Kiawah Island, S.C. —Phil Mickelson proved that he has a lot of golf in him at the age of 50 on Sunday.
Mickelson became golf’s oldest major winner, brother Tim Mickelson made certain to tend the flag and secure it as a prized possession.
“It’s already in the golf bag,” he said.
As Mickleson walked from the 18 hole, he had his sixth major championship in tow. Phil hugged his little brother both telling the other “I love you, man.”
Mickelson and Louis Oosthuizen were at 5-under 139, the highest 36-hole score to lead the PGA Championship since the last time at Kiawah Island in 2012 when three players were at 140.
Phil is the oldest player to have a share of the lead at the midway point of a major since Fred Couples (52) in the 2012 Masters.
The record was held by Julius Boros, who was 48 when he won the 1968 PGA Championship.
But this major was a little special, coming at a time when Mickelson was being written off as finished, turning 68s into 72s.
“As a coach,” Tim said, “I always used to say, ‘It’s all about the process.’ You hope that the results will come when you want them to, but you have to trust that the process will lead you to the promise land.”
And so, Tim kept the faith.
“We all knew it was there, and he actually had told me [two] weeks ago, I think it was right after Charlotte, he said, I am going to win again soon. I just said, ‘Well, let’s just make sure we’re in contention on a Sunday.’ ”
Phil shot a 70-69-70 to claim the 54-hole lead, and Tim remained in his brother’s ear.
“As much as the fans want it, I want it more for my brother,” he said after the second round. “I see how hard he works, not just at tournaments. When he’s home, he’s playing every day. So, I see how much he wants it, and I want to do anything I can to help him have that.”
The last birdie was just inside 25 feet on the ninth hole, with the cheers getting louder at every hole Mickelson approached.
Branden Grace had a bogey-free round and was in the lead at 6 under until he hit his tee shot into the water on the par-3 17th and made double bogey, and then made bogey on the closing hole for a 71 score.
“I think certainly my brother has played a big part in kind of keeping me present and in the moment and not letting a couple of bad swings affect me here or there, and so I think we’re having so much fun that it’s easy to stay present,” Phil said on Saturday.
On the toughest stretch as he started dropping shots by missing putts, Mickelson began to feel it with brilliant iron play and a pair of big birdies that led to a 31 on the front nine of the Ocean Course and a 3-under 69.
Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama had six birdies in his round of 68 and was in the group two shots behind with Grace and Christiaan Bezuidenuit (70). U.S. Open champion Bryson DeChambeau shot 71 and was four behind.
Only 18 players remained under par.
Oosthuizen had the best round of the week going, not so much because of his five birdies, but rather a card with no bogeys. That ended on the 18th hole that cost him the lead outrightly.
Not to be outdone was four-time major champion Brooks Koepka, whose two eagles were offset by four bogeys in a round of 71 that left him one shot behind.
And so Mickelson followed in the footsteps of Dustin Johnson who won a major championship (2020 Masters with Austin) with his younger brother on the bag.
“I don’t think I’ve ever had an experience like that, so thank you,” Mickelson said at the trophy presentation. “Slightly unnerving, but exceptionally awesome. 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.”
Between winning the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in February 2019 and this PGA, Mickelson had played 46 PGA Tour events. He’d finished in the top-20 in just three of them and none in 2021. He hadn’t recorded a top-10 finish in a major since 2016