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February 5 2013

9:30 AM

On the Mark: Don't overreact

By Mark Immelman, Special to PGATOUR.COM

Phil Mickelson brought his electrifying best to Phoenix and led wire-to-wire to win the Waste Management Phoenix Open by four shots. It was a result that was never really in doubt after he surged to a four-stroke lead thanks to an opening-round 60 that was nearly a 59 and included 11 birdies. The rest of the week was much of the same.

Statistically, Mickelson was without peer. He led the field in greens hit in regulation with 63 of 72 hit. Not only did he hit his targets, he got the ball close to the hole. At one point, he was averaging a mere 20 feet from the cup per approach shot. Mickelson was also pretty sporty with the flat-stick. He averaged 27.5 putts per round and ranked fifth in the field in strokes gained-putting. He was 40-for-40 from inside 3 feet and was 60-for-65 on putts of 10 feet or less.

What a difference a week makes.

Just a few days earlier, Mickelson shot a lackluster four-round total of even-par 288 to tie for 51st at Torrey Pines, 14 strokes behind Tiger Woods. Mickelson's play was littered with errors from tee to green and on more than a few occasions he missed short putts on the Poa Annua greens.

It begs the question, “What did he do differently? Why the sudden change in fortune?”

Mickelson’s response was telling and it bears a lesson for us all: “Certainly tying for 37th and 50-something doesn't really indicate this kind of play coming the next week, I understand that, but it did not feel far off. I felt like I was ready to click.” 

Mickelson knew that despite his average fortune his game was sharp and there was no need for concern or overreaction. The day before the tournament, he solicited the advice of his swing coach, Butch Harmon, and in a little more than an hour they made one minor “tweak” to his take-away and the swing began to click. The fine adjustment coupled with a driver change was the catalyst to the Hall-of-Famer notching up his 41st victory.

What you can learn from Mickelson: When things aren’t going completely according to plan it is not always necessary to enact major change. During times of adversity it is important to maintain a balanced and clear-minded approach. Resist every urge to make knee-jerk and reactionary changes in the hope of finding something that will hopefully work. Sometimes it just takes a revisit to your fundamentals -- perhaps with that person, instructor or pro whose opinion and eye you trust -- to find that little something that was off-kilter.

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