Sports Outside the Beltway

Phil Mickelson seeks long distance swing help

Phil Mickelson is struggling with his golf swing at the Singapore Open.

SINGAPORE — Phil Mickelson sought some long-distance coaching after finishing two strokes off the pace in Thursday’s opening round of the Singapore Open, behind a trio of leaders that upstaged the tournament’s big names.

Mickelson was as surprised by the quality of the opposition as he was dismayed with his form off the tee as he recorded a three-under 68 at the US$4 million (2.7 million) tournament.

He was two shots behind Australia’s Gavin Flint and Kane Webber and Jin Park of the United States, who each shot a five-under-par 66.

“I scored well and got the ball into the hole well,” Mickelson said after the round. “But my driving has been terrible and the worst that its been since I started working with (coach) Butch (Harmon).

“Its 10:15 his time at night and I’m going to give him a call, wake him up.

“I’m lucky to escape with a three-under-par round. I’ll talk to Butch to see if I can get it ironed out for tomorrow.”

Mickelson, who is attending the tournament after his family home narrowly escaped the Californian wildfires, was taken aback by the challenge of the course and rival players.

“I didn’t expect the course to be that difficult,” Mickelson said. “This is a tour-caliber golf course. The fairways are in perfect condition, and it’s tight. The rough is thick and the greens are fair and fast. It’s a good test of golf.

“I haven’t been made aware of how good the golf is in Asia. These players are strong.”

Phil’s history of wayward tee shots involves much more than the Singapore Open and last year’s US Open. In the 1995 US Open at Shinnecock Hills, Phil’s refusal to think conservatively when playing the par five 16th hole, probably cost him the championship. Phil played the hole in six over par for four rounds. That year’s US Open winner, Corey Pavin, played the hole in a less swashbuckling fashion and scored -1 for four days. Phil finished T-4 four shots behind Pavin.

Can a swing coach really help a player half way around the world? I’d think Harmon would need to see at least video of Phil’s swing to be able to help.

Maybe Phil(or another golfer) has been helped this way before. Feel free to correct me.

Thirdly, I don’t know why Phil is so surprised about the Asian tour or the golf course in Singapore. Payne Stewart, Greg Norman, and Vijay Singh to name a few all got their professional start playing in these tournaments. The Asia and Australia tours are hardly the equivalent of bush leagues.

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