Phil Mickelson exited Quail Hollow with his head down after a soggy and disappointing finish to the Wells Fargo Championship, but the indomitable four-time major champion vowed to come back with determination -- and perhaps driver-less -- for this week’s Players Championship.
“I'm pretty bummed out. I thought that this was one I had in control," Mickelson, already looking ahead to the tilt at TPC Sawgrass, told reporters Sunday after finishing the week at 7-under, one shot shy of making the playoff. "I feel like I hit a lot of good iron shots too, and today I hit a lot more fairways and my game feels like it's coming around. Next week, you know, there are very few drivers, so I'll be hitting 3‑woods and hybrids off most every tee.”
With driving accuracy a requirement for the 7,215-yard, par-72 Pete Dye-designed Stadium Course, Mickelson, who knocked the ball all over and out of the Quail Hollow confines, will likely give his “Phrankenwood” bat the weekend off.
“I'll probably carry a driver, but I just don't know what hole you can hit it there,” he said. “So if I can hit the ball well off the tee shot like I did in '07 when I won, I feel like the other parts of my game are there.”
With a top ranking in strokes gained putting and needing an average of 26.5 putts per round last week, Lefty’s short game certainly was on target, even on the patchy, much-criticized greens slowed by rains. But, like his spotty 2013 record that includes a win at TPC Scottsdale in February, a missed cut at Bay Hill and a T54 at his beloved Masters, Mickelson has been consistently inconsistent in his overall play this season.
Despite the crush he has on his new driver and gushing about how he’s hitting it longer and straighter than ever, Mickelson ranks 63rd in driving distance and a distant 166th in accuracy on tour, though he has built his career on making miraculous shots after failing to find the fairways.
Still, ignoring his big club makes sense this week.
“Keep the driver in the bag,” Golf Channel analyst Nick Faldo said during a Tuesday conference call about the penal nature of hitting drives off line on the demanding Stadium Course.
“Leave it out completely,” said the winner of six majors, who believes the guy with the best short game wins this week, “and put another wedge in.”