Mickelson using trendy new belly putter

Phil Mickelson

MickelsonFor the first time in his career, Phil Mickelson put a belly putter in his bag this week. The No. 9 player in the Official World Golf Ranking and winner of four major championships (with an iconic heel-shafted putter) is the latest PGA TOUR player to put a belly putter in his bag.

The belly putter is firmly in the PGA TOUR spotlight at the moment. It was in the bag for three straight -- before Dustin Johnson snapped the streak last week at The Barclays -- and four of the past five PGA TOUR winners.

On top of that, Keegan Bradley became the first player to win a major championship with a true belly putter when he broke through at the PGA Championship.

Putting Strokes Gained Per Round
Phil Mickelson Since 2004

So why would Mickelson -- still one of the world’s top players -- opt for the belly putter?

For one thing, Mickelson has never been an elite putter. Even from 2004-06, a period that saw him win three majors and eight PGA TOUR events overall, Mickelson never did it with great putting.

Putting strokes gained, a new metric that measures the length of every putt attempted and grades players against the tour averages from those distances.

The result is how many strokes a player gained or lost on the field, based on whether he made more or fewer putts than would be expected.

Down the stretch at this year’s Open Championship, Mickelson was undone by short putts, and the belly putter is widely seen as a fix for close-range putting. Inside 25 feet, putting has been a struggle for Mickelson this year.

Phil Mickelson – Putting This Week

He ranked 122nd from inside 5 feet, tied for 84th from 5-10 feet, 131st from 10-15 feet and 121st from 15-25 feet entering the Deutsche Bank Championship.

So how did it work out this week? His numbers inside 5 feet indicate this might have been a successful change. The belly putter helped Mickelson make more than 98 percent of his putts from short range -- 22nd in the field. It remains to be seen over a larger sample, however.