Phil Mickelson leaving driver home at PGA

August, 6, 2013

ROCHESTER, N.Y. -- As he has done in each of the past two major championships, Phil Mickelson plans to start the PGA Championship at Oak Hill Country Club without a driver in his bag, instead going with two 3-woods.

The strategy served him well a few weeks ago at Muirfield, where he hit 3-wood, 3-wood on the 17th hole of the final round to set up a two-putt birdie that all but sealed the Open Championship title.

Earlier in the year at the U.S. Open, going without a driver didn't keep Mickelson from contending, although he second-guessed himself afterward when there were a couple of times it might have helped him.

Mickelson had wavered on the topic over the weekend at the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, but told ESPN's Bob Holtzman at Oak Hill that he had made up his mind Tuesday morning to forgo the driver.

"I may sacrifice 20 yards off the tee, but I want to get the ball in the fairway, make sure my misses are minimized and keep it more in play," Mickelson said. "I may have an extra club or two into the greens, but that's OK. First and most important is getting the ball in play off the tee. Second, is keeping it under the hole."

Mickelson has raved about a 3-wood he uses from Callaway that has allowed him to hit more fairways while not sacrificing too much distance -- although he can't hit the ball as far as he would with a driver.

At last week's WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, Mickelson gave a technical reason for his success without a driver.

"Throughout my career, the mainstay or the staple of my game has always been my iron play," Mickelson said. "It's always been the strength of my game and what's allowed me to have the career that I've had. The two areas that have given me problems especially in the last four years, let's say, have been putting and driving off the tee.

"And we've seen what has happened with the X Hot 3-wood. It's changed my driving altogether. We saw it at the U.S. Open and we saw it at the Scottish and British when I was able to get the ball in play and reach 17 in two shots and just hit a lot of fairways.

"So off the tee, it's totally different, and the reason is because of the spin rate. The spin rate has dropped down and it allows me to make my normal swing at the irons and hit the right flight, the optimum flight off the tee without having to make an adjustment. That's been monumental for me."

Bob Harig | email

ESPN Senior Writer