Beginner’s Luck at Ozarks National?
After missing the cut at 2020’s first FedEx Cup Playoff event at TPC Boston, Phil Mickelson decided to make a quick detour to Ozark National to play his first-ever tournament on the PGA Tour Champions.
A course that fits Mickelson’s style of hitting high bombs, Ozark National features generous fairways and is a shorter track compared to those seen on the PGA Tour. Mickelson was able to hit less than driver on many holes and keep the ball in play. He jumped out to a hot start with a sizzling 61 that included a bogey on the only green he missed.
Speaking of keeping it in play, Mickelson hit an impressive 75 percent of his fairways for the week. In previous articles, we have covered that fairways do not necessarily translate to better scores. However, if you can translate those fairways into greens in regulation, it will. Greens Hit is the best ‘traditional’ statistic in terms of correlation to scoring. Over the three days at Ozark National, Mickelson was able to hit more than 87 percent of the greens. This included 17/18 greens in round one and 16/18 on day three.
In addition to fairways, another way to make it easier to hit the green is to hit it farther off the tee. In general, the closer you are to the green, the better chance you have of hitting the green. Mickelson’s patented “high bombs” enabled him to average 323 yards for the week (on measured holes). This average would be good on the PGA Tour, but it’s outstanding on the senior circuit. Mickelson’s length and the offseason work he has put in to increase his swing speed paid off with the ability to drive key par 4s and shortening par 3s. This included driving the par-4 fifth during the final round and nearly acing the long 12th during the second round.
Hole by Hole
Using V1 Game’s “Hole by Hole” review, we can see that these two tee shots gained 0.83 and 1.34 strokes respectively. Great shots, to be certain—particularly when you take into account that Mickelson felt like he miss-hit the drive that hit the green on the par 4 and needed only an 8-iron to stuff it from 200-plus yards on the par 3. High bombs indeed.
Mickelson was able to do something this week that he has struggled to do on the PGA Tour this season: play mistake-free golf. Using V1 Game’s Virtual Coach, we can see that he maximized his potential in all three rounds, avoiding the mistakes in our three keys.
Mickelson had just two three-putts on the week. Coincidentally, both came in the final round while he was trying to close out the tournament. He also only had one penalty over the three days. Avoiding scorecard-wrecking mistakes is one of the central keys to scoring at any level and it helped Mickelson coast to a four-shot victory over Tim Petrovic.
Typically, in Ways to Win, we have plenty of advanced metrics such as strokes gained to dive even deeper into the winner’s performance, however tours such as the PGA Tour Champions, LPGA, and Korn Ferry Tours do not utilize the same PGA Tour Shotlink technology as the PGA Tour that allows us to track every shot. V1 Game is equivalent to Shotlink technology for the amateur golfer. So with no Shotlink, this week we captured Mickelson’s data using the simplified V1 Game score entry method. The feature requires minimal input and still provides significant actionable data to help V1 Game users improve.
The biggest takeaway this week is confidence and loving the game not only makes it more enjoyable but improves performance. Mickelson likely went into the week with confidence that he should be the best player on this tour and he legitimately enjoyed his time playing against some of the game’s greatest champions. V1 Game can highlight your weaknesses, help you improve, and give you the confidence to get more enjoyment out of your golf.