No offense to Tour Championship, but Mickelson focused on Ryder Cup

For Phil Mickelson, it’s all about the Ryder Cup.

That’s why he has spent the past two days experimenting with new drivers while navigating East Lake Golf Club during the opening rounds of the Tour Championship.

After rounds of 74 and 72, a total of six-over par, Mickelson said he used a different longer-shafted driver each day with the aim of finding the right one to get added distance off the tee.

He made the decision to use a driver an inch and a half longer – one he said he has used all his career until this year – after recently playing a practice round at Hazeltine National Golf Club. Once he saw the need for more length on the course that will host the Ryder Cup next week, a change was in order.

“I have won two Tour Championships and I’ve only been a part of two winning Ryder Cup teams,” Mickelson said Friday. “I’d like to be a part of a third. Not to diminish this (tournament) but I would rather win next week. For me, at this stage in my career, it means a little more to me.”

Mickelson used one driver on Thursday and another on Friday. He said his misses were “huge” the first round and “miniscule” the second. He has found his new weapon.

“I’ve used it my whole career until this year,” Mickelson said of the longer driver. “I sacrificed a lot of distance this year in order to get the ball in the fairway. I drove it straighter but I need the length. I’ve picked that back up.”

Mickelson will be part of his 11th Ryder Cup team, having played in each event since 1995. The 2-8 record hurts with the only wins coming in 1999 at Brookline and 2008 at Valhalla.

The early look at Hazeltine convinced Mickelson to make the adjustment. He called the practice round critical to know how to set up his golf bag. Had admitted had he showed up for the event on Monday or Tuesday and then discovered the need for 20 more yards off the tee it would be cause for panic. He said he is no longer concerned especially after his final 10 holes on Friday.

Mickelson was one-under par on the back nine Friday after he shot three-over on the front that including a triple-bogey on the par-4 eighth hole.

“I hit this driver 18-20 yards longer,” Mickelson said. “That is a significant difference. I carry it a lot farther. I think it’s going to be an advantage at Hazeltine if I drive it well. I needed to get some play with it. I can just show up and expect to drive it.

“… I drove it well on the back nine. I hit cuts like I did in 2004 when I drove it well. They were soft cuts. I was able to swing to the target and the ball went there. The launch and spin was great. I expect this weekend I will drive it well and play well because everything else is fine with my game.”