In a profession filled with moments, Phil Mickelson’s now signature one fittingly got here with a wedge in his hand.
He’d arrived on the closing spherical of the PGA Championship with a 1-stroke lead that nobody thought would maintain. Not with the major murderer Brooks Koepka strolling alongside.
A rocky begin (two bogeys in his first three holes) solely reaffirmed the prevailing sentiment that at 50 years outdated, Mickelson contending at a major was a enjoyable story that may finish with a fizzle.
Then got here the second.
It occurred on the par-3 fifth. Mickelson had sprayed his tee shot into the sand subsequent to the inexperienced. Koepka, in the meantime, was safely on, staring down a birdie putt that, if Mickelson couldn’t rise up and down, would push him proper again into the lead.
With 50 toes between him and the opening, Mickelson dug in, unleashed a fragile little swing and … 4 little hops later and a little bit of a roll his ball hit the underside of the cup.
The shot didn’t win him the event, however it definitely despatched a message to Koepka that the outdated man was there to play.
Some 4 hours later, Mickelson was standing on the 18th inexperienced hoisting the Wanamaker Trophy, the oldest to ever achieve this … the oldest to ever win a major championship within the practically 150-year historical past of major competitors.
It’s Mickelson sixth major victory: 3 Masters, 2 PGAs and an Open.
How inexplicable is that this victory?
Well, Mickelson hadn’t received a PGA Tour occasion since 2019, hadn’t received a major since 2013. At 50, he’s now taking part in a part-time Champions Tour schedule the place in his final look he misplaced by 11 strokes.
He hasn’t precisely been tearing up programs.
Then there’s the historical past of what he was making an attempt to beat. Only 5 folks over the age of 45 have ever received a golf major, the oldest (Julius Boros) being 48. Mickelson might be 51 in just a few weeks.
After taking the lead after Round 2, hopes rose however expectation didn’t. Mickelson nonetheless wasn’t the oddsmakers favourite. It was a pleasant little story, an awesome run for a legend from the previous, however the Ocean Course at Kiawah would clench its tooth and drive Mickelson into one his patented collapses, proper?
Even when that didn’t occur — even after he grabbed ahold of a solo lead heading into Sunday’s closing spherical — Mickelson STILL wasn’t the favourite. Oddsmakers nonetheless favored Koepka.
And why not? Despite a bum knee, Koepka as soon as once more confirmed up at a major, identical to he does each time one in every of this stuff rolls round. He’d received two of the earlier three PGAs and is sort of merely one of the best major participant strolling the planet at present.
So when Mickelson began his closing spherical with a brutal bogey and Koepka began his with a birdie — a two-shot swing that put Koepka up 1 — the sentiment was, “Welp, that was fun while it lasted.”
Then Phil birdied the second, Kopeka double bogeyed and the roller-coaster experience that was the ultimate spherical of the 2021 PGA Championship was on.
For the following 4-plus hours, Mickelson and Koepka did the whole lot they might to let the opposite take management — discovering bushes, sand, tough, awkward lies, no matter — whereas on the identical time doing the whole lot they might to maintain the chasers – primarily Louis Ooosthuizen — from catching up.
By the time they made the flip, Mickelson had carded extra bogeys (3) than pars (2) and but he had prolonged his result in 2.
By the time they walked off the tenth inexperienced — after a birdie for Mickelson, a bogey for Koepka — the lead had exploded to 4 photographs … and the PGA Championship was Phil Mickelson’s to win or lose.
The match play between he and Koepka started to fad as Kopeka by no means might get it going. Oosthuizen nonetheless lurked, although. But when he plunked his strategy on 13 into water, resulting in a double bogey, Mickelson’s lead had swelled to 5.
Of course, nothing about Mickelson is uninteresting. Back-to-back bogeys at 13 and 14 shrunk the lead over Oosthuizen again to three, then to only 2 after an Oosthuizen birdie 16.
Mickelson answered with a birdie of his personal to seize a 3-shot lead with simply two holes to play.
That included the treacherous, water-everywhere seventeenth. Stay dry together with his tee shot and the PGA Championship could be his.
He did, however in fact he needed to do it with a caveat: his ball nestled into thick grass behind the inexperienced. He nonetheless wanted to dig it out with out taking pictures it throughout the inexperienced and into the water on the opposite facet of the inexperienced. In what could have been probably the most conservative shot of his profession, Mickelson punched out nicely in need of the pin, and with that unloaded an enormous exhale.
As he walked up 18 with a 2-stroke lead, an enormous crowd swarming round him, Mickelson nonetheless could not unleash a full smile. Maybe like the remainder of us, he would not imagine it till he noticed it — till the ball hit the underside of the cup for the final time.
“Phil! Phil! Phil!” they screamed, Mickelson needing a police escort to navigate his approach by the throng that had taken over the course. By the time he emerged from the group and onto the 18th inexperienced, Mickelson — two strokes in entrance of Koepka and Oosthuizen — pumped his arm into the air.
A most inconceivable victory had occurred.
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