NORTON, Mass. – Phil Mickelson tried out the belly putter during the playoffs last year. Now he's gone to some form of the claw grip.
Whatever he wants to call it — Lefty hasn't given the grip a name — he produced his first bogey-free round since his final-round 64 to win at Pebble Beach. Mickelson opened with a 3-under 68 in the Deutsche Bank Championship, a solid start even though he was six behind.
"I feel really good on the short ones, and the only two (putts) I missed, I actually hit right where I wanted to — good speed and just misread it a touch," Mickelson said. "But I made a lot of them to keep the round going. Those are the ones I've been giving back and have been taking away momentum.
"I've been playing well and giving too many shots around the green back, and I feel really good with how I'm rolling it."
Instead of a conventional grip with his lower hand (left hand in his case), Mickelson rests the putter between his thumb and index finger. He made a 20-foot birdie on the third hole, and while he missed a few putts from the 6-foot range, he made his share of pars from about that distance.
"I don't have a name for it," he said. "It's just a couple of friends of mine have been using it for 10, 12 years and they putt phenomenal with it. On fast greens, it's even better because the touch and sensitivity is there."
Mickelson said he also was helped by a putter with adjustable weights. He made the putter about 20 grams heavier than usual to help the head stay stable.
The four-time major champion tinkered with this grip at the British Open, though not in competition. The closest he came to using it was on the 11th tee box, when he practiced his putting stroke that way. He never hit a putt on the 11th tee, though he swept in a few tap-in putts that way.
WOZILROY: Rory McIlroy was happy to have his girlfriend in the gallery at the Deutsche Bank Championship, even though he wishes she were still in New York. Caroline Wozniacki was ousted in the first round of the U.S. Open tennis, so she went north to support her man.
McIlroy, despite more than a few errant tee shots, recovered beautifully for a 65.
"I'd still love her to be in New York playing, but it's great to have her here," McIlroy said. "It's great to have her support. I think this is her fourth tournament of the season with me. It's nice. It seems like every time she comes along, I play well. So it would be nice to get her here more often."
Wozniacki was with him in the pro-am round for the HSBC Champions last year in Shanghai. Her golf knowledge is getting better, even to the point where she jokingly blamed caddie J.P. Fitzgerald when McIlroy's shot flew the green.
"She was even giving J.P. a little bit of grief," McIlroy said. "I airmailed the green at the first. We came off and she went, 'Nice club, J.P.' It's good. But my knowledge is definitely picking up in tennis, and hers is picking up in golf."
RYDER CUP: As quickly as Nick Watney played himself into the conversation as a Ryder Cup pick by winning The Barclays, he took a step backward Friday. Of the eight players under serious consideration as a captain's pick by Davis Love III, Watney was the only one who was over par with a 72.
Then again, Boston has never been his cup of tea.
Watney went five straight years at the TPC Boston without making a cut, and his best result was a tied for 33rd two years ago.
Rickie Fowler took double bogey on the opening hole, and then hit his second shot into the water on the par-5 second hole and made bogey. He rallied from there for a 71.
Dustin Johnson had the low round among potential picks with a 4-under 67.
The biggest day might have belonged to Hunter Mahan, who had missed the cut in his previous two tournaments, the PGA Championship and The Barclays. Mahan vowed to play with an edge, not to fret the Tuesday selections but rather embrace the idea that he has a good chance to be selected.
That worked, along with making a few putts.
"I definitely play with an edge," he said. "And making a couple of putts felt good."
Brandt Snedeker, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk and Bo Van Pelt each had a 69.
ON THE BUBBLE: The top 70 players in the FedEx Cup standings advance to the BMW Championship next week in Indiana. Former Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is at No. 69 and helped his cause by opening with a 68.
Jonas Blixt and David Hearn, who had to play well Sunday at Bethpage Black just to advance to the second stage, both opened with a 67 and were projected to make it to Crooked Stick, although there are three rounds left at the TPC Boston.
DIVOTS: Spencer Levin, who withdrew from The Barclays when his brother died, opened with an 80 and withdrew, meaning his FedEx Cup is over. The nature of his brother's death was not disclosed. ... Ian Poulter had a big day. He shot a 67 and said on Twitter, "This is my best ever round on a golf course I hate. Although I didn't birdie any par 5 today. Need to if I'm going to contend this week." Better yet, he left the TPC Boston in a Ferrari.