How can you not root for ‘old man’ Phil Mickelson?

Lookin’ good, Phil!
Lookin’ good, Phil!
Image: Getty Images

In a day and age where Phil Mickelson makes more money starring in advertisements about psoriatic arthritis than playing golf, you’d think his days of winning majors were far behind him.

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Well, almost-51-year-old Mickelson can still swing it with the best in the world. He’s now just one day away from becoming the oldest player in PGA Tour history to win a major by over two years. The greatest lefty to ever pick up a golf club had a fantastic first two days at the PGA Championship — 2-under 70 on Day 1, 3-under 69 on Day 2 — and backed them up with a 70 on Day 3 to lead the event by one stroke.

Mickelson had a chance to pull away even further from the crowd. He had a 5-stroke lead heading into hole 12, but that lead would quickly evaporate. Mickelson’s tee shot rolled into the sand. He would bogey that hole — his first bogey in 21 holes. He hit his tee shot into the water on 13 — double bogey. He missed a 4-foot birdie putt and had to settle for par on 14. Things were not looking good. Hole 15 didn’t start any better as Lefty’s tee shot found the rough behind onlooking spectators and ended up under a golf cart. Somehow, Mickelson pulled some magic out of his hat and managed to record a par. Brooks Koepka — the PGA Championship winner in both 2018 and 2019 — and Phil were tied after that hole. Phil calmed down after that, but it added a little suspense to a day where it seemed like Mickelson was going to all but secure the PGA Championship before the event’s final day even kicked off.

Mickelson has been at the top of the leaderboard after 54 holes at a major just twice before: the 2010 Masters — which Mickelson won — and the 2013 US Open — in which Mickelson finished tied for second, two strokes behind Justin Rose. The Ocean Course at the Kiawah Island Golf Resort was also the home of the 2005 PGA Championship — the last time Mickelson won this major. Although Mickelson finished 36th at this course in the 2012 PGA Championship. Through his two major appearances at this course, Mickelson has not done well on the final day. In 2005, Mickelson shot a 72 on Day 4 — tied for his worst round of the tournament. In 2012, Mickelson shot a 74 on the final day — his worst round of the weekend.

How can you not root for Phil here? He’s always been a class act, and now he’s someone old enough to be on the PGA Champions Tour — previously called the Seniors Tour — turning back the clock. I understand that Koepka is a fun guy. I know he’s one of the “hot new kids on the block”, but if Koepka is Daniel LaRusso, then Mickelson is Mr. Miyagi and I hope he waxes Koepka’s ass on and off all day Sunday.

Only five golfers have ever won a major at 45 or older, and it hasn’t been done since Hale Irwin at the 1990 US Open — Mickelson joined the PGA Tour in 1992. “Lefty” hasn’t won a major since the Open Championship in 2013. He truly is an ageless wonder, and he’s reminding everybody to respect your elders.