At 50, Phil Mickelson still loves the chase and caught himself one more major championship

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KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. — Phil Mickelson loves the banter, loves the competitors, loves golf. That will seemingly be a prerequisite for greatness, however it’s hardly a standard trait among the many elite. It is why careers fade away, why glory is fleeting.

Lefty by no means misplaced that keenness, which is why on Sunday on the PGA Championship he turned the oldest main champion within the recreation’s storied historical past.

Mickelson is 50 however nonetheless acts like a child. He takes on gamers half his age and relishes beating them, entering into their pockets in cash video games. Then he tells the world all about it. And when the calendar saved turning, Mickelson by no means gave in to the clock on the wall, as an alternative selecting to battle again and keep related.

He’s the primary participant in his 50s to assert one among golf’s grandest prizes. To say anybody noticed this coming in the beginning of the week can be like spitting into the Kiawah Island wind.

Rickie Fowler, 18 years youthful and a frequent enjoying companion of Mickelson’s, took within the euphoric scene in entrance of the Ocean Course clubhouse late Sunday as 1000’s of followers chanted the PGA champion’s title. Fowler marveled on the accomplishment.

“It is the identical method I speak about Tiger [Woods]; they’re each golf nerds,” Fowler mentioned. “I acquired to spend a while with Phil the week earlier than he went to [the Valspar Championship] and he was simply enjoying a bunch of golf. As a result of we had been in carts, you could possibly play as many holes as you wished. He simply wished to go play.

“The love is there. He clearly loves the sport. And he nonetheless has the drive to go and chase. This can be a fairly huge deal. It is record-breaking. Will it ever be accomplished once more? Who is aware of. However that is fairly particular.”

Mickelson surpassed Julius Boros because the oldest main champion. Boros was 48 when he gained the PGA Championship in 1968. Tom Morris Sr. at 45 was the oldest to win The Open, throughout Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Jack Nicklaus was thought-about historical when he gained the Masters at 46 in 1986. And Hale Irwin, within the event on a particular exemption, gained the U.S. Open in 1990 at age 45.

These are outliers. Davis Love III was the final participant to win on the PGA Tour previous the age of fifty — and he did that six years in the past.

The sport is just too deep, the younger gamers too seasoned, the bodily abilities too demanding for AARP members to stay components. And but right here is Phil, almost a decade after going into the World Golf Corridor of Fame, ending above all of them, together with Brooks Koepka, the four-time main winner who appeared poised to steal Mickelson’s brilliance.

“Labored more durable is the deal,” Mickelson mentioned. “I simply needed to work more durable bodily to have the ability to follow so long as I wished to, and I’ve needed to work loads more durable to have the ability to keep focus all through a spherical. That is been the largest problem of late.

“My need to play is similar. I’ve by no means been pushed by exterior issues. I’ve at all times been intrinsically motivated as a result of I like to compete. I like enjoying the sport. I like having alternatives to play towards the very best on the highest stage. That is what drives me, and I believe the assumption that I might nonetheless do it impressed me to work more durable. I simply did not see why it could not be accomplished. It simply took a little bit bit extra effort.”

Mickelson’s 1-over-par 73 on Sunday had its moments of glory and gory. He holed a sand shot on the fifth for a birdie; he hit his second shot into the water on the thirteenth and made bogey. He made a poor chip on the third and took bogey; however he blasted a drive on the seventh to arrange a birdie.

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Followers flood the green to get near Phil Mickelson as he tries to get to the inexperienced on the 18th gap.

He started the day with a 1-shot lead over Koepka, appeared doomed after a shaky first gap that noticed him lose the benefit, then took it again on the following gap. There have been 5 multishot swings between Mickelson, Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen throughout the first 10 holes.

However finally, Mickelson prevailed, helped by the truth that his closest pursuers had been unable to keep away from the pitfalls that the Ocean Course offered all week.

He even overcame two tools malfunctions, one which noticed his beloved 2-wood should be changed after the face caved in whereas he was training Saturday night time. Mickelson’s 2-iron suffered the identical destiny whereas he was warming up Sunday. So he went to a 4-wood as an alternative, one which he used a number of instances off the tee.

The consequence was a nervy ultimate spherical that noticed him hit 7 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens whereas discovering success off the tee and in his iron recreation. Mickelson hadn’t completed among the many high 20 going again 17 occasions to final summer time. And right here he’s holding the {hardware}.

“When you do not anticipate them, they’re one among a sort,” mentioned Steve Loy, Mickelson’s coach at Arizona State and his longtime agent. “I knew we might win a Masters. I knew he was going to win a couple of main. I by no means dreamed he’d win The Open [which he did in 2013 at Muirfield]. To come back again and do that on this course, after we have not had an awesome two years, it is heaven-sent.

“That is possibly his best win due to the golf course, the venue, the percentages towards him. It is breathtaking. I instructed him in a textual content this morning, I mentioned, ‘Phil, I am getting too outdated for this, however you are not. Let’s get it accomplished.'”

Given the place Mickelson was just some weeks in the past, this appeared like an unattainable dream. He bogeyed two of the final three holes at Innisbrook to overlook the minimize on the Valspar Championship. He was puzzled afterward. He advised that week he was not sure if he would settle for a particular exemption to subsequent month’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Then he opened the Wells Fargo Championship with a 64 to take the first-round lead, solely to observe with scores of 75-76-76, relegating him to 69th. Attempting to tackle Kiawah’s Ocean Course, the place the wind whipped off the ocean day by day, appeared futile.

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Phil Mickelson’s 366-yard tee shot is the longest drive on the sixteenth gap by any participant all week.

However whereas others withered within the wind, Mickelson stood tall, hanging close to the lead after the primary spherical and shifting to the highest after 36 holes.

“He by no means doubted himself,” mentioned Tim Mickelson, Phil’s brother and his caddie since 2017. “His will and need to win is as excessive because it’s ever been, for my part. He simply loves golf. He loves golf. I imply, when he is at dwelling, he is nonetheless enjoying nearly each single day, generally 36 [holes]. He is grinding. It by no means stops for him.”

Issues did cease for a second for Phil Mickelson when he was engulfed by the lots whereas making an attempt to play the 18th gap. Nonetheless with work to be accomplished, Mickelson acquired caught up within the crowd first as he surveyed his strategy to the inexperienced, then once more after knocking it safely onto the inexperienced, from the place he would two-putt for the 2-shot victory.

It was a uncommon scene, a champion being celebrated earlier than the job was accomplished. Mickelson, at all times a person of the folks, was amongst them for a couple of harrowing moments, swept up within the adulation.

“It is a second I am going to at all times cherish,” he mentioned.

Now a six-time main winner, becoming a member of Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo on the quantity, Mickelson’s legacy is safe. However we mentioned the identical factor eight years in the past when he swept out of Muirfield with the Claret Jug.

A U.S. Open is within the close to future, at a Torrey Pines course Mickelson grew up enjoying. And he clearly nonetheless loves the chase.

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