Masters 2012: Phil Mickelson's Grades Through 2 Rounds
Not only is he an engaging person and an extremely talented golf player, he plays the game the way most of us do. He is capable of hitting it all over the course, and he frequently does.
He is not afraid to try a miracle shot, and it's about even money whether or not he will pull it off.
It can be frustrating to watch Phil. A look at Thursday's scorecard can confirm that. He made five birdies, eight pars, four bogeys and a triple bogey. The last was made on the par-4 10th when he and about 150 of his closest friends searched for five minutes but couldn't find his tee shot.
He was four over par on the 11th tee and played some pretty good golf down the stretch to finish at two over 74 for the round.
Friday was a different day. Mickelson managed to make one more birdie while bringing the number of bogeys down to only two and eliminating the dreaded "other."
Let's have a look at Lefty's performance heading into the weekend.
Off the Tee
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Phil has managed to find the fairway most of the time around Augusta for two rounds.
Of course, that's not saying a whole lot when you consider how wide the fairways typically are on this course.
He has hit 18 of 28 fairways, good for 64.3 percent. His season average on the PGA Tour is 56.1 percent, which is good for 150th on the Tour. The fact that he is hitting more fairways this week probably speaks more to how generous the fairways are at the Masters than to Phil being less errant off the tee. In fact, the field is averaging 72.4 percent of fairways so far this week.
As for his driving distance, Mickelson has always been one of the longest on tour. He currently averages 291.2 yards off the tee, placing him 50th on Tour.
In the first two days at the Masters, he is averaging 273 yards off the tee, which is about average for the field this week.
While is he certainly finding more fairways than he normally does, he is actually hitting it shorter off the tee and is still behind the field in both distance and accuracy.
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Phil spends a lot of time hitting miracle shots out of unbelievable places all over the course. Because he is not the most accurate off the tee, he suffers in the greens in regulation category.
For the year on Tour, Phil is 89th in greens in regulation at 65.7 percent.
He is well below that average so far this week, hitting only 52.8 percent of the greens. To be fair, the field is not exactly knocking the pins down around Augusta. Through two days, the average for greens in regulation is only 59.3 percent.
That might not seem like a very big difference, but the difference between 50 percent and 60 percent is one green in regulation per round. That one green per day can mean as much as four strokes for the tournament. Around Augusta it can mean even more because of the often severe penalties players face when they miss the green.
Do you think Phil, or any player, would like to have four strokes back for the tournament?
On the Green
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Mickelson is second on Tour in the relatively new statistical category known as strokes gained putting. I'm not going to go into a detailed monologue about how this number is computed. Suffice it to say that he is really good at making up for his mistakes tee-to-green by making putts.
He is currently 12th on Tour in total putting and fifth in putts per round.
To put it succinctly, the guy can flat roll the rock.
None of this is news to Phil's fans. We have known for as long as Phil has been on Tour that if he can keep the ball in the fairway and find the green, he can make the putts.
His performance on the greens so far this week is more of the same. While the field is averaging 1.66 putts per green, Phil is averaging 1.42. The field is averaging 1.76 three-putts per round. Phil has only one for the tournament so far.
If Phil can get the ball on the green, it is a virtual lock that he will two-putt at worst. That means if he can find the green in regulation, he is looking at par as the worst score he can make.
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Phil is capable of any shot, any time, anyplace on the course. Anyone who has watched the man play knows that.
He is not afraid to try a miracle shot, and a lot of times, he executes. This is one of the reasons people love him.
This week, Phil has found trouble in the form of bunkers twice but has failed to get up and down on both occasions.
That he has only found two bunkers in two rounds is very good, especially when you consider that only one hole on the entire course has no bunkers.
That he was unable to get up and down from either of them is not good.
For a man who saves par from bunkers 64.1 percent of the time, that he didn't save either one of these is also not good.
All of that having been said, it is often extremely difficult to get up and down from Augusta's bunkers. The field is only averaging 45.8 percent through two days.
But Phil should be doing better.
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Mickelson is among the very best in the world at scoring his ball.
He is currently 12th on Tour in par breakers with 24.4 percent. Par breakers tells us how often the player makes birdie or better. 24.4 percent tells us that Phil is going to make a birdie or better on a hole nearly once out of every four holes he plays.
He is also 16th is scoring average on Tour with a 70.0 adjusted scoring average.
Through two days, he has made 11 birdies in 36 holes, which is 30.6 percent. His average score is 71 for the two rounds. Remember, though, this course is hard, and it played very long on Thursday thanks to rain early in the week.
Because he is Phil and likes to see a lot of the golf course, he has also made six bogeys and a triple bogey. That's how he plays. Rare is the day that Phil makes sixteen pars and two birdies. He either shoots lights out, or his round has more ups and downs than Six Flags.
That he was able to come back from that crippling triple on the 10th on Thursday to only be three off the lead at the end of play on Friday is a testament to his grit and determination.
If he can smooth out some of the rough edges, you have to like his chances on any course, especially one where he has won three times.
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It's easy to bang on Phil Mickelson. He seems too good to be true. He is a devoted family man. He has all the talent in the world. And he seems to be very genuine and friendly to fans of the game.
Unlike most superstars, he isn't afraid to spend time with fans. He seems to see it more as his duty than an obligation to talk to people and make them feel like he is interested in them.
(Does that kind of remind you of a certain guy from Pennsylvania who has won this tournament four times himself?)
The fact is Phil is in a good position to win this tournament. He has had some hiccups, but he has bounced back from them the way a great player will.
I don't think he has played the way he has wanted to, but if he can bring it all together over the weekend, he is as hard to beat as anyone.
Overall, I will have to give his performance so far a C+. He's doing what he does well on the greens and is making a lot of birdies, but he has to find a way to get the ball on the fairway and on the green with more consistency.