A couple of shots on the weekend got me thinking of a category I’ll call “cool shots.” Phil Mickelson and Corey Pavin hit them, and they were, well, two of the coolest shots I’ve ever seen because they required imagination. They were about as far away from “stock” shots as you can get.
Mickelson’s came on the par-four 13th hole at the Pebble Beach Golf Links on Sunday, when he was playing with Tiger Woods and already putting him in his dust. The distance to the hole after Mickelson’s drive indicated a “stock” wedge. But the pin was cut in the back left, not an easy location. Mickelson has long been one of golf’s most creative players. He can see and feel shots and that’s why it’s amazing that he’s never won an Open Championship, which is played on a links in Scotland or England. But at least he was on a course with the word “links” in its name, although it’s not a links course.
Anyway, Mickelson chose an eight-iron. He wanted to take the spin off the ball that a full wedge would create, to hit a little cut shot, and to let the ball run back to the hole. He took what looked like about a three-quarter swing, if that. His arms extended forward after impact to where they were parallel to the ground. Stiff-armed. Full stop. A stop-action shot.
And what a shot. The ball hit the green flat, without the spin of a full-out wedge, turned left and snuggled up within three feet of the hole. Mickelson made the birdie putt. He went on to shoot 64 and to win his fourth AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am and the 40th tournament of his Hall of Fame career. Mickelson will be inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame this spring.
Here’s what Mickelson said after his round about the very cool shot he hit.
“I liked that one. That back pin is a tough pin to get to, but with the greens being a little bit firmer than they have in the past, I was able to scoot a shot in there.
“The shot was only 140 yards, which I could probably get a full wedge there, which would back up 50 feet,” Mickelson continued. “I could probably take a little bit off of a 9 and get it to stay somewhat close to the hole but I took an 8‑iron, and just hit kind of a chip 8. I kind of call it a chip 8‑iron where I'm taking 30 yards off of its flight and trying to bring it in so low and spin it that it releases back. I was able to execute it exactly how I was hoping it would and it ended up two feet.”
Then there was Pavin’s stroke of genius, which occurred on the par-three 14th hole in the final round of the Allianz Championship at the Broken Sound club in Boca Raton, Fla. Pavin was contending for his first win on the Champions Tour, in his 35th start. His tee shot came up against a tree root.
What to do? Just knock the ball forward to have a clean shot? Take a penalty? Not if you’re Pavin, who can make a ball dance. I’ve seen him hit so many creative shots over the years, but who knew what he’d invent here?
Pavin turned his club upside down and set up to hit a left-handed shot. Here’s video of the shot; it comes around the 37-second mark. .
What a shot. Pavin’s reaction once he sees the result tells it all. Players get a deep satisfaction out of hitting creative, cool, non-stock shots. He made the par putt to stay tied for the lead, and went on to beat Peter Senior on the second hole of a sudden-death playoff when he made a 15-foot birdie putt.
"That was a once-in-a-lifetime shot," Pavin said. "I can't think of a better up-and-down I've had in my career. It's not like I practice turning 8-irons over and hit them left-handed. When that happens, you think you're going to win, but I had to get that thought out of my head."
Players have hit many cool shots over the years. Over the weekend, Mickelson and Pavin hit two of the coolest.
Lorne Rubenstein has written a golf column for The Globe and Mail since 1980. He has played golf since the early 1960s and was the Royal Canadian Golf Association’s first curator of its museum and library at the Glen Abbey Golf Club in Oakville, Ontario and the first editor of Score, Canada’s Golf Magazine, where he continues to write a column and features. He has won four first-place awards from the Golf Writers Association of America, one National Magazine Award in Canada, and he won the award for the best feature in 2009 from the Golf Journalists Association of Canada. Lorne has written 12 books, including Mike Weir: The Road to the Masters (2003); A Disorderly Compendium of Golf, with Jeff Neuman (2006); This Round’s on Me (2009); and the latest Moe & Me: Encounters with Moe Norman, Golf’s Mysterious Genius (2012). He is a member of the Ontario Golf Hall of Fame and the Canadian Golf Hall of Fame. Lorne can be reached at email@example.com . You can now follow him on Twitter @lornerubenstein