Phil Mickelson, a great at 50

History has been rewritten. Tiger Woods changed the books (again) in April 2019, when with his victorious Augusta Masters he was resurrected to win a grand 11 years and a hell after. Now, locked up in his mansion, with the world hardly knowing about him, other than some cold statements in which nothing says about his health, the Tigre fights at 45 for another miracle, to play again after breaking his leg in a terrible traffic accident. It is not difficult to imagine him this Sunday on the couch or in bed, watching on television, surely with envy, also with happiness, his old rival, his old friend, Phil Mickelson, also rewriting history, changing (again) the books.

In May 2021, in the field of Kiawah Island, in South Carolina, before a happy audience without having to wear masks and recording each hit through their mobile phones, Phil Mickelson became the winner of more than 50 years age in the history of golf greats. Gone forever is the record of Julius Boros and his 48 years in the 1968 PGA; and that of Jack Nicklaus and his 46 years at the 1986 Masters. Only 23 days before turning 51, the magical southpaw takes the title in the PGA Championship, his sixth great (as Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino), the one that joins three Masters (2004, 2006 and 2010), a British Open (2013) and another PGA (2005). The sole collection is missing a US Open, an open wound in the heart of the champion, as he has been second in the tournament in his country six times. Although that is a thing of the past, and in Kiawah, a long, windswept journey of pure survival, Mickelson shows, as Miguel Ángel Jiménez said, that he can continue to “kick ass” at the youngest. His is the triumph of another generation, of a golfer who is already playing the senior circuit, the Champions Tour, someone whom today’s muscular guys, many cut from the same pattern, see as a teacher, a legend, almost a Nice grandfather … until the grandfather opens the encyclopedia and gives them a lesson to score their 45th victory on the American circuit.

So it was on the last day of the PGA, an exciting roller coaster that Mickelson, who started with a stroke of advantage over Brooks Koepka (31 years, four big), closes with six under par, two of income over Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen. Jon Rahm finished eighth with -1 overall, -4 on the day, his best day (rounds of 72, 75, 72 and 68). Another position of honor for Barrika.

The start couldn’t be wilder. In hole one, birdie by Koepka and bogey by Mickelson. In hole two, birdie Mickelson and double bogey by Koepka. On hole three, Koepka’s failed pair and bogey from Mickelson … Crazy, the rankings go up and down. The fans delighted, of course, already hysterical with that shot that the great Phil holed from the sand on the fifth hole to start putting some distance with Koepka, with Oosthuizen. They also licked, of course, sponsors and television operators, happy to finally have a great show, now that Tiger is a fallen hero, and there is no better claim than Mickelson, the player everyone loves, the one who does not stop sign autographs and take photos, the one who after that hit on hole five gives his ball to an amateur. More madness.

Mickelson was the one who sponsored Jon Rahm when the Basque was a diamond in the rough, a university amateur who wanted to take over the world, and the American already told him that he would be one of the best. Together they trained, they played a few dollars (when Rahm had nothing in his pocket and had to win yes or yes) and under the protective mantle of the veteran the young man, today number three in the world, took off. In that classification, Mickelson has been ranked 115th so far, far from his glory years, although at least he had magic left in the holster. Against the passage of time, spurred on by his love of sports (like Jiménez, like Olazabal, his colleagues on the senior circuit), Mickelson redoubled his care (he lost seven kilos a couple of years ago on a diet mixed with water and coffee with proteins), has adapted the material to gain distance and follow in the wake of the hitters (in the 16th he hit a 366-yard bomb on Sunday) and even uses the controversial laser to measure the distances with his caddy, his brother Tim, who was Rahm’s coach. Talent has never disappeared from your fingers. Not the commitment. Few players so grateful to see there are on a golf course. Mickelson is an unpredictable spectacle, for better or worse for his interests, for the enjoyment of the field or television viewer. For game and charisma, the southpaw is a guarantee of fun, a blessing in an age of photocopied golfers. There is no other like Mickelson.

Twelve years ago, Tom Watson was an inch from eternal glory. At 59, he lost the Turnberry British Open on the last hole to Stewart Cink, the winner no one remembers. The veteran then got the pressure. This Sunday, when he entered the 18th hole, with the trophy waiting for him at the end of the hole, old Mickelson hid his emotions behind sunglasses, his face red, chewing gum like nothing else. The tension was inside. I knew that I was at the gates of history, of a record that is difficult to beat (very few players are so competitive at that age, and today it does not seem that the current generations are going to reach half a century with so much desire to march) . Beneath his frame, he tempered his pulse and clasped the title amid a crowd shouting Phil, Phil, Phil! It was even difficult for him to enter the green, surrounded by uncontrolled crowd. Amid the hubbub more typical of a soccer game, Mickelson kicked for glory.

Fireproof, Eternal, Unique Phil Mickelson.

Complete PGA Championship standings.

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