It had to be, didn't it? Phil Mickelson made golf history on an absorbing final day at Kiawah Island. Alex Perry wraps up the action
There was a fun tale doing the rounds ahead of the final day of the PGA Championship. Brooks Koepka, as a child, said he found his way into the car park at The Masters and asked Phil Mickelson for an autograph. “He said no,” Koepka explained. “Probably the only kid Phil has ever turned down.”
When asked about it, Mickelson quipped: “Yeah, well he shouldn’t have been there. I told him that, too.”
That snubbed youngster has grown up to be an ice-cold killer – on the golf course, that is – and on Sunday found himself with an opportunity to right the wrongs from Augusta all those years ago.
Very few words were spoken on the first tee. A simple nod is often more than enough in these situations. “Please welcome our 2005 PGA champion – Phil Mickelson,” the announcer boomed into his microphone. Mickelson’s beaming smile appeared and he tipped his cap not once, not twice, but three times.
He pushed his tee shot into the first cut. Nothing too concerning.
“Please welcome our 2018 and 2019 PGA champion – Brooks Koepka.” A short bow of the head. Koepka was, as always, not there to make friends. He smashed it down the middle of the short stuff. He then knocked his approach to 12 feet.
Mickelson’s approach found the front of the green and then inexplicably failed to get inside Koepka’s ball with his first putt.
He might have been regretting his actions some 20 years previous when his one-shot lead flipped into a one-shot deficit on the first green. Karma was tapping on his shoulder.
Thirteen minutes into the final round and it felt over.
Mickelson, at 50 and looking to become the oldest winner in the 161 years of major championship golf, couldn’t possibly keep up with a man 20 years his junior and already looking for his fifth – a number that would have seen him tie his rival.
We’ll never learn, will we?
Mickelson was one behind on the second tee. By the time he arrived on the third he was two ahead. Are you not entertained?
Then, at the fifth, came the defining moment. A moment you sensed you would be seeing over and over for years to come. A moment that made you realise just how good it is to have galleries back.
Mickelson, having found the sandy waste area that skirts the left-hand side of the green, splashed it onto the tiny portion of the dancefloor he could see. One hop, two hops, three hops, in.
It was Mickelson’s “oh my goodness” moment. Or, as it turns out, “Oh my gracious.”
Mickelson would give that shot back at the sixth and Koepka would pull level. But order was restored a few minutes later and Koepka’s challenge faded.
By the time they reached the 12th – it was here that Mickelson dropped three shots in two holes on Saturday to see his lead chopped from four to one – Lefty’s lead was five.
Mickelson pushed his tee shot into the galleries lining the fairway, and it led to an inexplicable sequence that saw a spectator pick up his ball.
Why they would do that at any golf tournament let alone a major is anyone’s guess. But it allowed Mickelson to have a joke with the fans while he waited for a rules official and ease any tension that may have been brewing.
The scenes coming down 18 were chaotic. A stark reminder of what we’ve missed in the past few months. Not that Koepka was enjoying them. “It would have been cool if I didn’t have a knee injury and got dinged a few times in that crowd because no one really gave a shit,” he said later.
Mickelson zipped his approach to within uncomplicated two-putt range and finished his round out in level par for a 1-over 73 for a 6-under 282.
In the end, the margin of victory was two over Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen – who bubbled along nicely but never really looked like making a charge for it. It’s the South African’s fifth second-place finish in majors since breaking his duck 11 years ago at St Andrews. Another one is surely on the way. There are certainly more in Koepka’s future.
For our champion, though, the win brings all kinds of history. It’s been well documented that he has overtaken Julius Boros as golf’s oldest major champion ever, as well as moving into the six-major club alongside Nick Faldo and Lee Trevino. In the men’s game, only 11 players have won more majors than Mickelson.
But, perhaps most importantly for Mickelson, it brings with it a five-year exemption to the US Open. The one he so desperately craves.
He is now the only golfer who can complete his Grand Slam in 2021. He’ll begin his latest attempt in just 25 days in his hometown of San Diego.
He couldn’t, could he?
- RELATED: What’s in Mickelson’s winning bag?
Phil’s final round in five tweets
That shot on the fifth from another angle…
The drive on 16 that had just a little bit of adrenalin behind it…
The memorable scenes at 18…
The winning putt…
The trophy moment…
It’s going to take a while to get over this one.
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PGA Championship day 3: Phil the Thrill and Ice-Cold Koepka set up thrilling finale
It’s never boring when Phil Mickelson is contending at a major championship. (How long has it been since we’ve been able to say that?) Lefty’s bid to become the oldest major winner in the men’s game will see him take a one-stroke lead into the final day of the PGA Championship.
And how different it might have been. Nothing could go wrong for the 50-year-old – who will break Julius Boros’s record by two years – for the first 10 holes. He rolled in five birdie putts to reach 10-under and lead by five.
