After an emergency visit from swing coach Butch Harmon -- Phil Mickelson turned his game around just in time to capture his 40th win on the PGA TOUR last weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. It was pretty neat on Sunday at Pebble Beach seeing the two American superstars -- Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods playing in the same group, and props to Charlie Wi for hanging tough after a very difficult start to get solo second.
Butch and Phil have been doing a lot of work on maintaining the amount of flex in Mickelson's trail knee during the backswing. Phil has a tendency to allow his trail knee to straighten too much during the backswing, which allows for too much range of motion in the trail hip. These movements create a foundation for the swing to get too long at the top, resulting in a more inconsistent strike at impact.
This weekend, you could see Mickelson do a much a better job maintaining more flex in the trail knee, allowing for a more compact backswing and repeatable impact position. This dynamic, countered with perhaps some colder weather, is just what Mickelson needs to pull the reigns back and play the type of consistent golf we saw on Sunday.
One of the drills I like to do when working on the body is simulating the body motion using a mirror. Set up in front of a mirror with the club lying across your sternum representing your shoulder line. From here, make your backswing pivot, allowing the lead shoulder to work down and across as the trail hip works up and back. When doing this, try moving the lead shoulder so it points slightly behind the ball and maintaining your spine angle. Notice how the flexion in the trail knee will provide support to the lower body and create a solid foundation for the upper body to turn against. With that said, for those that have limited flexibility, you may need to allow the trail knee to lose a bit of flexion to create more range of motion in the trail hip; however, even when doing this it is best to maintain some flexion in the trail knee for support.
Body motion is a critical component to maximizing speed and consistency. At the TOUR Academies, we do a number of “body drills” that help educate the body on what you want it to do. Learning these patterns away from the ball and in front of the mirror can be a huge help to understand what your body needs to do during the backswing.