'He looks as good as he did 25 years ago'
PGA TOUR Champions players react to Phil Mickelson's PGA Championship win
May 26, 2021
By Bob McClellan, PGATOUR.COM
- May 26, 2021
- Tim Petrovic and Phil Mickelson at the 2021 Cologuard Classic. (Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
Tim Petrovic was getting ready to pick up his RV on Sunday afternoon just outside Dallas and begin the drive to Tulsa for the KitchenAid Senior PGA Championship when he stopped to watch some golf.
Well, it’s not that he stopped. He never started. He got in the RV at the Marathon Coach dealership in Grand Prairie, turned on the AC and the TV and just sat, eyes glued.
Fellow PGA TOUR Champions player Mike Weir had caught a connecting flight through Dallas to Tulsa. He was watching the PGA Championship on the plane.
Petrovic and Weir were the last to have the experience Brooks Koepka was getting at the Kiawah Island Ocean Course in South Carolina. Petrovic got it in August at the Charles Schwab Series at Ozarks National outside Branson, Missouri. For Weir it was in Octorber at the Dominion Energy Classic in Richmond, Virginia.
What did all three experience? Playing in the final group on a Sunday with Phil Mickelson firing on all cylinders – finding fairways off the tee, hitting irons with clinical precision, and rolling it with the flat stick like few ever have. His victory at the 103rd PGA Championship -- one for the ages and the aged -- made him the oldest player to win a major in golf history.
“He’s not a normal 50-year-old,” Petrovic said. “He’s been working hard on his fitness and his mental game and working on his breathing. He’s one of the top guys in the last 30 years, Tiger being No. 1 and I think Phil being No. 2. He’s not a normal 50, and when Tiger turns 50 he won’t be a normal 50 either. They’re both Hall of Famers with many, many victories.”
Weir, a fellow left-hander who began competing against Mickelson as a junior golfer, was as impressed and inspired as everyone else.
“It was pretty special, obviously,” Weir said. “I guess the biggest takeaway for me is how much work he’s put int his game the last year. He persevered through the naysayers saying he couldn’t do it that way, trying to bomb it. (They were saying) he was losing it and past his prime, yet there he is standing with the (Wanamaker) trophy.
“He’s always been one to figure out things his own way, and it has worked for him. I know he had a couple of different clubs in the bag; he was carrying a 2-wood and lower-lofted driver head. He’s never been afraid to experiment, and it worked.”
Weir and Petrovic both made mention of Mickelson using his breathing exercises. They could see him managing the moment. Weir, like Mickelson a former Masters champion, said it was much easier to handle his nerves and focus in his 20s and 30s than it has been since he turned 50.
Mickelson hadn’t played well in the 2021 PGA TOUR season. Prior to the PGA he had three times as many missed cuts (six) as top 25s (two). But he told those closest to him he was on the cusp of a breakthrough, and he turned out to be correct.
Plus, he had won in his first two starts on PGA TOUR Champions. And Weir and another major champion, Mark Calcavecchia, both believe those victories played a role in what Mickelson did last week.
“Winning definitely breeds confidence,” Weir said. “It just shows you that when you do have success you can carry that over. I’ve always believed that. Tiger’s steps were winning junior events then winning amateur events then winning pro events. If he had skipped those steps he maybe would not have had the same impact and same career. You try to skip those steps … it’s a little bit harder.
“Phil didn’t have as much success on the regular tour recently. But winning on the Champions Tour showed Phil he could get those winning vibes again.”
Calcavecchia has a long association with Kiawah thanks to the 1991 Ryder Cup, the famed “War on the Shore.” And he has a long history of teeing it up with Mickelson. “We played a lot of practice rounds because I was one of the few players who would gamble with him.”
So Calcavecchia had some interesting insight.
“Everybody was surprised and waiting for him to hit a foul ball or make a quad,” Calcavecchia said. “But the fairways there are actually pretty generous. The course is perfect for Phil. It’s severe around the greens. It’s an ideal course for him. There’s no trees.
“It’s an incredible accomplishment. His body and swing … he’s hitting it farther now than he ever has in his life. He’s in great shape. He looks as good as he did 25 years ago. He could win at Torrey Pines (site of the U.S. Open, the lone major Mickelson has never won) if he drives it well.”