What's In The Bag: Phil Mickelson

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We review the golf clubs and ball that Phil Mickelson, the oldest Major winner in history, uses.

At the age of 51 Phil Mickelson continues to make history. Having become the oldest Major champion at 50 with his win at the 2021 US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island in May, 'Lefty' has now won on three of his first four starts on the Champions Tour, his latest victory coming at the Constellation Furyk and Friends.

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Phil Mickelson became the oldest Major winner in history with victory at the PGA Championship.

But what equipment does the six-time Major champion have in the bag? We asked Mickelson's club-builder Gerritt Pon, who is based at the Ely Callaway Performance Centre (the brand's R&D test facility), to take us through the popular American's golf clubs and ball.

Phil Mickelson uses the Callaway Epic Speed driver.

Driver

Callaway Epic Speed Triple Diamond (6º set to 5.5º, Fujikura Ventus Black 6 X shaft – 47.9 inches)

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Phil Mickelson uses the TaylorMade Original One Mini Driver and Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero fairway woods.

Fairway Woods

TaylorMade “Original One” Mini Driver (11.5º, Fujikura Ventus Black 7 X shaft)

Callaway Mavrik Sub Zero (16.5º, Fujikura Ventus Blue 8 X shaft)

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Phil Mickelson uses Callaway X Forged UT,  X21 UT Proto and Apex MB '21 irons.

Irons

Callaway X Forged UT (16º, MCA MMT 105 TX shaft), Callaway X21 UT Proto (19º at 20.5º, 25º, KBS Tour V 125 S+ shafts), Callaway Apex MB '21 (small groove, 6-PW, KBS Tour V 125 S+ shafts)

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Phil Mickelson uses Callaway PM Grind '19 Raw wedges.

Wedges

 Callaway PM Grind ’19 Raw (52º-12º at 50º, 55º-12º, 60º-10º, KBS Tour V 125 S+ shafts)

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Phil Mickelson uses an Odyssey Milled Blade "Phil Mickelson" putter.

Putter

 Odyssey Milled Blade “Phil Mickelson” (SuperStroke Pistol GT Tour grip)

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Golf Ball 

Callaway Chrome Soft X Triple Track

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Golf Grips

Golf Pride MCC

Callaway's Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Epic Speed driver

The driver represents an evolution of Phil’s approach to driving.

Last year, before he made his Champions Tour debut (the Charles Schwab Series, which he won), Phil decided he wanted to try a longer shaft. It made a lot of sense as courses on the Champions Tour have no rough and there’s no cut. Essentially, it was a way to test a longer driver under the scrutiny of competition without being totally penalised.

He picked up 15 yards going from a 46in to 47.5in shaft.

The common notion is that if you gain speed and distance, you hinder accuracy. For some players that is the case, but we’re learning that some players can actually gain accuracy, too. Phil is in the category of similar accuracy with significant distance gains. He’s not necessarily more accurate, but he’s certainly not less accurate with the longer shaft.



Phil-Mickelson-WITBThe way Phil swings the longer driver means he needs less loft.

When he first tried the long driver we only had Mavrik heads at lower lofts. And even then we had to hand-sort heads to find a particularly low-lofted sample. The Mavrik worked well for him; he was able to put low enough spin on the ball to produce the shot shape he wanted. He also thought each shot was predictable, too. When the Epic 2021 drivers became available we had a new low-spin, high-MOI and fast option to try.

The big left miss (a slice for a left hander) is the shot Phil wants to avoid at all costs.

All three Epic 2021 models (Speed, Max and Max LS) had things that worked well for him, but at least one thing with each was less than desirable at a longer length. He’d hit the Speed with a lot of ball speed and nice and straight, but the spin rate wasn’t in the window he likes to see. He’d hit the Max LS with low enough spin, but the left miss was bigger. And the Max was really efficient on direction, but not quite as fast or efficient enough on launch to secure a switch out of the Mavrik.

