A Lesson Learned: Phil Mickelson's Ambidextrous Ways Win at Colonial

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Phil Mickelson demonstrates that the key to a great swing is control.

May 25, 2008 - We will state the obvious on why Phil Mickelson won the 2008 Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial Country Club: The amazing short game, putting, shot selection and imagination. And speaking of imagination, he stocked his golf bag this week with a driver, 3-9 iron, 5 wedges and a putter. Yes, you read that right - five wedges. And then, he threw in some dramatics for effect. He hit a crooked tee shot on the final hole, hit an amazing second shot out of the trees to within 9 feet of the hole. I guess there was not too much drama at that point. He was 17 of 17 with putts from 10 feet and under for his final round up until that point. Of course, he then went 18 for 18 and made a birdie just like he planned to win his second tournament at Colonial.

By having such control over both sides of his body, Phil Mickelson can hit a stunning variety of shots.

Phil is known as "Lefty" to golf fans, but what makes Phil Mickelson a great player is the fact that he is a natural right hander who plays golf left handed. This is a huge advantage! By that, I mean Phil being right handed playing as a lefty means he has coordinated both sides to work together. When Phil is on his game, his shots will look to the observers like his club is moving faster than his body, but when he's off, it will be the opposite - that his body seems to move faster than the club.

This is a fault that I see all the time - the front arm breaks down through impact. It is commonly known as the dreaded chicken wing. The biggest misconception in the game is that the back hand overpowers the front hand-NOT TRUE! The front hand becomes so tight and combined with trying to pull the club down in the downswing with the front hand - it gets tighter - the hand is not going to release - the only thing left is for the front arm/elbow to break down to try to get the club to square up to the ball.

But Phil is ambidextrous on the golf course and that's such an advantage in correcting such faults. And believe it or not, this is something that more players should look into.

Let me give you example of how we decided whether one golfer that came to me should play right handed or left handed. This gentleman had always played golf right handed. He had been a great college baseball player who batted left handed. It was obvious he was coordinated with both sides of his body. He had not played golf for a while and was looking for new golf clubs. I had him hit shots from both sides. The swings were good and he could have gone either way. So how did we decide which way to go? I had him hit one handed shots as a lefty-shots with his right (front) hand and left (back) hand. Then as a righty with his right (back) hand and left (front) hand. Again it was close but he was more coordinated as a right handed player. He hit better shots with his right hand as a righty then he did with his left hand as a lefty.

I feel the right hand for right handed golfers should be the control hand in the golf swing. But (and I say it all the time) the left hand has to make a right handed motion. Meaning it has to work together in order to get the club into position to hit it straight. It is not a strength thing-even though the front side feels weaker, it is not - it is less coordinated and we need to train both sides to work together. Grip pressure is key here - most of the time the front hand is tighter and the back hand lighter. They need to be the same pressure with both hands and then try to maintain that pressure throughout the whole swing. On a scale of one to ten with ten being the tightest, you need to hold each hand between 3-5. Then try to swing the club without tightening the hands during the golf swing.

The left (front) hand for right handed golfers I believe has to make an extra move as it works together with the right (back) hand into the downswing. This is where they have to coordinate together to swing in the same direction down into the ball. The coordination of both sides working together - whether as a right or left handed golfer - is key to a good golf swing. The fact that Phil Mickelson is right handed and plays golf as a left hander gives him an advantage to making both sides work together consistently. This helps him in all of his shots, from powerful drives to even those tremendous towering flop shots around the green.

Tom Shea is Class A PGA Teaching Professional based in Tampa, Florida. Tom Shea Golf Schools are based outdoors at The Eagles Golf Club in Odessa, Florida and indoors at The Edwin Watts Golf Stores/Academy in the Tampa area. Tom is also the Head Boys and Girls Golf Coach at Berkeley Preparatory School in Tampa, Florida. Tom was named the 2007-2008 Tampa Tribune Girls Golf Coach of The Year. Tom can be reached at 813-728-4466 or tomsheasgs@aol.com


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