The Masters: Be afraid of Phil Mickelson's latest monster
Phil Mickelson has been channelling Boris Karloff in his preparation for a tilt at a fourth Green Jacket. He has created a monster. His Frankenstein is his Phrankenwood, as he calls it.
It looks like a 3-wood but it's a driver. Or it looks like a driver but it's a 3-wood. Or something. Engineered with hammers and tongs and nuts and bolts and blasts of electricity in a dungeon at his club supplier Callaway's castle deep in the forests of California, Phil breathed life into Phrankenwood this week and took it for a walk among the famous Augusta azaleas.
OK, pay attention, here comes the science bit. "It's 3-wood technology but it's got a driver shaft in it. It's 45 inches with eight-and-half degrees of loft," Mickelson said. "It's a larger 3-wood but you heard me say it's my driver, right? I mean, I don't know if I'm getting this clear. Our drivers are so big now but this one is smaller because it's an enhanced 3-wood. It's hot like our 3-wood. We had to put hot in the name. It's so hot," Mickelson said laughing. Enough already, pass the headache tablets, we got it, Phil.
Mickelson got the spark for this crazy invention after thrashing Callaway's new X Hot 3-wood as far as the driver he used to win in Phoenix earlier this year. "I couldn't believe it," he said. "It shot off the face." He's been road testing it for its major debut by hitting it off the tees in Miami and Houston at the tournaments running up to the Masters, where he twice finished 16th. "I asked the engineers to take the technology in that 3-wood and just put it on steroids, which is probably not the best way to say it," he said to much laughter. "I wanted to make it more like a driver. You'll see a lot of the shots off the tee that I hit will have a lot more scoot on them," he said. "Tee shots on 9 are getting to the bottom of the hill. I haven't been able to do that in years. Tee shots on 10 are getting another 20 yards."
And at the 15th, Phrankenwood has been shaving two clubs off Mickelson's approach shots to the par-five. Birdies and eagles await.
This creation is not unusual behaviour from Mickelson, who has previous when it comes to zany madcap ideas. He won the 2006 Masters with two drivers – one to hit a draw, the other to hit a fade. He didn't even bother putting a driver in the bag at the 2008 US Open, and at the 2012 BMW Championship, he went retro with a nine-year-old fairway wood.
Phrankenwood's extra monster yards will make Mickelson competitive again with the young bombers. Lefty is 42 now; he is not driving it 'out there' with the kids anymore, averaging just 288 yards in a world where 300 yards is now the minimum standard. But Augusta National is Mickelson's manor. He loves it – and the fans (sorry, patrons) love Lefty back with his goofy grin, lolloping gait and Arnie Palmer-style thumbs up to the galleries. This is his 21st Masters and, along with those victories in 2004, 2006 and 2010, he has 14 top 10s. "It comes from knowing I don't have to play perfectly to play well here," Mickelson said. "I don't have to hit perfect shots to make pars. It's not like the US Open where if you make one little mistake, it's costing you one or two shots because you don't have the ability to recover. I think that's what's exciting about Augusta National – the recovery shot." And there is no finer exponent of the crowd-pleasing wow-factor flamboyant recovery shot than Mickelson.
Phil and Phrankenwood will set off to scare the hell out of the locals in the stellar company of 2010 Open champion Louis Oosthuizen and 2010 US PGA Championship winner Martin Kaymer. Be afraid.