We had to put resources behind creating Phil Mickelson his own driver.

Knowing Phil’s intention with the long driver, myself, Alan Hocknell (Callaway’s Head of R&D) and the manager of the woods (Evan Gibbs) got together and decided we had to make a specific driver for Phil.

Based on the testing we’d already done, we started with the Epic Speed, which produced the fastest ball speeds and the best accuracy of the three models we’d hit. To create a low-spinning driver with the right launch and spin, we started at a lower loft (Phil’s driver at the PGA was a 6° head, which was dialled down to 5.25°), and we wanted the ability to lower the centre of gravity a little, too.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

Phil does a lot of testing and practising at home, he has a facility where he can perfect hitting his high, nasty bombs.

Unlike a lot of players, Phil lives locally to our Carlsbad HQ and Performance Centre so he pops in and out much more freely than most players. We make a lot of tweaks to his equipment, then he’ll head out onto the golf course or to his practice facility at home, before coming back for further adjustments and refinements. He’s got an incredible short game area at his house, too.

He hit it long and he hit it hard but he didn’t lose any balls, which bred lots of confidence.

The driver was ready right before the Masters, but like a lot of players Phil didn’t want to switch right before a Major. He must have only played six-10 practice rounds with the new model, which gave him enough confidence.

A draw needs to spin at 1,900 RPM, whereas fades should be more like 2,300-2,400 RPM.

 Phil’s Epic Speed looks a lot like the retail Epic Speed driver, but it has a 6° loft, 2.5° lower than the lowest loft we make. The big difference is a screw weight just behind the face on the sole, which gave us the ability to lower the centre of gravity, which gave us some wriggle room to lower spin if needed. Phil got the benefits of the extra speed and accuracy of the Speed head – he launches shots at 15-16° when trying to hit it hard – and keeps spin in a window that’s really efficient for distance.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

It can draw a little or a lot, but a draw has to draw.

The last thing Phil wants is what feels to him to be a draw swing, resulting in a fade or slice. Pros don’t like feeling as if they need to over-correct a driver swing to get the ball to fly a certain way, as that can potentially influence other parts of their game.

If Phil felt he needed to put a big crank on the driver handle or rotate the grip to get the draw he’s after, the same swing with a 5-iron could result in a hook. It’s vital to have the feel matched through the bag, which is why we needed a little trial and error with different long shafts.

We tried a 48in driver shaft, but there was less speed to be gained.

Taking the shaft to the max allowable length led to the driver feeling less balanced. As shafts lengthen the swingweight changes and some players can be really sensitive to the head feeling too heavy.

We reduced Phil’s head weight to 188g (most tour heads are 195-200g) to get the recipe for Phil’s 47.5in driver to work. Working with him on this driver is very similar to how we worked with our World Long Drive guys in the past, trying different weights, lofts, face angles and shafts.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

The number Phil had in his head was 310 yards.

As he approached his upper 40s he was frustrated by not being able to get his ball speed above 170mph with the driver. We told him that nobody gets longer with age, it’s just part of life. He didn’t believe that though. He set out on this journey to add strength, flexibility and speed.

He changed diet, his body and his technique with the driver too (he now hits up on the ball by 5°), he’s also beaten arthritis by changing his habits. By taking a holistic approach he now gets 180mph ball speed after being at less than 170mph just a few years ago. But he recognised at the outset that a lot of holes get wider at 310 yards. If you lay-up short of bunkers that need carrying at that range, you’re going to be 40-50 yards back if you can’t carry it 310 yards.

Phil may lose 8-10 yards with a change to the shaft length rule.

It looks likely the governing bodies will cut the maximum allowable shaft length from 48 to 46in. Winning with a long driver isn’t a one-off, Phil’s told me that. If the rule changes, he’ll play the maximum allowable length. We’ve got 46in back-ups ready, but we haven’t yet done a head-to-head comparison.

Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Callaway Chrome Soft X golf ball

With the ability to build a driver around the ball, Phil didn’t need the Chrome Soft X LS (Low Spin) golf ball for tee shots.

He has tried the Chrome Soft X LS ball, and his decision between it and the Chrome Soft X came down to how he liked the flight and control he gets with the X in his mid-irons and short game. He uses Triple Track for setting up and aligning on tee shots as well as putting.
Phil-Mickelson-WITB
 

He’s a big fan of Triple Track but doesn’t use the tech for every putt.

There are times when Phil believes a putt is much more about feel, when he won’t use the Triple Track lines to set-up. Sometimes it can be longer putts, others might be double breakers and if he’s used the lines a couple of times and not been able to match the Triple Track to where he thinks the line is, he’s not afraid to go back to basics.

Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Callaway Apex MB irons

Phil has always been totally motivated by the outcome of his equipment; he doesn’t get hooked on looks or shape.

It means he’s gone from playing the Callaway Epic Forged irons to the Apex MB musclebacks, which are at opposite ends of the equipment spectrum. Thanks to hitting down on the ball more steeply than most players (his swing is more V-shaped rather than a flatter arc), he creates a lot of spin with his long irons, and shots launch lower. He needs larger loft separation for his 6-, 5- and 4-irons.

Phil liked how the Apex MBs went through the turf, and how their spin rates were so consistent.

He likes long irons that launch high (which is why he originally liked the Epic Forged), so he can get the right amount of launch and spin. He also carries an X-Forged utility 4- and 5-iron (20° and 24°), before moving from 6-PW in Apex MBs.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

Phil’s equipment is very much an evolution, he doesn’t stand still.

His genius is in never letting self-doubt creep in. If he’s not playing well or has some data he doesn’t like, he’ll often tweak his equipment a little. He tinkers more than most, we’re talking half a degree in lofts and lies here and there, but he’ll keep going until he gets the results he’s expecting.

He’s totally driven by the result. He doesn’t do it as much now, but he’s the only player I’ve ever seen who likes to have a go at grinding wedge soles on a grinding wheel.

Would you like wide or narrow spaced grooves?

We offer our tour staff a choice between narrow- (with seven more grooves) or wide-spaced face grooves. We’ve done a lot of experimentation and found narrow grooves (which Phil chooses) help eliminate fliers from the rough. The down side is shots spin more, so the ball comes out slower from the rough than the fairway, so players either need to hit shots harder or take a longer club.

Our retail sets have wide-spaced grooves, and there’s usually a 50/50 split between the tour players using each groove set-up.

Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Callaway wedges

Phil felt he gave away shots by not having more wedges to hit full shots with.

Typically he doesn’t change his wedge set-up a great deal, but leading up to the PGA he did switch out of his 64° wedge. He’s moved over to a 50, 55 and 60° set-up as he feels he has more tools for hitting full or three-quarter shots closer to the green.

We redesigned the 60° together, so there’s different offset and more bounce and it serves him as more of an open face wedge.

Phil feels like he’s not giving anything up by not having the 64° wedge in the bag, which is a really big switch to make, especially when you consider how successful he’s been with the 64°.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

He swung the lob wedge at 102mph to hit lob shots 15 yards.

We analysed how Phil was able to spin 15-yard flop shots back to a pin position that nobody could ever get close to at our Performance Centre. Our launch monitor revealed how he was swinging his lob wedge at 102mph to hit shots 15 yards!

To put that into context, 102mph is enough to hit the driver 270 yards. His eye-to-hand co-ordination is like a brain surgeon; to have the face at that angle at that speed and hit the perfect spot on the face… to pull that shot off was just incredible.

Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Odyssey putter

There’s been a lot of testing to identify which putter type is statistically best for Phil.

He’s worked with a putting guru in San Diego to understand which style of putter he putts best with. We’ve made him 2-Balls, #7s, #9s this year and he has three or four 8802 blade-style putters like he used at the PGA.

