How to interpret Phil Mickelson’s senior moment, plus 7 other Mickelson musings
Phil Mickelson, at 50, is every bit as interesting as he ever was, maybe even more so. Still winning, still selling, still hitting bombs. In the wake of his Champions Tour two-fer, here are 8 things I’m thinking about Phil.
1. Phil is uniquely qualified to make the PGA Champions Tour broadly meaningful to the golf-watching public for the first time in decades. He’s played in two events and won them both. People love to watch dominating, charismatic athletes.
2. The Champions Tour does a disservice to itself by trying to sell the public on five so-called senior majors. There are three senior majors — the U.S. Senior Open, the Senior PGA Championship and the Senior Open Championship — and if Phil started talking now about his desire to win all three in a single calendar, fans would have something they could get their arms around. Every sport needs an Everest.
3. There is no reason why Phil can’t contend at the Masters next month. And as Tiger showed 18 months ago, if you can contend, and if everybody else you’re trying to beat on Sunday afternoon is looking for a first Masters title, you can get lucky and win on a combination of guile and skill. Phil is a younger 50-year-old than Big Jack was a 46-year-old in 1986, when Nicklaus won his sixth Masters. Phil’s coffee-diet-exercise routine is working.
4. Having said that, Phil’s wins in these two senior events don’t tell us that much about the state of his game. As a golfer gets older, it’s the final nine holes of the fourth round that get far more difficult. Sustained focus has always been one of Phil’s issues. Last week in Virginia, he played 54 holes in two days, with the first 36 in one day in a cart, on a short course with wide fairways. Compared to Augusta National, that’s holiday golf.
5. Do you know who won the 1975 U.S. Amateur and where he won it? Phil does, and he helped get the word out after his win last week at the Dominion Energy Charity Classic.*
6. There was a round sticker under the brim of Phil’s black KPMG baseball cap on Sunday. A special prize will be awarded to the first reader — Phil and brother Tim included — who can credibly explain the sticker’s purpose.
7. Another 50-year-old lefthander, Mike Weir, winner of the 2003 Masters, finished second to Phil at the Dominion event. In 2004, in the basement of Butler Cabin, with Hootie presiding, Weir helped Phil into his green member’s coat when Phil won his first major. Phil still had his golf glove in his back-left pocket. People sometimes ask, What’s an example of something that’s golfy? That’s golfy.
8. It is south of unlikely for Phil to make Steve Stricker’s 2021 U.S. Ryder Cup team on points. Six players will make it on points and Phil is now No. 32 on that list. But six other players will be picked by Stricker. If Phil continues to be a dominating player on the senior tour through August, he will likely be one of Stricker’s six picks. An athlete, in his age, does what she or he can to remain relevant. Phil plays in a Ryder Cup at 51, in Wisconsin. He is an assistant captain at 53, in Rome. He’s the captain at 55, at Bethpage Black. He sells his coffee company and runs for U.S. Senate from Florida at 57. It’s all just beginning. Don’t you see? It’s all part of plan.
*Fred Ridley, now the chairman of the Augusta National Golf Club, at the James River course of the Country Club of Virginia.
Michael Bamberger welcomes your comments at Michael_Bamberger@Golf.com.