But then it started to get interesting. Mickelson missed a seven-foot birdie putt on the par-5 11th that would have taken him six clear. He went bogey, double-bogey over the next two holes and just like that the lead was one.
It wasn’t long before Brooks Koepka – who else? – piled the pressure on his rival and drew level.
This is a game of fine margins, though. Both missed the 18th green by several feet, but while Koepka three-putted from off the back for a finishing bogey, Mickelson missed left before pulling off one of his trademark up-and-downs with a stroke of short-game genius.
It was one of the most ridiculous major Saturdays in recent memory, and it sets up a final day that will see one man bidding for not only a record-breaking win, but one that will tie him on six with Lee Trevino and Nick Faldo, and another man attempting to tie his playing partner on five.
Any slip ups though and Louis Oosthuizen and Kevin Streelman will be waiting in the wings.
Sunday is going to be a lot of fun.
- RELATED: Round 4 tee times
- RELATED: TV schedule
- RELATED: What’s in Mickelson’s bag?
- RELATED: What’s in Koepka’s bag?
Just 12 players will tee up on Sunday under par…
-3 Bezuidenhout, Grace
-2 DeChambeau, Niemann, Woodland
-1 Casey, Im, Conners
Stats of the day
Let’s have one for Phil and one for Brooks. As always, step forward Mr Justin Ray…
What they said
While Koepka bemoaned “the worst putting display of my career”, Mickelson was a bit more upbeat…
Would it really be a major championship if we didn’t see Jordan Spieth holing out from an improbable position?
While the Grand Slam challenge is all but over, that doesn’t mean he isn’t excited to be sticking around.
The bins at Kiawah Island strike again
After seeing Sebastian Munoz use the litter bin to his advantage in the early stages of the 2021 PGA Championship, it appears that Bob MacIntyre was somewhat inspired…
I mean, despite the obvious luck, I am sure Bob will agree that was a pretty ‘rubbish’ shot… I’ll go now.
Right, I’m off to find my best black polo shirt to cheer on Phil tomorrow evening.
Every now and then you see something so bad that it renders you powerless to press the pause button. Over to you, Bryson DeChambeau.
I mean he had a flawless social media reputation before this – so maybe nobody noticed.
PGA Championship day 2: Mickelson chasing history at the PGA Championship – and it’s all down to a new routine
Kiawah Island really started to bare its teeth on day two, with only 17 players heading into the weekend under par. Here are the main talking points from Friday at the PGA Championship…
History in the making
A week ago Phil Mickelson accepted a special exemption to next month’s US Open – the one he’s missing for the Grand Slam, remember. Now he’s in contention to qualify outright after a vintage 69 saw him take the lead at Kiawah.
Among the early starters, Mickelson just kicked back for the afternoon and watched on as precisely zero players managed to surpass him.
The best attempt came from Louis Oosthuizen, who led Mickelson by a shot on the final hole. A six-foot par putt stood between the South African and the first bogey-free round of the tournament so far, but he pushed it to move back into a tie with Lefty.
I means Mickelson becomes the first player to lead or co-lead in a major in the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s and 2020s. (Though, and we’ve given this no more than 10 seconds’ thought, we’re pretty sure Tiger Woods was his only rival in this stat.)
A cool record, we’re sure you’ll agree, but it’s the victory that Mickelson’s after. If he does go on to win, the 50-year-old will break the record for oldest major champion in the men’s game by two years. Julius Boros won this very championship in 1968 at the age of 48.
“I’m having a lot of fun,” Mickelson said. “To play well, to know I’m playing well heading into the weekend, to be in contention, to have a good opportunity, I’m having a blast. I’m excited for the weekend.”
So are we, Phil. So are we.
But where on earth did it come from? A couple of wins on the PGA Champions Tour aside, Mickelson is having an abysmal season…
Mickelson says he’s been struggling to focus in recent months. So he’s fixing it… by playing more golf.
“I’m working on it,” he explained. “I might try to play 36, 45 holes in a day and try to focus on each shot.
“So when I go out and play 18, it doesn’t feel like it’s that much.”
He never, ever let’s us down.
-5 Mickelson, Oosthuizen
-3 Grace, Bezuidenhout, Matsuyama
-2 Conners, Woodland, Streelman, Im, Casey
-1 Werenski, Niemann, Higgs, Laird, DeChambeau, Hoffman
Grand Slam watch
It’s not happening for Jordan Spieth this year. Onto Southern Hills in 2022.
Still, he did give us a good laugh…
Now only two players can complete their Grand Slam in 2021: Hideki Matsuyama and Phil Mickelson. Stay tuned, folks.
Oh we do like to be beside the seaside…
Well, unless you’re playing at Kiawah Island. That will surely have been the thoughts of Open champion Shane Lowry as he trundled down to the beach – but then he did this…
Despite the picturesque landscape, I don’t imagine many players will be looking to take a similar trip to the beach before Sunday.