Some have alignment lines, others don’t, but after working on Quintic and a SAM PuttLab, they came to the conclusion the blade was the model he aimed the best, and returned back to impact most consistently compared to where he aimed. And if you’re doing that you hole more putts.

Phil-Mickelson-WITB

The only tech on the putter is a really rough face milling.

Phil has a lot of forward shaft lean so he hits up on the ball very nicely, the stroke and the rough face milling produce a really good roll. There’s no alignment aid on Phil’s putter, and currently he doesn’t use a Stroke Lab shaft, but we are prototyping new versions with him.

The model he’s currently using is a few years old. He has a few putters of that style, all of which have been CNC milled for him.

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Gerritt Pon on fitting Phil Mickelson for his Callaway fairway woods

The long-shafted driver is not for hitting fairways, it just has to hit bombs.

There’s plenty of holes on tour when bombs aren’t the answer, so there’s a need for a second driver that he can hit and control, but that club can’t come with the distance penalties of a 3-wood.

Phil has a low-lofted 2-wood that’s a little over 44in in length. He swings it faster than a fairway wood and he hits a controlled low fade with it that runs out to 300 yards. It’s a huge tool for him, as he has to have a back-up for the long-shafted driver.

From a decent lie on the fairway he can spin the 2-wood in the mid 3,000rpms (which is the number most players look at for a 3-wood), so he can launch it from the turf and hit it 280 yards into a par 5.

The long driver has meant a shift in gapping among the longer clubs in his bag.

To bridge the gap to his irons, Phil needs a 5-wood to do the job of a 3- or 4-wood. He carries a strong-lofted 4-wood that fills the gap of his previous 3-wood. The shaft is a little shorter and he can hit out of the rough.

His 4-iron also needed strengthening (by 0.5°) and lengthening by 0.25in, so he could get enough ball speed and spin to have a 4-iron trajectory and add 6-7 yards to narrow the gap to the 4-wood.

At The Masters you need to be able to hit fairway woods with trajectory.

Phil’s long game set-up will change depending on the course and the weather. At The Masters, fairway wood approaches need to fly high and land soft, so he played the 4-wood at Augusta.

At the PGA at Kiawah Island he opted for a 1-iron as the fairways were firm and fast. He could go for a similar set-up at tournaments with a premium on shorter tee shots or where there’s a lot of wind in play. The Open at Royal St George’s could be another option for the 1-iron, whereas at Torrey Pines for the US Open, he’s much more likely to need the 4-wood, which he can hit from thicker rough.

ABOUT THE AUTHORS

Rob Jerram is Today's Golfer's Digital Editor.

Rob Jerram is the Digital Editor of todaysgolfer.co.uk
He has been a journalist for more than 20 years, starting his career with Johnston Press where he covered local and regional news and sport in a variety of editorial roles across ten years.
Rob joined Bauer Media in 2010 and worked as the Senior Production Editor of Today's Golfer and Golf World magazines for ten years before moving into the Digital Editor's role in July 2020.
He is 39 years old and has been playing golf for almost three decades. He has been a member at Greetham Valley Golf Club in Rutland for eight years, playing off a handicap of 12.

Simon Daddow is Today's Golfer equipment editor.

Simon Daddow is the Equipment Editor at todaysgolfer.co.uk
Simon has worked in the golf industry for 30 years. Starting out as trainee professional at Downes Crediton GC where he learned the art of golf club making, before going onto work for Clubhaus Plc and Tony Charles Ltd as a golf club maker, and running Product Development at Benross Golf.
Joining EMAP Active (now Bauer Media) in 2006 as Equipment Editor Simon has worked for Today’s Golfer and Golf World magazines and the Today’s Golfer website.
Simon is 46 years old, he’s played golf for 40 years and plays to a handicap of 10. A lack of club speed means he’s short off the tee, but very handy from 125 yards and in.

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