What was that stuff on Phil Mickelson’s putter at the PGA Championship, and why was it there?

A close-up of Phil Mickelson's putter during the 2020 PGA Championship.

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If you’ve watched Phil Mickelson play golf recently – for instance, during Sunday’s final round of the 2020 PGA Championship – then you may have noticed a black/gray-ish substance near the hosel of his putter.

That substance is called lead tape, and it’s used by golfers and club fitters/builders to add weight to specific portions of a club to change feel or performance. For a full breakdown of how lead tape will effect ball flight in different locations on a club head, make sure to check out this article.

Mickelson is no stranger to using loads of lead tape on all of his golf clubs, but the positioning of the lead tape on his putter is quite unusual. Typically, golfers position lead tape somewhere on the sole of their club heads, or on the back cavity of their irons. Adding weight to the hosel or the shaft of a club can shift CG (center of gravity) heelward and upward, which aren’t necessarily ideal most often.

Of course, Mickelson isn’t afraid to experiment with atypical golf equipment to try and improve. After his final round of the 2020 PGA Championship, where he finished four over par on the week, Mickelson explained why he puts lead tape on the hosel portion of his custom Odyssey “Phil Mickelson” prototype putter.

“[Having lead tape on the hosel] creates a heavier feel, better head rotation,” Mickelson said in a press conference. “It doesn’t come off the face as fast as if the weight were actually in the head at the impact area.”

By “better head rotation,” Mickelson is saying that he wants the face of the putter to close quicker through impact. Putting lead tape on the hosel section shifts CG closer to the heel, which influences a draw-bias on club heads, so this configuration makes sense. He also said he doesn’t want the ball to come off the face too fast; lead tape directly behind the golf ball at impact could cause more force at impact and have the golf ball come off too hot. So, having lead tape away from impact location but on the heel-side of the head provides Mickelson with the feel and performance he’s looking for.

Mickelson’s week at the season’s first major didn’t exactly go as planned, but hopefully we can all learn something from the lead tape on his putter. If you want a golf club to release more, even if it’s a putter, apply lead tape to the heelward section and the toe of the club will tend to release quicker through the ball. Just remember that lead tape on the hosel will tend to raise CG, which isn’t ideal for everyone, so try experimenting with lead tape on the heel portion of the sole first instead.

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Andrew Tursky

Golf.com Editor

Andrew Tursky is the Senior Equipment Editor at GOLF Magazine and GOLF.com.