Phil Mickelson, who memorably appeared at Callaway HQ in in flip-flops in July to thank the Carlsbad crew for crafting the clubs he used to cadge his first Claret Jug, has put a TaylorMade SLDR driver into play Friday at the Presidents Cup.
Lefty apparently attempted to disguise the club with what Zak Kozuchowski described as a shoddy paint job on the SLDR’s metallic gray crown, which was curious since the five-time major champion has corporate’s blessing to use non-Callaway gear.
"Not well known to many is that Phil has one of the most flexible equipment contracts of any top player and has played other equipment from time to time during his relationship with us, and is well within his right to do so," Harry Arnett, Callaway’s senior VP of marketing, told SBNation last November after Mickelson added a TaylorMade RocketBallz club to his repertoire at the HSBC Champions event in China.
"Players play all kinds of products from competitors all the time," Arnett said then. "We have Callaway products being played by players under contract by other manufacturers too."
Before a rain delay on Friday interrupted foursome play for the second straight day, the U.S. Ryder Cup dream team of Mickelson and Keegan Bradley were on a serious roll. After losing, 2 and 1, to Charl Schwartzel and Louise Oosthuizen in Thursday’s four-ball match, the butt-slapping duo took the field the next day, alternating shots and pinning a 4 and 3 butt-kicking on the Internationals’ Jason Day and Graham DeLaet.
Following the star-spangled pair's first loss in four team-play outings on Thursday, Mickelson, an inveterate tinkerer who has gone with no drivers as well as two at a time, among other configurations, added the rogue big stick to his armory. He pulled his team’s first drive of the day into the right rough, which led to a par and the first of his team’s three lost holes of the day. But an eagle and six birdies more than offset the team’s few errors.
As for Mickelson’s club-swapping proclivities, when he used the TaylorMade bat in China, Arnett explained that Callaway was working on an equivalent club, which the company released as the X Hot 3Deep fairway wood.
This time around was no different.
"Same story as [November]," a Callaway spokesperson said in an e-mail on Friday. "Phil wanted an ultra low spin driver for the set up at Muirfield Village this weekend. We told him to play whatever he wants for now because we are working on a driver that we're confident he'll love, and that will perform better, especially based on the specific characteristics he is now looking for."
Last year, Arnett scoffed at any notion, which was gaining some traction on Twitter on Friday, that Mickelson’s flirtation with TaylorMade portended an equipment change for the popular southpaw.
Interesting to see Phil Mickelson playing a TaylorMade SLDR at the Pres Cup. He's a tinkerer so it could be nothing, but it could be a coup.— Golf World (@GolfWorld1) October 4, 2013
Um, why is Phil Mickelson using a @TaylorMadeGolf SLDR today?— Adam Fonseca (@ChicagoDuffer) October 4, 2013
Arnett responded with his own tweet to the current Twitter hubbub surrounding Phil’s new toy.
@danwmeyer not our driver ths wk. Our low/forward cg Tour driver isn't ready yet so gave green light to play whatever he wanted until then— Harry Arnett (@HarryArnettCG) October 4, 2013
Phil’s new club from Callaway will be ready early next year, according to @HarryArnettCG.
@danwmeyer Probably not but I will: Jan/Fab of 2014— Harry Arnett (@HarryArnettCG) October 4, 2013