Phil Mickelson Makes History With PGA Championship Victory
PHIL MICKELSON has always done things his own way but even by his standards what he achieved at Kiawah Island is something special. On the eve of his 51st birthday he won the PGA Championship, holding off Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen to become the oldest ever winner of a major championship.
When he took the lead after 36 holes, nobody gave him a prayer of hanging on. They should have known better.
And he will now set his sights on the US Open, the one major to still elude his grasp. He has finished runner-up six times.
"I do believe that I believe that if I stay sharp mentally I can play well at Torrey Pines," said Mickelson
"I'll take two weeks off before that and go out to Torrey and spend time on the greens and really try to be sharp for that week because I know that I'm playing well and this could very well be my last really good opportunity to win a US Open. So I'm going to put everything I have into it."
For the second day running, he built a five-stroke lead. And once again, he nearly threw it away, this time with mistakes at the 12th and 13th, but the left-hander was not to denied his place in the record books as he had his name etched on the Wanamaker Trophy for the second time, and matched the six major hauls of Sir Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino.
He was given a helping hand by some uncharacteristic mistakes from playing partner Koepka, while Irish duo Padraig Harrington and Shane Lowry both closed with 69s.
Mickelson made par at only one of the first seven holes, but three bogeys and three birdies - including a trademark chip-in from the sand at the short fifth - were enough to keep him at seven under with Koepka dropping three shots at the two par-fives on the front nine.
Koepka looked favourite to collect his third victory in four years when he birdied the first but he needed five shots to reach the second green before two-putting for a double-bogey seven as Mickelson's birdie completed a three-shot swing.
The two-time champion blocked out the roars from Mickelson's unlikely birdie at five to make a good three at the sixth, but he gave that straight back with a bogey on the next after Mickelson chipped to 10 feet and rolled in the putt for his third birdie of the day.
Two solid pars took Mickelson to the turn in 36 and he edged further ahead with another confident putt for birdie at 10 just as Koepka began an ill-timed slide down the leaderboard, dropping three shots in four holes including another six at the par-five 11th.
With Koepka heading in the wrong direction, Oosthuizen suddenly emerged as the biggest threat, but after a birdie at the 12th, the South African made a mess of the 13th - pitching back to the fairway after a poor drive before blocking his third into the water.
The resulting double-bogey appeared to pave the way for a Mickelson procession down the stretch, but the pressure of leading a major began to take a toll on the seasoned veteran, who tugged his approach to 13 into the drink and did well to scramble a five, and he was unable to get up and down for par after coming up short with his tee shot to 14.
But Mickelson, who spoke on Saturday night of the need to maintain focus and sharpness, regrouped with a solid par at 15 followed by a priceless birdie at the next, where his mammoth 366-yard drive was the longest of the week on the final par-five.
Koepka, meanwhile, kept his slim hopes alive with birdies at 15 and 16 to leave Mickelson three clear heading to the fearsome 17th, where Oosthuizen made par before narrowly missing out on a three at the last, signing for a 73 and a score of four under par - his fifth major runner-up finish.
Mickelson took the water out of play as he hammered his long-iron over the back of the 17th green, where he was content to take three to get down.
Mickelson pushed his drive into the left rough with Koepka nicely placed on the fairway, but Mickelson had one last magical shot in his locker, knocking his approach to the heart of the green to make the victory stroll a lot less stressful.
Surrounded by thousands of fans, he kept his composure while Koepka closed out a disappointing 74. A 73 enough for a six under par total proved to be good enough.
Harrington, who will join Mickelson among the senior ranks when he turns 50 in August, eagled the second and chipped in for birdie at the 14th on his way to his best finish in a major since 2012, and his best result in the PGA since his victory at Oakland Hills in 2008.
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