Mickelson begins golf life after 50 with silky 64
June 25, 2020
By Ben Everill, PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson birdies No. 9 at Travelers
It was a good day out for the old guy.
Phil Mickelson’s first PGA TOUR round since turning 50 on June 16 showed why he might not be shifting over to PGA TOUR Champions any time soon.
The 44-time TOUR winner’s day at the Travelers Championship began with news he’d earned aspot in this year’s U.S. Open at Winged Foot (Sept. 17-20) after the USGA announced its new exemption criteria in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Because sectional qualifying had to be canceled, the tournament announced that the top 70 in the world as of March 15 would be exempt. Mickelson was 61st at the time.
That means he’ll return to the course where a double-bogey on the final hole led to perhaps the most heartbreaking defeat of his half-dozen runners-up in his national championship.
On Thursday at TPC River Highlands, flanked by FedExCup champion Rory McIlroy and the bulked-up Bryson DeChambeau, Mickelson responded to every old-guy joke with both a silky tongue and a display of his sublime skills.
When the trio signed their cards, Mickelson had a bogey-free 64, one behind McIlroy but one better than DeChambeau. Mickelson hit 16 of 18 greens while averaging near 300 yards in driving distance off all tees.
“His longevity is incredible,” McIlroy said. “The big thing about Phil is his resilience. … It looks from the outside he's never feared failure, and I think that's what's made him such a fan favorite is he goes for things and he takes on things.”
How has Mickelson been able to keep doing so? The man himself says it’s not that complicated.
“I love what I do. I love my job. I love trying to play and compete, and I really enjoy playing with guys like Rory and Bryson who are just tremendous talents and trying to compete with those guys,” Mickelson said. “I played really some good golf and smart golf, and I played really well today.”
If Mickelson can find a way to win this week he would be just the eighth player to claim a TOUR win after 50. The last came when a 51-year-old Davis Love III won the 2015 Wyndham Championship in Greensboro, North Carolina. The oldest winner on TOUR is Sam Snead at 52 years, 10 months and 8 days in the same event in 1965.
There are plenty out there who think Mickelson will challenge this record in the coming years. And also those who believe he will become the first player to win a major championship post 50. Julius Boros was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship to set the record for oldest major winner.
“Any time Phil tees it up he's got a chance to win, especially in majors, just because of his pedigree and his short game and all that,” former PGA Champion Keegan Bradley said. “I wouldn't be surprised if Phil won multiple more majors to be honest because he's a historic player that if he gets near the lead, he's going to be tough to beat.”
A win at Winged Foot the win would complete the career Grand Slam and be one of the most incredible sports stories of all time given the history of near-misses. His play Thursday at the Travelers Championship showed it’s not out of the question.