It was one of the most inspired tactical club selections ever for a major championship – Phil Mickelson used two Callaway Golf Big Bertha® Fusion® FT-3™ Drivers to power his way to a second Masters title over the extended Augusta National golf course.
That Phil had two drivers in the bag was no secret – one with a draw bias and one with a fade bias, reflecting Callaway Golf’s effective placement of the whopping 44 grams of discretionary weight inside the FT-3 clubhead as well as the use of its Optifit™ System for driver customisation.
But what has remained unknown until now is that four months of Augusta-targeted planning, testing and development went into Mickelson’s second successive major victory – and that the idea for two drivers was the brainchild of Callaway Golf’s vice president of innovation and advanced design, Dr Alan Hocknell.
Hocknell, 34, from England and the pioneering designer behind some of Callaway’s hottest drivers, was working with Mickelson on the practice tee at Callaway Golf’s Carlsbad, California, test centre in November 2005, discussing the player’s success at the USPGA Championship and planning for the Masters, when the subject of driver distance was raised.
“Phil wanted to hit the ball longer to give himself an advantage over the longer Augusta National course,” reveals Hocknell, “but he didn’t want to commit to one long driver that wouldn’t allow him to hit his preferred fade shot from the tee. It was at that point I suggested using two drivers – one that he could rely on to find the fairway with a fade, and an additional, longer-hitting driver to draw the ball.”
After studying copious performance data, and factoring in Mickelson’s own astute observations it was decided that Mickelson would take a 46-inch ‘Draw’ driver and a 45-inch ‘Fade’ driver to the Bell South Classic, the week before the Masters. The result of the tournament test at TPC Sugarloaf, Atlanta, was clear and decisive – one swing, two different ball flights, 28-under-par, and an amazing 13-stroke victory.
“It started out as a great experiment, but it took on a different degree of seriousness when we realised it worked – and worked exceedingly well,” continues Hocknell. “Under pressure Phil could hit a solid cut shot that he knew would find the fairway, and then bust one out there on a draw if he needed more distance. The ultimate advantage, though, was that he could produce two different drives with the same swing – and we knew this would give him an advantage at Augusta National.”
Technically, both drivers Mickelson took to the Masters are FT-3 Tour drivers with 9.5-degrees of loft. However, the internal weighting of each club was modified to create the ball flight Mickelson wanted:
Standard ‘Fade’ driver
Mickelson’s preferred club for his stock right-to-left tee shot
Head: Big Bertha Fusion FT-3
Shaft length: 45 inches
Shaft type and flex: Mitsubishi Diamana, extra stiff
Loft: 9.5 degrees
Shot bias: right-to-left fade (5-15 yards movement, depending on hole)
Additional ‘Draw’ driver
Mickelson’s secret weapon for extra long drives
Head: Big Bertha Fusion FT-3
Head weighting: six grams lighter, slightly lower centre of gravity
Shaft length: 46 inches
Shaft type and flex: Mitsubishi Diamana, extra-extra stiff
Loft: 9.5 degrees
Shot type: extra long, high-flying left-to-right shot
The ‘Draw’ driver’s longer shaft and lower centre of gravity gave Mickelson a shallower angle of attack, optimising distance and propelling his drives the extra yards he wanted. Meanwhile, his naturally steeper angle of attack with the standard length driver allowed him to hit his stock fade drive.
Of course, Mickelson had to take one club out of his set of 14 to make way for the additional, longer-hitting driver. At the Bell South, he set aside his 56-degree sand wedge – but at Augusta, the 3-wood was taken out of the bag. Mickelson felt the course was running faster than expected and that his primary fairway wood would be largely redundant for the week.
“Everything was being done specifically with Augusta in mind,” continues Alan Hocknell. “To be so focused and targeted is unique in my experience. What was interesting is that although Phil had a game plan for Augusta, his confidence in his driving was such that he was able to hit his longer ‘Draw’ driver on holes where you would have expected him to hit a fade. Both the 14th and 17th would naturally favour a right-to-left fade, but he decided he wanted extra distance from his ‘Draw’ driver – and he got it.”
The big question is, did having two drivers give Mickelson the advantage he needed to win the Masters?
“I think it had a significant impact,” says Alan Hocknell. “Having that one swing on the tee and have it produce the shot he wanted to hit gave Phil enormous confidence and set up his entire game – and we know how devastatingly good his iron play and putting is.
“Essentially, it’s about configuring the technology to a specific player’s needs. In many ways it is consistent with the choice we are giving club golfers through Optifit and the draw, neutral and fade bias we offer in our FT-3 drivers. For better players, it’s about giving them a shot shape – for average golfers it’ll often be about helping them correct a tendency and straighten out their drives.”
Alan Hocknell says that for the average golfer, the FT-3 Driver affords the same, or even greater, benefits. He notes that research shows that approximately 80 percent of average golfers slice the ball with their driver. Amazingly, the average golfer’s swing repeats almost as precisely as a pro golfer’s swing “but not along the optimum swing path,” Dr Hocknell says. This is where the 44 grams of discretionary weight, nearly 1/4th the weight of the driver clubhead, go to work to help average golfers change their slicing ball flight to a straighter, more solid shot without changing their swing.
“Most weekend or average golfers haven’t the time or ability to change their swing,” adds Alan Hocknell. “With the FT-3 Driver, properly fit, they can see an immediate improvement. It’s all about optimising performance – which is precisely what Phil Mickelson did at the Masters, and it paid off.”