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AUGUSTA, GA.— Phil Mickelson launched his drive to the middle of the 18th fairway and handed his club to his caddie. Bryson DeChambeau hit three balls, the last a drive that almost cleared the famed bunkers down the left side.
"I find that very attractive," Mickelson said.
Mickelson and DeChambeau played nine holes together on Wednesday morning at Augusta National in preparation for the first round of the Masters on Thursday. There could be no more fascinating duo to find in the final pairing on Sunday.
That may be a long shot. DeChambeau tied for 34th at the November Masters. Mickelson tied for 55th and hasn't finished in the top 15 at the Masters since 2015.
But Wednesday at the Masters is for dreaming, and DeChambeau and Mickelson would be the dream final pairing, if you like science, art, drama and on-course conversations.
DeChambeau has developed unprecedented power by lifting weights, eating like a sumo wrestler and striving for raw swing speed. His practice swings on the 18th tee on Wednesday sounded like rotating helicopter blades. Mickelson, at 50, has maintained impressive distance by working out in his own way, and relying on a long, flowing swing.
Their differences are obvious. Their similarities are more interesting.
Both constantly tweak their equipment, often defying conventional wisdom. DeChambeau is the only prominent golfer known to use the same length shaft in all of his irons. He has experimented with extra-long driver shafts. He is using a driver this week that has been reconstructed by Cobra to give him better results on strikes toward the toe.
Mickelson is the most prominent golfer known to have competed in majors with two drivers in the bag.
Golf is such a traditional game that DeChambeau and Mickelson can elicit eye rolls, but their approaches are as logical as they are individualistic.
DeChambeau was a pretty good player before he started his quest for maximum distance, which helped him win the 2020 U.S. Open and ascend to No. 5 in the World Golf Ranking. He ranks first on the PGA Tour in driving distance, strokes gained off the tee and strokes gained tee to green.
Mickelson didn't win a major until he was 33, when he won the Masters in 2004, starting a 10-year span in which he won five majors. He taught himself how to win big.
Both swing for the fences on the course and in conversation. On Tuesday, Mickelson managed to mention a Russian ballerina.
Asked about reigning Masters champion Dustin Johnson serving pigs in a blanket as an appetizer at the Champions Dinner, Mickelson said:
"I've tried a lot of different cuisine over the years. I think it's pretty cool. I remember — I'll share with you a little funny story from Adam Scott's victory.
"He had this wonderful meal, Australian-themed, and out comes dessert, and it's pavlova. It's meringue with some fruit and so forth. And I said, no — now, you can't Google this stuff because there's no cellphones allowed, right. I said, oh, pavlova, that's inspired by the great Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who was touring through New Zealand, Australia, and an Australian chef so inspired by her beautiful movement and tutu, she ended up — he made a dessert after her.
"Chairman [Billy] Payne looked at me like what kind of stuff are you spewing here, you know. I said, 'No, no, this is true.' Zach Johnson looks at me, says, 'I've got a hundred dollars that says that's not right.'
"Everybody is calling me out," added Mickelson, who acknowledged he often tells tales.
But, he noted, his daughter is a dancer.
"She wrote a biography on Anna Pavlova, and I made 32 pavlovas for her class when she was a little girl, and I knew this," Mickelson said. "And I ended up, you know, being right, which is not often, but I was right on that particular moment."
On the 18th tee Wednesday, DeChambeau smashed another drive and Mickelson asked, "How are you keeping the spin rate down at that speed?" DeChambeau said, "Higher on the face," touching the top of his clubface.
You knew he'd have an explanation.