KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Standing on the 18th tee with a two-shot lead in a championship he refused to think about himself successful, Phil Mickelson took one final violent swing with a driver — the membership that betrayed him 15 years earlier within the U.S. Open.
His tee shot Sunday within the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island landed just a few yards off the golf green, nevertheless it nonetheless nestled among the many individuals — the gallery packed tightly between the ropes and a row of hospitality tents — screaming the identify of their ageing hero.
After Mickelson’s strategy shot settled on the inexperienced, assuring the 50-year-old of changing into the oldest main champion in historical past, the group swallowed him up fully.
Phil Mickelson, the individuals’s champion.
“It is an unimaginable expertise. I’ve by no means had one thing like that,” Mickelson stated. “It was somewhat bit unnerving, nevertheless it was exceptionally superior, too.”
Golf might be merciless to veteran, sentimental favorites. Ben Hogan on the 1955 U.S. Open. Greg Norman on the 1996 Masters and the British Open a dozen years later. And, maybe most heartbreaking, 59-year-old Tom Watson on the 2009 British Open.
Mickelson, too, has had as many shut calls as main victories — most of them on the U.S. Open, the place he is been runner-up six instances. Winged Foot — the place he gave away a one-shot lead on the 72nd gap in 2006 — wasn’t the primary, or the final.
However now, the 2 largest stars of their era have a signature late-career win. Tiger Woods overcame 4 again surgical procedures, turmoil in his private life and 11 years of frustration in main championships to win the Masters two years in the past at age 43.
Mickelson — completely satisfied at house and injury-free — merely stretched the bounds of what is potential after a half-century on Earth.
“There isn’t any motive why I or anyone else cannot do it at a later age. It simply takes somewhat extra work,” Mickelson stated.
9 days earlier, Mickelson accepted a particular exemption to play within the U.S. Open at Torrey Pines in his hometown of San Diego. Now he’s assured no less than 5 extra cracks on the lone main that has eluded him. The victory makes him exempt on the U.S. Open by 2025.
Already a Corridor of Famer, Mickelson joined Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino as six-time main winners. Solely 11 gamers have received extra. If he one way or the other received one other in his 50s, he’d match Arnold Palmer, Bobby Jones, Gene Sarazen, Sam Snead and Harry Vardon.
“I do not know the right way to describe the sensation of pleasure and achievement and accomplishment to do one thing when — you already know, of this magnitude when only a few individuals thought that I might,” Mickelson stated.
The file will present Mickelson closed with a 1-over 73 for a two-shot win over Brooks Koepka (73) and Louis Oosthuizen (74). That does not start to explain the wild fluctuations of Sunday on the menacing Ocean Course, the place Mickelson and Koepka hit photographs that had been each spectacular and surprising, generally on the identical gap.
Between them, Mickelson and Koepka made 16 pars, 10 bogeys, 9 birdies and one double bogey. 5 of the primary 10 holes had swings of two photographs or extra — and that did not embody the par-3 fifth, when Mickelson holed out from a waste bunker with Koepka safely on the inexperienced.
Even with three bogeys in a five-hole stretch on the again 9, Mickelson hit sufficient good photographs to keep away from larger numbers and maintain off Koepka. Then got here the bedlam on 18, the place Mickelson and Koepka fought their manner by the group to get to the inexperienced.
There have been no followers finally 12 months’s three main championships. Patrons returned to the Masters final month to cheer Hideki Matsuyama’s breakthrough win. However this was golf’s rowdiest gallery since earlier than the COVID-19 pandemic, and it got here at a time when the virus is receding within the U.S., with nicely over half of adults no less than partially vaccinated.
Masks had been uncommon among the many crowd, which the PGA of America stated was restricted to 10,000 individuals a day. Followers pressed five-deep towards the ropes, stumbled atop steep dunes and clambered into timber on the sprawling Ocean Course.
Golf, which surged in reputation final 12 months as a sport with built-in social distancing, returned to one thing approaching regular, with followers celebrating a unprecedented champion.
“It was just like the Phil that I bear in mind watching simply after I turned professional and it was nice to see,” Oosthuizen stated.
The information Mickelson shattered had been quite a few. Julius Boros for 53 years held the excellence of golf’s oldest main champion. He was 48 when he received the 1968 PGA Championship.
Mickelson turned the primary participant in PGA Tour historical past to win tournaments 30 years aside. The primary of his 45 titles was in 1991, when he was nonetheless a junior at Arizona State and Koepka was 8 months previous.
Mickelson joined Woods — who despatched a tweet of congratulations — among the many 10 gamers who’ve received majors in three many years.
Lefty spent little or no time speaking to reporters earlier than Sunday’s post-tournament information convention and refused to debate what a win would imply to him. As an alternative, he pounded additional balls on the driving vary — even on Sunday, he was rehearsing swing positions in between photographs — and frolicked meditating to recapture the psychological sharpness he stated he’d misplaced earlier this 12 months.
“Anyone who actually thinks they will win on a Sunday goes to be feeling that stress and the nerves,” stated 49-year-old Padraig Harrington, who closed with a 69 to tie for fourth. “I’d say Phil is full to capability, however that’s the place he likes to stay.”
This was Mickelson’s first main win together with his brother, Tim, as his caddie. May there be extra?
“It’s very potential that that is the final match I ever win. Like if I’m being reasonable,” Mickelson stated. “However it’s additionally very potential that I’ll have had somewhat little bit of a breakthrough in a few of my focus and perhaps I am going on somewhat little bit of a run.”
Observe Ben Nuckols at https://twitter.com/APBenNuckols
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