revered as an absolute genius if generates a new plan that he’s never used before and parlays it into a major victory.
It’s impossible to tell from behind the gallery ropes which club he’s using at any given time, but you hear the breakdown later, one which proves he needed all of them:
Cut driver: 6 times
Draw driver: 3 times
Straight driver: 5 times
64-degree wedge: 2 times
60-degree wedge: 5 times
57-degree wedge: 3 times
Lob wedge: 1 time
Gap wedge: 4 times
Pitching wedge: 4 times
On the final hole, leading by a single shot, Mickelson hits the cut driver, starting it down the right and letting it bleed down the left side of the fairway. His second shot with the pitching wedge misses short right, but using the 60-degree, he drops one to within two feet and taps in for the win.
This one will be remembered as the one where he tied Palmer for the third-most Masters wins all-time and the one where he became the oldest major champion in history. But more than anything, it will be remembered as the time Phil outsmarted the field, using three drivers and six wedges to beat ‘em all.