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Lefty a major champion at 50, and wanting more

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C. (AP) — Phil Mickelson has an creativeness few in golf have possessed, together with a ability set that permits him to see photographs nobody else can.

One 12 months at The Players Championship, he was in a bunker blocked by timber with no approach ahead besides to go round them. Mickelson hit 7-iron via a hole so small he did not inform his caddie what he was doing so nobody might speak him out of it. He hit it on the inexperienced and wound up successful that week.

Self-belief has by no means been a problem. It’s why Mickelson, even at age 50, all the time thought he might win one other major. That second got here Sunday at Kiawah Island with a victory within the PGA Championship that made him the oldest major champion.

Even so, the imaginative and prescient of doing what nobody else had in 161 years of the majors was getting blurry.

“Until I actually did it,” Mickelson mentioned, “there was a lot of doubt.”

Never thoughts that he had gone two years with out successful on the PGA Tour, eight years since successful a major, 9 months since enjoying a closing spherical on tour that mattered. The bodily half wasn’t a problem. This was more in regards to the thoughts, and it deeply involved him.

It was solely three weeks in the past that Mickelson spoke of psychological lapses throughout a spherical that was costing him careless bogeys, preserving him from contending and even making the reduce.

“I don’t have a great solution right now,” he mentioned after lacking the reduce within the Valspar Championship. “But I’m working on it.”

He discovered the reply.

Some of the photographs he hit Sunday had been beautiful, whether or not it was the pitch-and-run from behind the second inexperienced to a again pin that led to birdie or his 7-iron into the wind and over an expansive waste space to start out the again 9 with a birdie for a four-shot lead.

Through all of it, Mickelson saved his head within the sport. He walked slowly. Except for a few lapses to be anticipated of anybody in such testing situations as Kiawah, he did not hit a shot till he had a clear image of what it was imagined to seem like.

“It’s very exciting because I’ve had a few breakthroughs on being able to stay more present, be able to stay more focused, and physically, I’m striking it and playing as well as I ever have but I haven’t been able to see that clear picture,” Mickelson said.

Most telling was what he shared going into the weekend about trying to find more length, not with his driver but with his concentration.

“I might try to play 36, 45 holes a day and try to focus on each shot so that when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much,” Mickelson mentioned. “I would attempt to elongate the time that I find yourself meditating, however I’m making an attempt to make use of my thoughts like a muscle and simply develop it as a result of as I’ve gotten older, it’s been more tough for me to take care of a sharp focus, a good visualization and see the shot.

“Physically, I feel like I’m able to perform and hit the shots that I’ve hit throughout my career, and I feel like I can do it every bit as well as I have,” he mentioned. “But I’ve got to have that clear picture and focus.”

His brother was an infinite assist. Tim Mickelson, the previous golf coach at Arizona State, turned his caddie 4 years in the past and knew what buttons to push over the weekend.

“It’s trying not to overthink things,” Tim Mickelson mentioned. “We’ll talk about a shot 200 yards away and I’d say, ‘Let’s worry about it once we get there.’ I told him to keep his mind quiet, not think about anything until it was time to hit the shot.”

The focus lapses are solely pure for somebody who now has PGA Tour victories 30 years aside — nobody in tour historical past has accomplished that — and for a participant who likes to compete at age 50 as a lot as he did when he was 20.

Confidence has by no means been a problem for Mickelson. It stems from the enjoyment of competing. Steve Stricker was reminded of that after they arrived at Kiawah Island for a cash sport on Monday — Stricker and Mickelson in opposition to Zach Johnson and Will Zalatoris.

“Phil and I were 3 up after three and he said it loud enough so everybody could hear, ”You know, Strick, I believed we might be up more at this level.’ And we had been 3 up after three,” Stricker said. “Typical Phil. He nonetheless has a great quantity of want to compete at this degree, and that is why he is doing it.”

Mickelson is scheduled to play at Colonial this week. The U.S. Open — the one major he lacks for the career Grand Slam — is a month away. Mickelson originally needed an exemption for the U.S. Open. Now he can play through 2025, unless he wins another major.

Would winning another be a surprise given his endless supply of desire?

“I think the best players in the world, I think they all have that,” his brother said. “Phil has just carried that on for 35 years. He just loves golf. When he’s at home, he’s still playing almost every single day. It never stops for him.”


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