Phil Mickelson explained his LACC chipping technique to Jon Rahm, and it left the two-time major winner mind-blown.
Professional golfers are a unique breed. They’re largely alone in their competitive space. Inside the ropes, the only support they have is the caddie lugging their clubs.
Outside the ropes is a different story. Most pros travel with an entourage of coaches, agents, managers and family members. In a sport where you are on your own on the playing field, there’s lots of support staff around once they sign their cards.
The lonely competition aspect of golf makes for an interesting competitive dynamic. While pros are competing week in and week out for not only a trophy, but boatloads of cash, they’re typically rather friendly with one another. Sure, there’s the occasional spat that makes headlines, but for the most part, pro golfers get along quite nicely.
This friendliness leads to some fun dynamics in the early portion of tournament weeks. If someone is struggling with a certain element of their game, another pro is sure to step up and serve as an extra set of eyes for some timely advice. On the course, pros have a tendency to pair up with their best friends and scout the course together, sharing ideas and strategies they might employ during the week.
A scene at Los Angeles Country Club Wednesday afternoon serves as a prime example. Phil Mickelson, hoping to complete the career grand slam this weekend, paired up with Jon Rahm to play a practice round. The two former Sun Devils have always had great rapport, and U.S. Open eve was no different. They shared plenty of laughs throughout the round, and Rahm even got an impromptu lesson from Mickelson and his infinite wealth of short-game knowledge.
Rahm, having trouble deciphering a hovering lie in the thick Bermuda rough, turned to Mickelson to ask for Lefty’s approach when faced with one of these awkward shots. Mickelson — true to form — had just the recipe for getting the ball out of the gnarly thick stuff.
“So here’s the deal,” Mickelson said. “If you go in fast, you go underneath it. What I do is, I open the face, but at impact, I let it release so it doesn’t slide off the face.”
Rahm was a bit dumbfounded by the direction.
“So you’re just changing the bottom of the arc so it’s closer to the ball?” Rahm asked.
Not quite. Mickelson explained that by opening the face at address and then releasing the clubhead at impact, he was simply getting the face back to square when the clubface hits the ball. He does this in an attempt to keep the ball from rolling up the face and coming underneath the ball.
“So you’re kind of closing the face?” Rahm asked.
“Right,” Mickelson said. “But I would never release it, because it’s like … Get it going like that. It comes out a little faster. It comes out just a touch faster, but it won’t come out dead.”
Lefty seems to have perfected the shot, but Rahm was not quite so deft with the technique. His first attempt came up short of the green, and as Mickelson walked off, all he could do was shake his head.
This shot will take some time to fine-tune.
Zephyr Melton is an assistant editor for GOLF.com where he spends his days blogging, producing and editing. Prior to joining the team at GOLF, he attended the University of Texas followed by stops with the Texas Golf Association, Team USA, the Green Bay Packers and the PGA Tour. He assists on all things instruction and covers amateur and women’s golf. He can be reached at email@example.com.
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