Sunday, January 30, 2011
Phil Mickelson's Lay-Up Was the Right Call
The debate in the golf world over the next two days will be about a left-hander at Torrey Pines, but it won't be the guy that won. Nope, everyone will be focusing on Phil Mickelson's lay-up on the 72nd hole.
I'll lay out exactly what happened quickly, and then explain why it was the right move, not the wrong one as most are saying. Phil hit his drive in the rough on the par-5 18th hole after making a great birdie on 17. Bubba Watson, up ahead and a shot up on Phil, was in the greenside bunker, and hit a solid shot to about 12 feet for birdie to give him a two-shot cushion over Mickelson. Before Bubba rolled in his birdie putt, Mickelson elected to lay-up. Bubba made birdie, Phil needed to hole out for eagle, and he didn't, settling for a final birdie that left him a shot back of a playoff.
Now, the debate is this; people are up in arms because Phil hit his lay-up before Bubba had putted. The idea behind this argument is that Mickelson should have waited to see if Watson made a four, because if he did, he had to make eagle.
Here is my main point about all this debate - if Phil Mickelson, a guy that allows his longtime caddie ONE swing veto a year, is laying up, he's doing it for a reason. He had 220-yards to the pin, over water, from a nasty lie in the rough. Either he A.) Didn't think he'd be able to get the ball up in the air out of that lie B.) Didn't think he'd be able to stop it on the front of the green from the rough or C.) Knew he had no shot of winning if his ball was waist deep in a lake.
We all know how Phil plays golf. He is the Brett Favre of golf. He takes chances all the time, sometimes pulls them off and sometimes doesn't, but is never scared to hit a certain shot. There is a reason he didn't go for it on 18, and it isn't because he didn't have any nerve. Nope, the lie was that bad, and Phil made a decision that he probably hated, but it was the right one.
Sometimes you try golf shots you aren't sure you can pull off, and most of the time, they end poorly. Phil figured if Bubba made the birdie he was probably out of it anyway, and for a guy with the touch that Phil does, he could still hole a wedge to win.
I thought it was the right decision. He knows his golf game better than we do.
Update: Phil answered the lay-up question, courtesy of ASAP Sports.
"On 18, the grain to the grass was in. I had 227 to carry. If I hit a hybrid, the ball would have come out dead and there was hurt, so I couldn't have made it over the water. But the way my 3-wood is, the ball would have come out hot and it would have went screaming over. So I didn't really have a shot to get it on the green. I felt like I had a better chance to make a three from the fairway trying to use that bank and bringing the ball back or flying it in."