Phil Mickelson became the oldest major winner in golf history on Sunday, the 50-year-old left-hander capturing the PGA Championship by two strokes for his sixth major title.
The age-defying American took the US$2.1 million (RM8.7 million) top prize with an epic victory for the ages, producing a dazzling shotmaking display at windy Kiawah Island’s while younger rivals faded.
Mickelson erased the major age win mark set by American Julius Boros when he captured the 1968 PGA Championship at age 48.
“This is just an incredible feeling,” Mickelson said. “I just believed it was possible but everything was saying it wasn’t.
“I hope others take that inspiration. It might take working on your skills but, God, is it worth it.”
It was the first major victory for Mickelson since the 2013 British Open.
Mickelson grinded out a final-round one-over par 73 to finish 72 holes on six-under 282 with South Africa’s Louis Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, and American Brooks Koepka, a four-time major winner, sharing second on 284.
Spectators created a surreal scene at the 18th hole, swarming around Mickelson after his second shot as he tried to walk to the 18th green, needing to three-putt from 16 feet for the iconic triumph.
Outnumbered security guards forced Mickelson through a throng of thousands of people who encircled the green chanting “Lefty, Lefty,” and roared with delight as he tapped in for par to complete a victory for the ages.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience like that, so thank you for that,” Mickelson told the crowd as he accepted the Wanamaker Trophy.
“Slightly unnerving, but especially awesome.”
The crowd, limited to 10,000 people by Covid-19 safety measures, roared with every successful swing by Mickelson, creating an electric atmosphere all day on the punishing Ocean Course, the longest layout in major history at 7,876 yards.
On the front nine, Mickelson answered three bogeys with three birdies in a roller-coaster start, his most astonishing effort a 50-foot chip-in from the sand at the par-3 sixth, for a two-stroke lead at the turn.
World number 115 Mickelson sank a 12-foot birdie putt at the 10th while Koepka and Oosthuizen made bogeys to leave “Lefty” with a four-stroke edge.
Koepka fell back with three bogeys in the first four holes on the back nine. He made two bogeys and a double bogey on par-5 holes to crush his hopes.
When Oosthuizen made double bogey at the 13th, falling back to 3-under, Mickelson owned a five-stroke lead with six holes remaining.
Mickelson found water at the 13th and made bogey on Sunday’s hardest hole, then missed a seven-foot par putt at the par-3 14th for a bogey that increased the tension, leaving Oosthuizen three adrift with four to play and the week’s toughest holes remaining.
But Mickelson hit his longest drive of the week, 366 yards, into the 16th fairway, then went over the green, pitched within inches from the cup and tapped in for birdie to restore his three-stroke edge.
With fans chanting Mickelson’s name as he walked to every shot, his tee shot found deep grass at the par-3 17th. He blasted to 23 feet and two putted for bogey, taking a two-shot lead to the 18th tee.
Mickelson drove left near a hospitality tent then put his approach on the green to spark a scene where spectators followed, then surrounded him as he made his final strides to a historic moment.
45th US PGA Tour title
It was the 45th career US PGA Tour triumph, his first since 2019 at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson improved to 4-for-6 in majors with 54-hole leads or shared leads, winning at the 2004 and 2006 Masters and the 2005 and 2021 PGA but sharing second at the 2006 and 2013 US Opens.
His other major wins came at the 2010 Masters and the 2013 British Open.
With 16 years between PGA Championship triumphs, Mickelson owns the longest gap between wins at the same major.
Koepka, fighting through pain to play after right knee surgery two months ago, won the 2018 and 2019 PGAs and could have become the first player to win the same major three times in four years since Tom Watson at the 1980, 1982 and 1983 British Opens.
Irishmen Padraig Harrington, Europe’s 49-year-old captain for September’s Ryder Cup, and Shane Lowry, the 2019 British Open champion, shared fourth with American Harry Higgs and England’s Paul Casey on 286.
American Jordan Spieth, trying to win to complete a career Grand Slam, closed on 74 to finish on 290.
Four-time major winner Rory McIlroy, who won the 2012 PGA at Kiawah, grinded out a 72 to finish on 293. — AFP