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Who's that wizard behind Mickelson?

Phil Mickelson rolled one silky practice putt after another, pausing from time to time to talk with the grey-haired, black-clad man watching him with hands stuffed in his jacket pockets, a putter tucked under one arm.

Everyone watching Mickelson warm up for the Quail Hollow Championship pro am Wednesday knew him, of course. That's why they were there, to see stars and along with them, some golf. The other guy? What other guy?

The other guy was Dave Stockton. Back in the day, the 1970s and '80s, he won a bunch of tournaments on the PGA Tour, including two PGA championships. And then he gathered up 14 wins on the Champions Tour. And when the years finally threw too many bogeys at him, he took on a fulltime job as a wizard.

He exorcises the demons from putters, chases away the bad habits that can accumulate and replaces them with putts that love the cup.

One day last year, Stockton recalls, Mickelson asked his caddy Bones MacKay whom he thought might help him with his short game. His putting had been less than satisfactory. MacKay recommended Stockton. Mickelson called and set up a meeting.

They worked on his putting for two days and the result was immediate and spectacular - a win in the Tour Championship, a dominating performance in the Presidents Cup matches and a victory in China. In all of the tournaments he had played in 2009 before seeing Stockton, Mickelson had made a total of only 13 putts of 20 feet or longer. In the Tour Championship, he made nine in four days.

Mickelson has sung Stockton's praises enough to attract other players. J.B. Holmes was 166th in putting last year. He worked with Stockton and in consecutive weeks early this year, he ranked No. 1 in putting in the Northern Trust Open and No. 2 in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Stockton's sons David Jr. and Ronnie are also instructors, Ronnie focusing primarily on the LPGA. Among the family's clients along with Mickelson and Holmes are Anthony Kim, Hunter Mahan and, beginning this week, Sean O'Hair.

They've had six winners this year, including Mickelson in the Masters and Yani Tseng in the Nabisco Championship, an LPGA major.

How does a man teach a superstar like Mickelson?

"It's like working with trout," said Stockton. "They already know how to swim. I'm just another set of eyes. We have no set way of teaching. We don't use cameras. We don't give them things that will tie them up.

"Everybody's different. It's not about mechanics. A lot of people have good mechanics. It's all about feel. It's not about being perfect. I've worked one day with Sean O'Hair and he's back to when he was a kid. Same with Phil.

"It's not that difficult. There's a ball there, there's a hole there, knock the ball into the hole. Putt like you did when you were a kid."

He picked up a putter he's promoting, a Taylormade model called "Ghost." In his hands, it looked like a wand.

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