KIAWAH ISLAND, SC – Thirty years of worship and a year of isolation intersected on the Atlantic Ocean shore Sunday afternoon, producing a crowd for the most comfortable golfer in the middle of one. So many fans filled 18th Street that Brooks Koepka, a four-time Major champion that no one seemed to notice, had to ask them to back off and then back off in order to hit. Phil Mickelson said he had never seen anything like those fans. Well, they had never seen anyone like him, either.
Mickelson… no. It is too familiar for that. Phil. Phil won his sixth major, his second PGA Championship, this one so unlikely that Phil later said, “This is very likely the last tournament he wins.” He is 50 years old, back and forth between the PGA and Champions Tours, a legend who is now supposed to be a ceremonial golfer. Phil is the oldest senior champion in history. Phil still believed he could do this even when, by his own admission, the reasons were invisible, because he is Phil Mickelson, and one thing Phil has always done: no matter where he was, how he played, or what obstacles stood between his players. . ball and hole – is to believe.
Anyone could have won the first Major with a crowd of fans since the country closed last year. Koepka, who was leading with 17 to play, could have. Louis Oosthuizen, who was one lousy swing at No. 13 from possibly tying Phil, could have won his second major. But Phil really deserved it, and not just for his game all week, or even his game since turning pro in 1992, the year Koepka turned two. He deserved it because he stopped needing a last name half a life ago. No one since Arnie has embraced the public life of a professional golfer more than Phil.
Fans think they know him, and of course they don’t, but that’s not the point. Phil’s appeal is that he makes fans think he knows they. As he walked from the 17th green to the 18th tee, he showed the thumbs-up sign more than a dozen times, surely leaving dozens to believe that one of those gestures was intended directly for them.
He thought he knew himself. He was Phil, the people’s champion, the action-hungry showman who loved a little risk but loved so much more. Phil once hit a crazy six iron with the pine straw on his way to a Masters win, then celebrated the next day by driving through a Krispy Kreme in his green jacket. On another occasion, he flew back to San Diego for his daughter Amanda’s high school graduation, then flew back to Philadelphia overnight, started at 7:11 a.m., shot the low round on the first day of the US Open. and he was about to win the tournament.
Phil is too old for that now. A man his age must decide which parts of himself to keep and which to discard. When asked what he gave up in search of his old magic, he said “Food.” Eat less, exercise more, and work harder because you have no other choice. He seemed frazzled after every round this week, saying Sunday night: “It takes a lot out of me … it certainly takes more energy from me. But if I work a little harder, I spend a little more time in the gym, I eat well, I practice hard … ”Earlier this week, Phil said that sometimes he plays 36 to 45 holes in a day, not stopping hone your swing but to force yourself. to focus.
A few years ago, he replaced veteran caddy Jim “Bones” Mackay with his brother Tim, and Tim showed Sunday why he is exactly the right caddy for Phil at 50. Phil got off to an uneven six-hole start; covered it with wallpaper in the classic Phil way, Drilling a bunker shot in five, but Tim understood that his brother needed to change his mind.
“He took me aside,” Phil said, “and said, ‘If you’re going to win this, you’re going to have to take committed golf swings.’
Phil reoriented and played the next five holes on a challenging and windy Ocean Course in two-under par. Koepka played them in three more. Phil had a four shot lead with eight to play, and anyone who has seen Phil over the years understood that the lead was not safe. But this was a different Phil, more wisdom than arrogance.
He took a step back from the 17th tee because he wasn’t completely comfortable with the shot he wanted to make. His tee shot landed on the green but jumped into the dense rough; a close fan pointed out “[Patrick] Cantlay hit the water from there, ”but Phil knew he had to be careful. Cautiously, he popped his chip away from the pin and threw two putts. He played the 18th without a hint of fear or bravery – fading high off the tee, Iron nine safely to the green, lag putt, tap-in, history.
Phil now has his contribution to the Old Legend Wins Stunning Major wing of the Golf Hall of Memories. This is not on the level of Jack Nicklaus at the Masters in ’86 or Tiger Woods at the Masters in ’19, because Jack seemed to be close to retiring and Tiger seemed to be already retired, and also because those were bigger legends at a bigger event.
Phil is just two years away from his last victory on the PGA Tour and less than three years away from playing for the US Ryder Cup team. It didn’t come out of nowhere. He stalked, tweaked, tweaked, and stayed engaged; He adjusted his diet, his swing, his clubs, his practice routines, even his gum-chewing habits. This was a triumph not just for a great golfer, but for a golfer in perpetual pursuit of greatness.
Many factors contribute to longevity in sports and some are beyond the control of the athlete. Phil has had a bit of luck staying exceptionally healthy, but he won his sixth major in his 51st year while keeping his passion.
“My desire to play is the same,” he said. “I have never been driven by outside things. I have always been intrinsically motivated because I love to compete, I love to play ”.
Phil used to delight in trying the seemingly impossible; Now Phil seems to understand that the game is quite difficult. This week it certainly was. He struggled in the final nine on Saturday, then ran to the practice range so he could make some corrections before dark. On Sunday morning, Tim noticed a crack on the face of Phil’s utility iron. “I mean, you can’t hit it as hard as I can and not expect it to break,” Phil joked afterward, so they changed a four-wood. Phil hit his approach at 13 on the water, but managed to make two putts from off the green to save the ghost. He played his final round the way Koepka hoped to play – smarter and more assertive than anyone in his path.
Next month, in his hometown of San Diego, Phil has a chance to win the US Open, the object of decades of his unrequited love. It is the only major that has never won. He has finished second six times. You can imagine him winning, or you can do what Phil did all week: be present.
“I have tried to close my mind to a lot of things that are going on,” he said. “I was not watching television. I wasn’t talking to my phone. I was just trying to calm things down. “
After it was over, as the fans roared, Phil stood in the sun by the 18th green, hands on hips, scorecard signed, awaiting the presentation of the Wanamaker Trophy, quite a ceremony for a man who was supposed to he is a ceremonial golfer. PHIL MICKELSON will be etched into the Wanamaker twice now, and Phil will be etched in our memory, not just for how much he won, but for how firmly he believed he could.
Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.