It is irresistible.
Watching Phil Mickelson navigate a golf course is like watching an artist paint a masterpiece … but with bold strokes.
So I couldn’t help but watch the other day when I discovered that Lefty was playing in the Fortinet Championship at Silverado. Golf Channel certainly knew he was there and was going to show every single shot.
What a treat, and not just because it’s Phil. I’ve played that course, which it makes it even more interesting. I want to see where the pros hit it and what they do once they get there.
What Mickelson did with the “goalpost shot” on No. 16 will stick with me for a while. (See it here.) It’s a great barometer for what kind of player you are.
It was the one where he had to figure out how to advance his ball through some trees – set up like goalposts – about 50 yards in front of him. It’s a shot I’ve faced more times than I care to remember.
If the trees are only a few yards ahead, no problem. You’re not going to hit it that far off line that fast.
But the trouble starts when they’re at least 15 or 20 yards in front of you, and Phil had a lot more than that. You might hit a perfect shot that ends up in more trouble or even out of bounds. Phil said his ball probably would have gone in the water if he had misfired.
The shot selection alone defines the player. Do you …
Not even try it and instead punch out sideways through the much bigger opening?
Be a little more aggressive with that punchout by trying to hook the ball for distance through that larger gap? (That would have been my first thought.)
Attempt a very conservative punchout through the trees designed to advance the ball just beyond them but with a better chance of missing them?
Hit a more aggressive 3-iron off your back foot, hoping to advance the ball as far as possible down the fairway? (That’s probably what I would have ended up doing, maybe foolishly.)
Or, if you’re Phil Mickelson, you hit driver off the deck and absolutely crush one between the trees, get it close to the green and make birdie on the par-5.
That’s Phil. That’s why we watch.
“How many players would do that?” TV host Terry Gannon wondered out loud.
“None,” analyst Trevor Immelman responded. “That would be zero.”
Mickelson had another adventure on the 18th hole, where he hit his tee shot far to the right, tried a seemingly impossible 4-wood over the trees, hit it into an eating area perilously close to the out of bounds, received an extremely fortunate free drop on the other side of the trees, back in play, and was able to pitch up to the green from there.
Better yet, it was if he was telling the rules official how it should work. He was behind the grandstand, an immovable obstruction, so the relief was way to the left, inside the grandstand. He probably knew all that when he hit the shot.
On a course that has some trees, we’re going to face similar shots. Every time I do, I think of Mickelson.
WWPD – What Would Phil Do?
And then I dial down from there, because I can’t do what he does.
But it points out yet one more thing I love about our great game: the creativity.
You can hit that shot any number of ways, just as an artist can go in any direction with the brush.
It’s up to you. You have to measure it. You have to make a decision. And you have to own the result.
Sometimes, it will be the shot that defines a round, just as that shot was what stood out for Phil Mickelson.