Warren Stephens brought in Phil Mickelson today for the second Jack Stephens Charitable Golf Tournament at Alotian Golf Club. Mickelson follows Tiger Woods, who was the inaugural professional golf guest star.
Woods was hit by a head cold or allergies and couldn't do much beyond an exhibition last year. Mickelson was the picture of perfect health -- he appears to have lost about 20 pounds in the past year with a new fitness program -- and he entertained Alotian patrons, tournament competitors (businessmen playing a significant sum to get to tee it up with Mickelson), 60 kids from four organizations (including First Tee programs in Little Rock and Fort Smith) and media representatives from all over Central Arkansas. Then, Mickelson took to the course.
We would have stayed for the actual golf, but we had a column due. Anyway, Harry King of Stephens Media stayed around and is likely to write on how Mickelson played the ultra-private course, rated among the best in the country by Golf Digest and designed by the famed Tom Fazio, who redid Augusta National.
Mickelson offered a new approach to chipping that few, including Warren Stephens, had seen before. Even Mickelson admitted it was an approach that he doesn't see taught in the golf magazines. Stephens concurred afterward: "He's well known for his short game, and it was interesting to see his technique is different that anything you see on the Golf Channel, in magazines. I also thought his ideas about simplifying the golf swing is a thought we all can use."
Mickelson said he takes the approach, and other golfers would be better suited as well, to have one golf swing for a variety of shots, rather than a variety of swings for different situations. With the same swing, and simply a change in body alignment or position of the clubface at address, or the amount of backswing used, Mickelson was able to hit hooks, fades and low shots for the wind.
As for his chipping, he showed his "hinge-and-hold" method, quickly hinging the wrist with a short takeaway, then keeping the clubhead from passing the hands through the hit. He used this approach for long chips, short shots and for his patented flop pitch where he hits behind the ball and takes the club under it.
A who's who of Arkansas business names were on hand. We caught Tyson Foods chairman Johnny Tyson at the course, and Bill Dillard, who co-owns CDI Contractors, was sitting among the guests closest to Mickelson and his caddy, Bones McKay, with Stephens and the family of Bill Clark, who also co-owns CDI. Clark has been ill and could not attend. CDI was a sponsor of the event.