DORAL, Fla. -- Stop me if you've heard this one before.
World No. 3 Phil Mickelson is again playing around with the club composition in his bag, and on Thursday at the CA Championship, he went with a pair of drivers in his arsenal.
"If I could hit one," he cracked off the air to the Golf Channel, "I wouldn't need two." When he informed Butch Harmon of the game plan before the round, his noted swing coach was ready with the barb.
"Well, you won the Masters with two drivers in the bag," Harmon said. "Which is way better than no drivers."
That's a reference to Mickelson's admittedly crazy tactic at the 2008 U.S. Open, when he ditched the big stick completely. Of course, Mickelson knew exactly what Harmon was talking about.
"I'm not going to tell you what he said [in response]," Harmon laughed. "But it started with an 'F.'"
With the Masters dead ahead and Mickelson sort of meandering around in a competitive haze, the letter grade for his season thus far has been, at best, a charitable "C."
|Phil Mickelson gets some guidance from Bones Mackay during the blustery opening round at Doral. (AP)|
There was a two-club wind blowing most of the day, and that's not a crack about his double-driver scheme. Even with the two howitzers, he hit three of 14 fairways. Maybe he could add a driver that goes straight?
Just kidding, sort of. One driver was set up to hit soaring bombs, the other to hit low bullets. At times, he did exactly that, like when he hit a 377-yard missile off the 14th tee that left him a 65-yard half wedge to the green. Had the shot had any more hang time, he would have needed FAA clearance from nearby Miami International.
The cracks about his club selection aside, the most notable development for Mickelson was that a few putts actually started to find the plastic cup. After making everything last fall after starting to work with short-game whiz and two-time major winner Dave Stockton, the start to 2010 has been ice cold, and Mickelson for the first time in four years didn't muster a win in his first four starts of the season. He finally figured out that his alignment was off.
"I used some lasers and things to train my eyes and get my alignment proper and all of the stuff Stockton and I were working on started to kick in," he said.
His season needs a kick in the pants, though there have been extenuating circumstances. Last week, Mickelson and his wife, Amy, were again in Houston, where she had more treatment for the breast cancer that was diagnosed 10 months ago.
He arrived in Miami late Wednesday and didn't get to play a practice round. By 8:30 a.m. Thursday -- three hours before his tee time -- he was already on the greens at Doral, working with Harmon, trying to get caught up.
Since he has failed to contend in any of his first four starts, Mickelson said he was going to add the Arnold Palmer Invitational to his playing schedule in two weeks to get more at-bats, if you will, before the season's first major starts April 8.
"So I'll play Bay Hill, Houston and the Masters and I feel like that will give me a chance to be more competitively ready heading in," he said.
Since he went winless in 2003, this season marks his second-longest drought at the beginning of the season for Mickelson, a notorious West Coast dynamo. In five of those six years, he never required more than four starts to hoist his first trophy of the season.
After more than two decades of watching him play in tour events, the mercurial nature of Mickelson's performances has stopped being a huge surprise. But this was a year in which the window of opportunity not only was open, but the garage door was, too.
Plus, he had the car keys in his hand.
With nemesis Tiger Woods on the shelf indefinitely, Mickelson had a chance with a fast start to not only become the face of a tour that badly needed an embraceable figurehead, but to fill in the huge gaps in his professional resume. Though Lefty is a mortal lock to be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame in 2011, he has never topped the world ranking, finished the season first in earnings, won the tour Player of the Year award or posted the lowest seasonal scoring average. That foursome represents a slam that's not so grand.
Then there's the chilly start to this season amid the medical uncertainties back home.
Then again, the last time Lefty didn't win in his first four starts was in 2006, when he won his eighth and ninth starts in consecutive weeks in Atlanta and at the Masters ... using two drivers at the latter.
So, even though we might have heard the joke before, there's some silly symmetry going on here. Maybe, like in 2006, the last laugh will be on us.