What will Phil do next? Apparently, he’s going to The Claw. Last year at this time, after Keegan Bradley won the PGA with a long putter, Phil Mickelson gave the belly putter a test drive for a few weeks.
At the time he said, “I feel that I'm probably putting better with that putter than I would be the short putter, so I'll end up using it for the rest of the tournament I would anticipate. But I don't know if it's a short-term or a long-term thing, but it feels good.”
Although Mickelson had won in 2011, he had not won a major championship. Six players had won PGA Tour events in 2011 using long or belly putters, with PGA champ Bradley winning twice. At the time, Mickelson was looking for some of that magic.
Turned out, it was a short-term thing and by 2012, Lefty was back to the short stick.
Now, after Sergio Garcia, who has come back from the depths of his career, won the Wyndham, with The Claw, Mickelson has decided to give that approach a try. However, Mickelson was playing indifferently and was shown so seldom during Round 3 that the change went almost unnoticed.
After his first round with the new grip, he said simply, “I had a chance to get a couple more, but for me I drove the ball well and I putted very well and I hit some good iron shots. For me it built some good momentum after a day, yesterday, where I had lost a little bit of confidence.”
When asked for more explanation, he added, “I hit a lot of good, hard cuts that hit the fairway and hit some good iron shots. But more importantly, I made some putts and that was a nice feeling.”
Nick Faldo noticed for the first time during early Golf Channel coverage on Sunday, and he actually gasped with horror. Like Mickelson had contracted a terminal disease.
The Claw, which, like the belly putter, has been known as a method of last hope for professional golfers, has been around since Skip Kendall introduced it to Chris DiMarco at the Disney tournament in 1995. Kendall told the story to the Fort Lauderdale Sun Sentinel 10 years ago.
DiMarco said at the time, “I went from shooting 74s and 73s to immediately shooting 65s again. It was a rebirth.”
Mark Calcavecchia took up The Claw at The Players in 2000 and never looked back. The next season, he won the Phoenix Open and set the PGA Tour scoring record at the time at 28-under par. In 2005, he won The Canadian Open, and in 2008, the PODS Championship. The Claw carried Calc all the way to the Champions Tour, which he joined in 2010.
Kevin Sutherland won the 2002 Accenture Match Play with The Claw. Even Mark O’Meara, always an excellent putter, has used it, but not until he was ready for the Champions Tour.
Kendall was shown The Claw grip by an amateur golfer in his native Wisconsin by the name of Bud Baker, who had struggled with the yips in his junior days. Baker called it The Pencil grip, but that name didn’t catch on like The Claw. The Pencil sounds studied. The Claw sounds fierce.
Even Tiger Woods admitted that he had tried The Claw 10 years ago. But he said he could not make it work because The Claw took his right hand out of the stroke and he uses his right hand too much when putting to be able to use The Claw. Woods said The Claw is much more a shoulder-putting stroke.
Will this be a short-term fad for Mickelson, or will he be able to make more putts with it than his traditional method. What will Phil do next?
Kathy Bissell is a Golf Writer for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained first-hand or from official interview materials from the USGA, PGA Tour or PGA of America.