Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach, Keith Wood, and fitness guru, Jamie Greaves, on how Phil Mickelson is still able to compete at the highest level. What can you learn from the six-time Major winner?
How Can Phil Mickelson Drive It So Far At 50?
Phil Mickelson’s US PGA Championship triumph – his sixth Major title – was one for the ages.
Much of the talk in recent times has centred on distance, and how golf has become a young man’s game.
Yet Lefty is no slouch when it comes to power, and he’s still managing to unleash plenty of “bombs”.
In fact, according to Arccos – which plotted each of Mickelson’s 283 shots at last weeks’ US PGA Championship – a big part of his success was his driving.
With an average drive of 299 yards, the 50-year-old clearly isn’t finding himself at a disadvantage off the tee – quite the opposite.
The question is, how does he do it?
Strength and conditioning coach, Jamie Greaves, says there are a number of reasons why Mickelson has seemingly been able to roll back the years.
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“He works a lot on mobility, flexibility, speed and strength training. There’s no question he’s moving better,” he says.
“Brooks, Rory, Bryson… they’re physical specimens and they can murder the ball.
“But it goes to show that if you can take care of yourself, you can still play at a high level in your fifties and sixties – just look at Bernhard Langer.”
Whilst fitness and diet seems to have helped – Mickelson has been fasting, detoxing and drinking a special kind of coffee – arguably the biggest reason why he can still drive it so far comes down to his long, free flowing swing.
“It’s quite a throwback swing and he has this quick release with the arms which square up the clubface and gives him great distance,” adds Greaves.
“It requires incredible hand-eye coordination.”
Release Is Key
Golf Monthly Top 25 Coach, Keith Wood, agrees, and says it’s the release of the club that enables Mickelson to hit a long ball.
“He gets his right side out of the way so well,” Wood remarks.
“This quick rotation allows him to lever the arms and release the club through the ball with great speed.
“Ultimately the delivery of the club is down to his pure talent.
“He does lift his right heel off the ground and whilst that means his legs are more active and the foundations a little weaker, it helps with this terrific hip and torso turn.
“I would imagine he’s also been working on pushing up through the lead leg, so he’s hitting up on the ball and using the ground forces much better.
“This is a very modern, biomechanical action that most of the long drivers are doing nowadays in different forms.”
Free Flowing Phil
It’s one thing being able to crank it up a notch and hit the odd long drive, but Wood sees no reason why he can’t continue to hit the ball impressive distances for a number of years.
“He’s reaping the benefits today from the fact that he’s always had this free flowing, loose swing,” he adds.
“Coupled with his focus on strength and fitness, it’s giving him this wonderful full action.
“He looked to be swinging nicely within himself at Kiawah, and I believe he can push it a bit more when he has to – perhaps on more forgiving courses.
“Knowing when he can and where his miss would be if he did is another of his talents.”
What About The Fasting?
As for the coffee, the fasting and the hyperbaric chambers, Greaves would urge anyone looking to copy Mickelson to do their research.
“From a purely athletic performance point of view, fasting would probably not correlate particularly well with increases in performance,” Greaves explains.
“However, who am I to question a six-time Major winner?”
Mickelson says the reason for his 36-hour fasts is to help reduce inflammation in his body, which improves his recovery.
If he’s feeling better than ever, just how long might he be able to carry on competing at the highest level?
“Clearly what he’s doing is working for him,” adds Greaves.
“One of the most impressive aspects of his performance at the US PGA Championship was his mental focus.
“He was walking slower and if you went into meditation principles, slowness is something that gets talked about a lot.
“Someone like Tiger used to do that a lot.
“When he was in contention you almost felt like he tried to slow down, so there’s a lot of sense in that.”
Mickelson might be ‘slowing down’, he but he’s fitter and stronger than ever.
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