THROUGHOUT Phil Mickelson’s 28 years as a pro, swing gurus, stats nerds and armchair psychologists have all taken stabs at the reasons for his brilliance. It has been a losing battle. The Paleo diet, martial-arts classes and amazing short game aren’t everything, and the puzzle of his career is clearly more complex. At age 49 on June 16, with 44 PGA Tour wins and five majors, Mickelson has flashes where he plays as well as he ever has. When he won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February, he suddenly was not a fading adornment to the pro-golf scene, but a major factor again. He also became one of the best examples of longevity in tour history. Lately, the “What will Phil do next?” meme has taken on special meaning, shifting from his whimsical off-course antics to stunning oncourse possibilities. What are the reasons for that longevity? And what made him great in the first place? Could it be that his full swing, generally regarded as too long, loose and inconsistent, is an underrated cornerstone of a game built to last? And is there something the rest of us can learn from Phil’s way of going? We put those questions to the three teachers—Butch Harmon, Rick Smith and Dean Reinmuth—who collectively guided him for 27 years. Other respected instructors, including Sean Foley and the legendary Bob Toski, gave their thoughts, too.
A consensus emerged on several aspects of Phil’s full swing, as well as the int