In a Hall of Fame career where he has found success at venues all over the world, Phil Mickelson has found a surprising fit in Memphis, Tennessee.
This week will mark the tenth career start at TPC Southwind for Mickelson, and the ninth time he’s teed it up here since 2013. In those previous eight starts, he’s finished in the top-three four times and finished worse than 12th only once. Mickelson has played eight or more rounds on more than 25 PGA TOUR courses since 2013. In that span, his best scoring average (68.47) and Strokes Gained: Total per round (+1.92) have come at TPC Southwind. So what is it about this course that brings out the best in the reigning PGA Champion?
THE BENEFIT OF BOMBS
We all know Lefty’s love of hitting – in his words – both bombs and hellacious seeds. That can be a good thing when playing in Memphis: aggressive choices off the tee have been beneficial to players at TPC Southwind over the years.
Distance has proven to be more valuable than hitting the fairway at TPC Southwind. Over the last six years, players who hit one more driver off the tee than normal gain about two-tenths of a stroke on the field.
In the last eight years, Mickelson has averaged just over three misses left per round with his tee shots at TPC Southwind, and just over two misses right per round. Both of those averages are more than what he’s done on every other PGA TOUR course in that span. Despite that, his Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee numbers are almost identical – 0.35 per round on this course, 0.37 everywhere else.
Mickelson’s aggressive play is unlikely to come back to bite him at TPC Southwind – in fact, it’s helping him succeed.
SIGNIFICANCE OF APPROACH PLAY
Since 2013, Mickelson gains about twice as many strokes per round on approach at TPC Southwind (+0.57) than he does on all other courses in that span (+0.29).
That is important on a golf course that rewards strong approach play more than normal. Traditionally, the greens in regulation rate by the field at this course are between 3-6 percent lower than the PGA TOUR average that given season. Since 2010, players who have won at TPC Southwind rank about 29 percent better in Strokes Gained: Approach than the average PGA TOUR winner during that same span. Four of the previous six winners at TPC Southwind ranked either first or second that week in Strokes Gained: Approach.
Mickelson has had positive Strokes Gained: Approach in 68.8 percent of his rounds at TPC Southwind since 2013. Everywhere else in that span, it’s a rate of 57.3 percent.
PUTTING NUMBERS SKYROCKET
“I think it’s (TPC Southwind) the most underrated course we have on TOUR,” Mickelson said in 2015. “It’s such a straightforward, fun test of golf. And if you hit good shots you get rewarded with good putts and birdies.”
Mickelson would know – he’s made a ton of birdies at TPC Southwind. He’s averaged 4.41 birdies-or-better per round, in fact, since 2013, the third-highest average among players in that span.
And while his performance through the bag has been stellar at this course over the years, it’s his putting that really takes off when he gets to Memphis.
Mickelson consistently makes more short to mid-range putts at TPC Southwind. From four to eight feet, Mickelson has made 82.3 percent of his attempts since 2013 at this course. Everywhere else, it’s 70.1 percent. From five to ten feet, it’s an improvement of 12 percent. From ten to fifteen feet, his make rate jumps 5.1 percent.