A new putting stroke for Mickelson at US Open

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PINEHURST, N.C. (AP) - Phil Mickelson began preparations for the U.S. Open in the final round of the St. Jude Classic when he took his left hand off the putter, turned it slightly clockwise and rested the grip between his forefinger and thumb.

In more simple terms, it’s known as the “claw” grip.

And that’s what he’s using for Pinehurst No. 2.

“The greens here are quick, and so I’m actually going to go back to the claw grip this week in an effort to have a little bit lighter grip pressure and create a softer roll, so that I get some of the hit out of it,” Mickelson said. “I was running them way by last week, and by taking my bottom hand off the putter, it eliminates some that hit.”

Mickelson said that allows him to roll the ball more softly into the hole.

It’s not the first time Mickelson has used the claw grip.

He said he’ll go back-and-forth from a conventional grip to the claw, particularly in practice rounds, because the claw creates a longer, more fluid stroke. Two years ago in the British Open, Mickelson used the claw grip to tap in a par putt, and then practiced with it on the teeing ground at the next hole at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.

Mickelson worked with putting coach Dave Stockton on Tuesday morning and decided to switch.

But not for long.

“Ultimately, I’ll go back to a regular grip,” he said. “But for now, probably the coming weeks, that helps me get the feel and flow back. What I should have done is practice the last few weeks with it and then gone to regular grip this week, but here we are.”

Mickelson said it particularly helps on the shorter putts. Those are the ones he has missed in a career filled with six runner-up finishes.

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FUZZY REFLECTS: Fuzzy Zoeller only started thinking about his U.S. Open victory when the phone started ringing.

This is the 30-year anniversary of when Zoeller won his second major - both in a playoff - over Greg Norman in the 1984 U.S. Open at Winged Foot. Norman rallied on the back nine with a birdie on the 17th, and then a 45-foot par putt on the 18th hole for a 69 to stay tied with Zoeller.

Zoeller was standing in the fairway, thought the putt was for birdie, and jokingly waved his white towel in mock surrender.

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