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Mickelson's advert for Dave Pelz technique

There is a valuable lesson to be learned from Phil Mickelson's victory in the Masters, friends.

Work on your short game. Do it now. Put down that driver and pick up that wedge.

Like most golfers, if you go through a bucket of 100 balls on the range, 90 will be devoted to your John Daly swing-from-the-heels imitation. Maybe you'll hit a handful of uninspired short shots, mistakenly convincing yourself that you "worked" on the complete game.

Once on the course, though, you'll leave a couple of balls in the bunkers, three-putt three times from less than 20 feet, air mail a few greens and wonder why you can't break 90.

The solution is simple.

"You don't have to practice your short game for 10 hours (in one day) like Phil did," short-game guru Dave Pelz said. "But if players did it for 10 minutes a day, they would play better than they do now."

Mickelson's triumph has been a walking advertisement for Pelz and his theories. He began working with the struggling left-hander at the beginning of the year.

It was part of Mickelson's complete makeover as a player. He also worked with instructor Rick Smith on retooling his overall swing to gain better control. He found life is much better in the fairways.

But give Mickelson credit for recognizing that he had to go beyond swing changes. His reputation for being a short-game wizard was highly overrated. His array of flop shots was dazzling, but there was a woeful lack of consistency from 150 yards in.

"He's a great touch putter, but his short putts weren't that good, and his lag putts weren't that good either," Pelz said. "He needed to sharpen up the `easy' shot, the little chips."

Their work was intense. A typical session could last as long as 10 hours.

Several points were covered, but two stand out. Pelz convinced Mickelson to take a three-fourths swing with his short clubs. He was wasting energy and shots with full-swing wedges.

"Let's say the most you can bench press is 200 pounds," Pelz explained. "The bar will be wobbling, and you won't be able to control it. But if you do 150 pounds, you'll be able to control it much better. That's what we were trying to get at with Phil."

The end result is that Mickelson now knows his distances and, Pelz said, "he has added a whole bunch of shots."

The other change was paramount. Pelz and Smith had to convince Mickelson to change his approach.

The gambling style wasn't working. Mickelson was a victim of his own talent. He thought he could make the impossible shot every time. The end result, of course, was no major titles.

Pelz works with statistics. He likes to play the percentages. Ultimately, Mickelson bought in.

"Phil moved from what he could do theoretically with his best shot to what he, statistically, should do," Pelz said. "Over a period of time, he has come to believe it's better for him to play the percentages. There may be times you might lose a stroke, but overall your score is going to be lower. Isn't that what they pay you for?"

Pelz also is reaping the rewards; not that he needed the help. He already had established quite a franchise with best-selling books and videos. He has short-game academies and traveling golf schools.

Pelz has worked with numerous big-name players. Mickelson, though, is the biggest. The results were so quick and dramatic they served as validation for all his theories on the importance of the short game.

The message is clear: Start falling in love with your wedges.

"It shows that it's always possible to improve," Pelz said. "Nobody is too good with their wedges or putter. I've never heard anyone say they're making too many putts. If you see a guy as good as Phil get better, the same thing can happen to you."

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