The Golf Blog: Did Phil Mickelson goof by using 64 degree wedge to hit right handed on 4th hole of Masters?

mulligan, 13 April 2012, Comments Off on The Golf Blog: Did Phil Mickelson goof by using 64 degree wedge to hit right handed on 4th hole of Masters?
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The Golf Blog says: Phil Mickelson lost his chances of winning his 4th Masters title and green jacket on the par 3 4th hole on Sunday. Phil’s tee shot ended up in some bamboo (who knew it grew in Georgia), and Phil elected to try to hack his ball out of the woods instead of going back to the tee on the 220 plus yard hole (click here for the video). Of course, many questioned Phil’s decision not to go back to the tee and try salvaging the hole from there. (He must have felt that he might miss the green again and end up making double or worse.)

No one on CBS, The Golf Channel, or in the golf media has questioned, however, whether Phil Mickelson used the wrong club in trying to hack out of the woods. He used his 64 degree wedge. True, the club has a bigger head than other clubs, but it also has a pretty severe angle that makes it ridiculously difficult to get a flat surface on the club. We tried it with our 60 degree wedge, and just hitting the ball was no guarantee. Phil’s club had even more loft! If you remember, Phil almost whiffed the first time and the ball squirted way left the second time. Part of it might have been the bamboo, but part of it might have also been the weird angle the 64 degree wedge lies.

Normal grip with 60 degree wedge (right handed club), from opposite (lefty) side trying to hit ball with club upside down

Of course, you could try to change the grip so the club face is straight. But the angle is so severe, you would have to be well ahead of the ball at a very acute angle. Hitting the ball at this angle is even more difficult. (Mickelson, in fact, was well ahead of the ball on his first attempt, and he almost whiffed. Part of the reason was the bamboo. But the acute angle probably made it more difficult.)

Attempting to make the 60 degree wedge straight or perpendicular to the ball, from opposite (lefty) side

Instead of using a 64 degree wedge, it might have been better for Mickelson to use a 7 or 8 iron. Here we used our 5 iron to show that it is much easier to get square from the opposite side.

5 iron from the opposite (lefty) side, normal grip, club upside down

We wonder why Phil, who is a short game genius and who probably has practiced these shots, made his decision so quickly to go with the 64 degree wedge without even any thought. The fraction more of club surface the 64 degree wedge has seems to be negated by the incredibly acute angle the club lies, especially from the opposite hand. The video shows clearly that the acute angle on the 64 degree wedge caused the ball to squirt left immediately after impact. If all Phil wanted to do was to hit the ball hard enough to get into the bunker, the most important thing was making direct, solid contact on the ball and have it roll into the bunker. A 7 or 8 iron would have given Phil a much better chance of accomplishing that task. (We also wonder why all the TV golf pros like Nick Faldo did not even raise this question.)

We also wonder why Phil didn’t consider hitting the ball with the normal club face, but simply standing with his back to the hole. That topic, though, is for another day.

UPDATE: Thanks to some friends on Twitter, we realize that our original post incorrectly indicated that Phil tried to hit the ball from the right hand side with the back of his wedge. In fact, he used the club face with the club turned upside down. Our original analysis about the club angle, however, still applies, as shown by the updated photos above.


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