Are two heads really better than one? Mickelson's two-driver play could catch on

Here’s is my National Post column from last week. Apparently not too many are planning to pull out their Visa in the hope of adding a hook to their current slice….

Phil Mickelson

It’s a sunny, warm day in April and the range near my east-end Toronto home is packed with weekend hackers trying to pull their swings out of hibernation. Like every range, most are swiping at the ball with their drivers in a vain attempt to emulate what they saw on the television at Augusta over the past weekend. While their swings make them look vaguely like they’ve played the game a few times, in their minds they are hitting it like Phil Mickelson, banging the big dog up the 17th on Sunday at the Masters.

The question is whether they will now start emulating Phil’s unusual makeup of clubs. Much has been made of Mickelson’s decision to use two drivers in tournaments, starting at the BellSouth and continuing through the Masters. It seems to have worked for him — he won by a stunning 13 strokes at the BellSouth and handily took the Masters with some superb play during the final nine on Sunday.

For those who haven’t already heard more details than they ever wanted to know about Phil’s drivers, the nitty-gritty is this: At the Masters he carried two drivers, both at 9.5 degrees. One is an inch longer with a lower centre of gravity, allowing Mickelson to more easily hit a draw. Balls hit by the draw driver travelled approximately 310 yards, while the fade club knocked them only 290 on average.

Of course Mickelson isn’t the first player to make unusual club selections. Current part-time PGA Tour pro Notah Begay used to carry two putters – and would putt right- and left-handed during his rounds.

But Mickelson’s move has drawn a far greater amount of attention, while Begay’s choice was regarded largely as the selection of a quirky athlete. In Phil’s case, the question is whether media articles about his double-driver decision will translate into a trend and more driver sales for Callaway, the maker of his clubs.

There is a trend of big sales for clubs used to win majors. Jack Nicklaus used a MacGregor Response ZT putter to win the 1986 Masters and sales soared. Payne Stewart used a SeeMore putter to win the 1999 U.S. Open, and once more, putters flew off the shelves. But adding a second driver is a more radical move than changing your flat stick.

Callaway is already planning some marketing around the two-driver idea using the “two heads are better than one” slogan, according to Jim Bradley, the company’s director of sales for Canada.

“Golf is such a hierarchical sport,” Bradley explains. “Whatever the pros use then filters down to the club pros and to the amateurs.”

But that doesn’t mean it makes any sense, says noted Toronto golf teacher Chima McLean. McLean may have carried two drivers in his bag when he was playing the Canadian Tour in the late 1980s and has been known to carry a long putter and a regulation putter, but even good amateurs won’t get enough out of carrying two clubs with slight variations, he says.

“If the average player thinks he can add a second $400 driver into his bag and it will help fix his score, he’ll be sadly mistaken,” McLean adds. “It makes sense for Phil Mickelson, a guy who can manipulate his swing and likes to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. I’m not a Phil fan, but this was genius. It just won’t translate to the average golfer.”

Jack Sasseville, director of golf at King Valley outside of Toronto, says as opposed to carrying two drivers, players might buy clubs with movable weights that can be altered to promote a draw or fade. According to the rules of golf it isn’t legal to alter clubs during a round, but that’s not likely to stop golfers, Sasseville adds.

“Ninety-eight percent of the amateurs I know don’t play by the rules anyway, so it wouldn’t surprise me to see them alter their drivers during a game,” he said.

So what about the weekend duffers banging balls at the Toronto range this week? Are they planning on adding another driver to their bag to be a little bit more like Phil?

The answer seems to be a resounding “no.”

“I can’t hit the one I’ve got,” says one hacker, hitting a Ping driver one matt over from me. “Why would I want to spend $400 to add another?”

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Robert Thompson

A bestselling author and award-winning columnist, Robert Thompson has been writing about business and sports, and particularly golf, for almost two decades. His reporting and commentary on golf has appeared in Golf Magazine, the Globe and Mail, T&L Golf and many other media outlets. Currently Robert is a columnist with Global Golf Post, golf analyst for Global News and Shaw Communications, and Senior Writer to ScoreGolf. The Going for the Green blog was launched in 2004.

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