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Phil Mickelson Swing Sequence

I've really improved how I prepare for a season, and a big part of that preparation has been understanding what gives me my best chance to play well. It doesn't happen for me when I'm forcing things - trying to make a bunch of birdies.

Winning at Augusta happened because I relaxed and let my game take care of itself. I played the last seven holes of the tournament five under, and it felt like the game was going in slow motion.

The 59 I shot at the PGA Grand Slam of Golf in November at Poipu Bay was another payoff for the change in mind-set. I wasn't very sharp off the tee, but I stayed relaxed. When I got to the greens, I could see the putting lines unbelievably well. All of a sudden, I'm standing on the 18th tee thinking about making eagle on the par-five to shoot 58.

This year, I'm even more excited. My second-round 60 on the way to winning the FBR Open was a great feeling. Going back to Augusta as the defending champion will be an incredible thrill, and I can't wait to play in the US Open at Pinehurst, where I finished second in 1999.

I feel like I was five shots away from having a truly exceptional season last year. I'm looking forward to putting myself in that position again.

Learn from a Lefty

People always ask me if I have to make adjustments when working with Phil because he swings from the left side. Actually, the opposite is true - I'll turn other players' swings over to compare them to Phil's, because he's in such good positions. Things like his grip might look exaggerated to the right-hander, but that's only because you aren't used to seeing it. Phil's swing is textbook - just flipped.

The one thing I've always loved is how free-flowing Phil is through the ball. He has tremendous, smooth acceleration in his swing, something he's always had.

It's because he's mastered the three important power-producing principles. Look at the second and third pictures on the top row here and you can see the first one: Phil has a very wide arc. His hands and the club are away from his body, not cramped too close.

Second, he makes a complete wrist cock in the backswing. That's a swing lever that many average players don't take advantage of. Third, he really moves his body well during his swing. He makes a great shoulder turn on the backswing, and swings his rear shoulder (left for him, right for right-handers) down and through the ball. That great body motion is what makes his swing so free-flowing and fast.

What if you aren't flexible enough to turn your shoulders like Phil? Don't worry - not many people are. You can still make a bigger shoulder turn. Start by closing your stance slightly.

This promotes more hip turn, which allows the shoulders to turn more. Just be sure to turn your right hip away from the target line when you shift your weight on the backswing. Many players slide the hips down the target line instead. That locks you up, and you can't generate any speed.

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