Chip Shots

by Jim Buzzerd

Phil wins!

Fifty may be the new 40, but by professional golf standards the age of 50 is considered old. Old enough, in fact, that once a player reaches the age of 50, he can play on the Senior Tour. Well, it used to be called the Senior Tour, but it became the Champions Tour in 2002. One could guess the name change had something to do with the players being sensitive about being referred to as seniors. With age 50 well into my rear-view mirror, I guess I can see their point. Age 50 seems young at this point.

Fifty year old Phil Mickelson had the golf world watching last weekend in Kiawah Island as the 50 year old won the PGA Championship, becoming the oldest player to ever win a major championship. Mickelson surpassed Julius Boros as the oldest major champion. Boros was 48 when he won the PGA Championship in 1968. Tom Morris Sr. at 45 was the oldest to win The Open, during Andrew Johnson’s presidency. Jack Nicklaus was considered ancient when he won the Masters at 46 in 1986. And Hale Irwin, in the tournament on a special exemption, won the U.S. Open in 1990 at age 45.

Mickelson who is actually three weeks shy of his 51st birthday won his first two Champions’ Tour events in 2020, the last in October. This year Mickelson played in just one Champions event and tied for 20th at the Cologuard Classic in February. Since then, he made six starts on the PGA TOUR before his win at the PGA Championship. His best finish was a T21 at the Masters, but he also had missed cuts at the Valspar Championship and the Valero Texas Open.

Mickelson clearly wasn’t playing well coming into the PGA event which is why some sports books had him 200 to 1 odds of winning the tournament. Mickelson has always been a fan favorite, so my guess there were a few takers at those odds. Given where Mickelson was just a few weeks ago, this seemed like an impossible dream. He bogeyed two of the last three holes at Innisbrook to miss the cut at the Valspar Championship. He was at a loss for words afterward. He suggested that week he was unsure if he would accept a special exemption to next month’s U.S. Open at Torrey Pines.

Mickelson showed signs of life with a first round 64 at the Wells Fargo Championship for the first round lead, but followed with rounds of 75-76-76 to finish 69th.

Mickelson hopes he’s inspired others. “This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed that it was possible, but yet everything was saying it wasn’t. I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work, a little bit harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but gosh, it is worth it in the end, and I’m so appreciative to be holding this Wanamaker Trophy.”