You couldn’t Marek it up
We will all have seen some frankly displays at our local driving range – but PGA professional Brad Marek has taken things to the next level with a warm-up routine that was right out of Miguel Angel Jimenez’s playbook…
You have to give it to him. On his PGA Championship debut, in front of the watching world and best players on the planet, that’s a brave choice.
Marek, who plays off +2, made the cut along with fellow club pro Ben Cook, off +5.
Apropos, World No 1 Dustin Johnson, World No 2 Justin Thomas, and World No 4 Xander Schauffele all missed the cut.
New markers, please
Safe to say Erik van Rooyen didn’t like his shot on 17…
That was not far away from hitting Matt Wallace’s caddie, who made his feelings known on the 18th green…
Chip in to make the cut on the number? Completed it
Brendan Steele is the embodiment of us all when we are faced with an optimistic chip-in opportunity to show off to our mates on the course – except he is doing it on the 18th at Kiawah Island to make the cut on the number. Bravo, sir!
Members bounce alert!
Anyone else got a mate who pulls off shots like this in their midweek medal? Unbelievable!
Right, that all from me folks. Same time tomorrow?
PGA Championship day 1: Rules controversies reign as PGA Championship descends into chaos
It felt more like a US Open than a PGA Championship. We might consider a 15 mile-an-hour wind a gentle breeze in the UK, but to the world’s finest it’s gale force. The result was only a handful of players under par. And that wasn’t even close to being the biggest talking point. We’ll get there, but first…
Canada’s best hopes of a fourth major champion lie mainly in the hands of Corey Conners.
The 29-year-old, who won his sole PGA Tour title at last year’s Texas Open, will take a two-shot lead into Friday after a remarkable performance on day one.
Connors, ranked 39th in the world, carded a 5-under 67 to give himself breathing space over Brooks Koepka, Viktor Hovland, Keegan Bradley, Aaron Wise and Sam Horsfield, who are all safely in the hunt at 3-under.
- RELATED: What’s in Corey Conners’ bag?
Grand Slam watch
Jordan Spieth is looking to complete his career Grand Slam this week. But you already knew that.
The Texan got off to a steady start at Kiawah, posting a 1-over 73 in round one.
What is the deal with Rory McIlroy and first rounds at majors?
But the talk of social media centred around three particular rules incidents. I know you love these, so let’s dive in…
Catlin out the bag
John Catlin won’t forget his major championship debut in a hurry.
What a shame it will be for the wrong reasons.
The American, a three-time winner on the European Tour in the past year, was hit with a slow play penalty – the first dished out in a major championship since Hideki Matsuyama at Muirfield in 2013.
Catlin received a warning on the par-5 16th – his seventh – for taking 74 seconds to hit his second shot.
Then at the par-4 third he took 63 seconds to hit his approach, resulting in a second bad time and a one-shot penalty that turned his par into a bogey. Catlin finished with a 3-over 75.
Now, 74 and 63 seconds is a long time when it comes to hitting a golf shot. But you’ll never convince me they were the worst times all day.
The Rory McIlroy-Brooks Koepka-Justin Thomas group, for context, took almost four and a half hours to play 14 holes.
But they’re not going to ping a big name, are they? Imagine having a major championship potentially decided by a slow-play call.
Talking of silly rules that might affect the outcome of a major…
‘Grandstopping’ is a phrase you might not be familiar with. It’s when a player deliberately hits their ball into the grandstand in order to get a favourable drop.
Who can forget the blue wall at last year’s ANA Inspiration which undoubtedly played a part in the result? And there’s every possibility it happens at this year’s PGA Championship.
The 18th at Kiawah Island is statistically its hardest hole. It’s a brute of a par 4 with sandy areas – there are no bunkers here – and scrubland ready to gobble anything that misses the fairway to the right.
Fortunately for the players, there is a row of hospitality tents down the left. And – what would you know? – that’s where they’re all aiming.
Brooks Koepka found the seating area and was handed a free drop in a perfect lie on some trampled grass…
He made par.
Koepka wasn’t alone in this play. Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, Xander Schauffele, Jimmy Walker and Matt Fitzpatrick were all among those who took advantage.
And why not? The worst score you’re going to make from down there is five.
“It’s definitely comforting that it’s there,” Keegan Bradley explained after his round. “The right side of the hole, the bunkers are so dead over there. I wasn’t trying to hit it in there by any means, but definitely from that up tee, it’s in play.”
Let’s see if it’s a factor in deciding who gets their hands on the Wanamaker.
Sebastian Munoz took it to a whole new level, managing to slam dunk his ball in a trash can.
If you’re wondering, of course he got a free drop. And it wouldn’t have been a rubbish lie. (Sorry.)
So what’s the answer? Well, you do what the R&A did at the 2019 Open at Royal Portrush and put the drop zone in some thick rough – as you can see here behind a celebrating Shane Lowry…
So, a chaotic first day on the Carolina coast and it’s a Canadian in charge.
More of the same on day two? Yes please.
- Barry Plummer contributed to this report