After knocking his approach shot on the final hole to 16 feet, Phil Mickelson knew it was over. A huge crowd spilled onto the Kiawah Ocean Course and surrounded the 18th green. A few exuberant fist pumps from Phil signified that the long journey back to the top, a grueling test of both body and mind, was finally coming to an end.
Mickelson, who turns 51 next month, entered the history book Sunday with a two-shot victory at the 2021 PGA Championship, becoming the oldest player ever to win a major championship. The victory is Mickelson’s sixth career Major title and first since his Open Championship victory in 2013. He has won in four different decades – a feat not yet accomplished in the NFL, NBA, NHL or MLB.
“My desire to play is the same,” Mickelson said in his post-round interview. “I've never been driven by exterior things. I've always been intrinsically motivated because I love to compete, I love playing the game. I love having opportunities to play against the best at the highest level. That's what drives me, and I think that the belief that I could still do it inspired me to work harder. I just didn't see why it couldn't be done. It just took a little bit more effort.”
Mickelson entered Sunday’s final round with a one-shot lead over playing partner Brooks Koepka, and was able to hold off the two-time PGA Champion in what proved to be an up-and-down round for both players. Along the way, Phil delivered a number of thrilling moments and maintained his focus to prevail at the demanding Kiawah Ocean Course.
“I love the challenge of competing against such great players,” Mickelson said. “It was a really difficult task for me to go head-to-head (with Koepka) and come out on top, and I’m appreciative of the opportunity.”
As the final putt dropped to the roars of thousands of fans surrounding the green, Mickelson shared a special embrace with his brother, and caddie, Tim Mickelson, who had yet to experience a major championship with Phil since taking over as caddie in 2017. Several times throughout the week, Phil mentioned how his brother was instrumental to his success at Kiawah, and was delighted to have the opportunity to enjoy the moment together.
“What a great job he did this week,” Mickelson said. “I’m so appreciative of having him on the bag and being able to share this incredible experience.”
There’s an old adage in sports that says, “father time is undefeated,” but Mickelson is determined to turn back the clock. Even as he approaches his 51st birthday in a matter of weeks, Mickelson remains committed to competing at the highest level, and knows what it’s going to take to stay there.
“This is just an incredible feeling because I just believed it was possible but yet everything was saying it wasn’t,” Mickelson said. “I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work and harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but gosh is it worth it in the end.”
As a result of Phil’s win, KPMG and the Inspiring Win program will provide new books and educational resources to the Charlotte Mecklenburg School District! Congratulations to Phil on a historic victory!