Monday Finish: Mickelson continues to defy age
February 11, 2019
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson's Round 4 highlights from AT&T Pebble Beach
They say you can’t teach an old dog new tricks, but Phil Mickelson continues to defy his age – and the trends of most 40-something golfers – to add to his burgeoning trophy case.
Welcome to the Monday Finish where it took until Monday for Mickelson to make it win no.44 on the PGA TOUR. He can now officially argue to be named the Prince of Pebble Beach alongside Mark O’Meara.
1. The truly special ones seem to defy the age barriers.
Mickelson, who is now 48 years old, has won twice in the last 12 months to take his PGA TOUR tally to 44. This win wasn’t filled with luck … Not at all. Facing a final round deficit of three-shots to Paul Casey, Mickelson dismantled the Englishman with a 7-under 65 final round to win by three shots. He didn’t hit every fairway. He didn’t hit every green. But he used his experience and guile to score, and keep bogeys off his card, to ensure the win would be his. How is he doing this at this age? “Historically guys when they get in their 40s two things decline, their putting and their swing speed,” Mickelson admitted. “My putting is increased in the last three years and the best it's been in my 25, 28-year career, and my swing speed is as fast as it's ever been. It's been a lot of work to get there but I had a five, six mile an hour jump in the last year. Those two things are why most people decline and because I've had an increase in those, there's no reason why I couldn't play my best.”
2. We can take some, but not much, U.S. Open intel from here.
While it is true the U.S. Open will be at Pebble Beach in June, taking too much value away from this week’s efforts in terms of who may perform can be a little dangerous. Of course Mickelson’s victory, and the four previous in the event, give him plenty of confidence. Of course it is a very good chance for the veteran to polish off the career grand slam. But the fact remains the course will be very different. Chances are it won’t be water logged and the penalty for missing fairways will be much more severe. So yes, be excited for Mickelson with his bank of good memories. Stay positive about the chances of players like Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Brandt Snedeker … but don’t be surprised if others with no success in February on the course, come out of the woodwork.
“It's a totally different golf course, the greens will be firm, the rough will be high, here I'm trying to hit the ball as far as I can, not worry too much about the rough, ball's plugging and we're able to clean it and so there's really no carryover, other than I just really enjoy this place,” Mickelson said. “I seem to play some of my best golf here and that's probably about it.”
3. Paul Casey continues to have some closing issues.
Let me start by saying – Paul Casey is a champion. His success around the world has been phenomenal and he is clearly a brilliant golfer and competitor. Last season he held off Tiger Woods to win the Valspar Championship. It is often unfairly noted that Casey has just two PGA TOUR wins without referencing his 14 European Tour victories. But even the Englishman himself will admit he has let some chances slip on the PGA TOUR. Casey has now closed out just one of his five 54-hole leads on this TOUR. He let a three-shot lead go here and also let a four-shot lead go last season at the Travelers Championship.
Casey and his amateur partner Don Colleran, EVP and CSO of FedEx Corp, won the team competition at 34-under.
4. Jason Day appears to be building to something …
Last season Jason Day won the Farmers Insurance Open and was T2 at Pebble Beach. This season he was T5 at Torrey Pines and T4 at Pebble so effectively he is behind where he was a year ago. But if you look beneath the surface you could argue that he is in fact, further ahead now. Day would go on and win the Wells Fargo Championship last season before his results started to trail off. There were many factors, including a third pregnancy for wife Ellie that came soon after a miscarriage, and a relapse for his mother. Fast forward to now and baby Arrow is bringing smiles every day and Day’s mother Dening is once again doing better. It has freed up Day’s focus and has him really building his game back to its peak. His approach game has been down in recent seasons but at Pebble Beach he was 10th in Strokes Gained: Approach-the-Green. Day has previously won the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, THE PLAYERS Championship, and the World Golf Championships – Dell Technologies Match Play … all tournaments coming up. He’s contended multiple times at Augusta National, has a good record at Bethpage Black and of course at Pebble Beach where he now has six top-10s in 10 starts. Watch this space…
5. Jordan Spieth will find his way again … soon.
Look. The negative Nellie’s out there will point to Spieth’s 74-75 weekend and pile on here. But there are certainly enough promising signs to suggest the former FedExCup champion just needs to get out of his own head for four straight rounds to return to the player we are used to. Spieth was 11 under on the tournament through 48 holes, seemingly ridding his mind of all the swing thoughts and putting woes that have been circling his brain lately. And then a couple of mistakes came, knocking out his confidence. Right now, the mistakes are worth double. Because some doubt still lives in his mind. But champions always find a way. This guy is a champion. This guy will find a way. And it will seem like he found it overnight when he does go four rounds and be there when the whips are cracking Sunday – even though he clearly has been finding it for months.
1. Phil Mickelson’s win was his 44th PGA TOUR title in his 598th career start. Mickelson tied Mark O’Meara for the most wins at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am with five. He moved from 40th to sixth in the FedExCup standings. Three of Mickelson’s five wins at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am have come when trailing after 54-holes (1998 trailed by 1, 2012 trailed by 6 & 2019 trailed by 3).
2. Helping Mickelson was the fact 75 percent of his total strokes gained came from his approach to the green performance on Pebble Beach’s two measured rounds. Mickelson led the field in SG: Approach-the-Green on Pebble with a total +6.975.
3. This is Mickelson’s 17th win on TOUR when trailing after 54-holes. He has the second-most wins when trailing after 54-holes (includes 2002 Desert Classic, 5-round event) with only Tiger Woods having more at 22.
4. Mickelson played his last 26 holes at Pebble Beach bogey-free in a collective 10 under par. In his final 26 holes, he outperformed the field by +4.788 strokes in SG: Approach-the-Green hitting 14 of 26 approach shots inside 20 feet and gained +2.561 strokes in SG: Putting. Since 2003 Mickelson has averaged under 32 feet for proximity to the hole on Pebble Beach five times and when averaging under 32 feet has won four times.
5. Mickelson earns his 14th title in the state of California, which ties Tiger Woods for most wins by a PGA TOUR player in California since 1983. Also becomes the oldest winner of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, surpassing Steve Lowery who was 47 years, 3 months, 29 days when he won in 2008.
WYNDHAM REWARDS TOP 10
The Wyndham Rewards Top 10 is in its first season and adds another layer of excitement to the FedExCup Regular Season. The top 10 players at the end of the FedExCup Regular Season will earn bonus payouts from the Wyndham Rewards Top 10.
We have a new leader in the Wyndham Rewards Top 10 standings as Matt Kuchar slides ahead of Xander Schauffele thanks to his T22 at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Phil Mickelson is a new addition to the list in sixth place thanks to his win, sending Cameron Champ to the outside looking in.
Rank Rank last week Player What Top 10 gets (End of Regular Season) 1 1st Matt Kuchar $2 million 2 2nd Xander Schauffele $1.5 million 3 3rd Gary Woodland $1.2 million 4 4th Marc Leishman $1.1 million 5 5th Charles Howell III $1 million 6 6th Phil Mickelson $850,000 7 65th Justin Rose $700,000 8 7th Rickie Fowler $600,000 9 8th Bryson DeChambeau $550,000 10 10th Kevin Tway $500,000