For perceptive fans of Phil Mickelson, you may have noticed something a little different about the affable left-hander than in years past.
No, his unpredictable, swashbuckling style is still fully intact — see his right-handed swing from the other side of a fence at The Arnold Palmer Invitational for further evidence — it’s a more subtle, but scientifically-proven adjustment that Phil believes is helping him to play better golf: chewing gum.
Speaking with Karen Crouse of The New York Times, Mickelson shared his new habit and the perks he says chomping on some gum during a round gives him.
“The chewing aspect stimulates the frontal cortex,” Mickelson explained last week at The Players Championship.
Mickelson took up the habit at the beginning of this year at the Desert Classic where he finished in second place. Two tournaments later at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a gum-chewing Mickelson took down PGA Tour victory No. 43, which Mickelson doesn’t believe is a coincidence, and neither do top scientists.
“I’ve seen him chomping on that gum, and I was wondering what he was doing,” Steve Stricker said. “Leave it to Phil, I guess, to come up with that.”
— Karen Crouse (@bykaren) March 15, 2019
A 2011 study by psychologists at St. Lawrence University showed that chewing gum is associated with improved alertness and the ability to process new information, two aspects of playing golf that can pay obvious dividends.
Serge Onyper, who co-wrote the St. Lawrence University study, told NYT in an email that those who chewed gum for five minutes before getting rid of it benefited compared with those who did not chew gum at all.
Mickelson isn’t the first nor will he be the last to use gum to his benefit on the course. Payne Stewart famously chewed gum throughout his rounds and Jordan Spieth notably chewed gum en route to his most recent major championship triumph, the 2017 Open Championship.
“I did it for no intended reason,” Spieth said, noting that he simply took a piece that was offered by his swing coach prior to teeing off at Royal Birkdale. “I think there’s something to it. I could sit here and say Phil’s blowing smoke but this one makes sense. When you’re focused on chewing, that can take your mind off of golf and can kind of calm players a bit.”
So, what kind of gum is Phil chewing and can you get your hands on it?
“It’s not on the market yet,” he said.