Phil Mickelson is contemplating a surprise equipment change at The Open
It wouldn’t be a major championship without an intriguing equipment adjustment from one of the biggest gear tinkerers in professional golf — Phil Mickelson.
This is the same Phil Mickelson who used two drivers to win the 2006 Masters, a driver-less setup to capture the Claret Jug in 2013 and a 47.9375-inch big stick (yes, it’s important to be precise) to become the oldest major winner in golf history in 2021.
Sure, Lefty’s wild gear setups haven’t always worked out, but not every science experiment is going to succeed. It’s about finding the tiniest of edges and exploiting them whenever possible.
This brings us to the latest equipment change Mickelson is contemplating on the eve of the opening round of the Open Championship. On Wednesday, Mickelson was spotted with a 9-degree Ping G430 LST driver and 15-degree G430 Max fairway wood in the bag during a practice round — two clubs we haven’t seen the six-time major winner wield in the past for good reason.
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Ping G430 LST
While Mickelson has played his fair share of non-Callaway clubs over the years, it’s usually been a single fairway wood or wedge. The sight of two Ping clubs led many to question the decision behind the potential change, especially with Mickelson’s longstanding Callaway relationship.
It should be noted Callaway has always provided Mickelson with the flexibility to try different clubs that fit his game, going all the way back to his original deal in 2004. In other words, Mickelson using a non-Callaway club isn’t out of the norm.
It’s also important to mention Mickelson’s deal with Callaway has been on “pause” for over a year, following his controversial comments to golf writer Alan Shipnuck, so it’s unclear if the addition of non-Callaway is much ado about nothing. Mickelson hasn’t commented on the potential changes, but GOLF’s Fully Equipped crew attempted to provide some insights behind them.
With consistent winds expected at Royal Liverpool, having a stable, consistent driver to handle gusty winds can be a major advantage. Ping has historically produced some of the most stable drivers in the industry over the years, and the numbers seen during ClubTest 2023 robotic testing back up the claim. While low launch/spin characteristics — and the LST is the lowest launching and spinning in the G430 lineup — tend to come at the expense of off-center strikes, due to a forward center of gravity, this year’s LST bucked the trend.
With a single-digit carry distance delta (9.7 yards) — comparing geometric center carry to the other 8 mishit locations on the face — G430 LST bested several “game-improvement” models by 6 or 7 yards. And high-toe misses? They ended up a mere 2 yards behind center strikes. Forgiveness is always a good thing, especially when it comes with consistent carry distances.
“[G430 LST is] a very stable driver,” said GOLF’s senior equipment editor Ryan Barath. “When you’re trying to swing hard and fast and want the ball to go as straight as possible, it’s tough to beat a driver that offers a ton of stability and [Moment of Inertia]. Especially in the wind, once your spin axis starts to tilt, you’re losing that vector. You’re basically destabilizing ball flight as the spin axis tilts. So if you’re able to reduce that spin axis tilt, all of a sudden that ball is going to fly straighter, even in the wind. For Phil, he has a lot of confidence in the Callaway ball that performs well in the wind. So how do we tighten up stability even more in the wind? A driver that creates stability certainly helps.”
Golf Laboratories co-founder Gene Parente, also a Fully Equipped co-host, backed up Barath’s insights on spin axis by confirming stability is one way to ensure the ball has a fighting chance to stay online, especially when conditions worsen during the round.
“As soon as you put a spin axis component in there, a ball [in gusty winds] is off the world,” said Parente. “It’s shocking how little it takes to affect the ball, so to have a driver that has a higher MOI to minimize spin axis, in conditions such as they are in the UK, is really beneficial for a week like this.”
As for the G430 Max fairway wood Mickelson has been testing, it’s been on an impressive run the past several weeks and continues to see an increase in usage. It also features a level of stability that Mickelson is hoping keeps him out of trouble as he prepares to tackle Royal Liverpool.
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