Kiawah Island, South Carolina, May 23, (EFE).- Phil Mickelson on Sunday became the oldest golfer in history to take home a major championship, winning a fabulous but nail-biting final round duel with Brooks Koepka – the odds-on favorite – in the 103rd US PGA Championship at Kiawah Island, South Carolina, on Sunday, the sixth major title of his career and 16 years after winning the Wanamaker Trophy for the first time.
The 50-year-old – due to turn 51 in June – finished six under par with a 73 under windy conditions at the sandy and virtually treeless barrier island Ocean Course, two strokes in front of Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen and four strokes ahead of Shane Lowry, Padraig Harrington, Paul Casey and Harry Higgs.
Mickelson went out in front of Koepka – who won two of the last three PGAs and is widely considered the world’s best major player – early in the final round on Sunday but then took three putts to sink the ball while his rival nabbed a birdie, reversing their positions on the leader board. However, Mickelson – known as “Lefty” – was on top again as he birdied on the third hole but Koepka missed the green and muffed his recovery shot from the sandy area surrounding most of the course and ultimately left the hole with a double-bogey.
Then on Hole 3, Mickelson bogeyed but Koepka missed his two-foot putt, thus failing to take the lead again. The pair were tied after the fifth hole, however, and dueled over the next several holes with the score once again swinging by two shots and by the seventh hole Mickelson was ahead again after a birdie and Koepka’s bogey.
A bit of a breather came for both golfers on the eighth and ninth holes as the pair each made par, but then things heated up again with Mickelson knocking in for birdie on the 10th and Koepka bogeying, giving the former a hard-to-beat four-shot advantage.
Koepka couldn’t seem to get his mojo back, shooting a six on the par-5 11th hole, and then it was Oosthuizen’s turn to step up after getting a birdie on Hole 12.
And yet, Mickelson’s new pursuer was only temporarily in that threatening role as he knocked a shot into the water on Hole 13 and had to quit the green with a double bogey.
Mickelson, who has often had a bad fourth round in former tourneys, this time did not falter, even though he also sent one into the water, but with Oosthuizen just three strokes behind he flubbed another shot on Hole 14 and the challenger moved up with a birdie two holes later, just barely missing an eagle from 15 feet.
Koepka – forgotten for the moment – was not out of the running yet, hitting for birdie on the 15th hold and then blasting a huge 361-yard drive on the next hole.
But Mickelson, to the surprise of virtually everyone – perhaps even himself – knocked his drive five yards farther on the par-five hole, with the pair each making birdie.
Then, Mickelson eased back into a more conservative stance, bogeying on Hole 17 after he shot beyond the green into the ruff, but recovering nicely.
He had a fabulous shot on the approach to the last hole of the tourney and security guards had to step in to help him get to the green through the excited and surging crowd. Ultimately, he made par on the hole, earning a well-deserved win on the day and making old-timer history as well.
“This is just an incredible feeling, because I just believed that it was possible but yet everything was saying that it wasn’t,” Mickelson said after his triumph. “I hope that others find that inspiration. It might take a little extra work a little harder effort to maintain physically or maintain the skills, but – gosh – is it worth it in the end.”
With the win, Mickelson has 3 Masters, 2 PGAs and The US Open championships to his credit.
Before Mickelson secured the US PGA title, Julius Boros had been the oldest major winner, taking the same title in 1968 at age 48. Only five people over the age of 45 have ever won a golf major.