Phil Mickelson turns 50 but he isn't planning on slipping away quietly. Rather he has his radar set on making one final Ryder Cup appearance

A year ago “hitting bombs” wasn’t even in the golfing dictionary. Then Phil Mickelson took a drive down Magnolia Lane and a social media star was born.

The left-hander is now 50, two days before the US Open was due to get going at Winged Foot, where he will likely have spent most of his birthday fielding questions about what went wrong at the 72nd hole there 14 years ago.

But this is a new, leaner and even more fun Phil and after a “rough eight, nine months” he’s looking forwards.

“When I look back on some of the highlights of tournaments that I’ve won or played well in 15 years ago in my mid 30s, it’s embarrassing the way I looked and the way I wasn’t really accountable for my health. And so now that I’ve taken a much greater level of accountability and I feel a lot better than I did 15 years ago,” he explained in January.

Mickelson dropped out of the world’s top 50 for the first time in 26 years in November, such is the amount of golf played around the world he fell as far as 86th, but his focus is firmly fixed on getting back into the WGCs, he even mentions the Olympics and, particularly, the Ryder Cup. He missed his first team competition since 1993 at the Presidents Cup and he fully intends to make it 13 straight starts against Europe.

“I don’t often voice too many goals but one of them is to make the Ryder Cup, it should be a pretty obvious goal so I need to play enough tournaments out here and play well to be able to achieve that particular goal. [USA captain Steve Stricker] knows how bad I want to be on the team but I don’t want to be a pick, I’ve got to earn it.

“I’m at the point where I’ve got to earn my spot, there’s eight spots out there and, if I play well, I’ll make it. But if not, you’ve got to give those spots to some younger guys that haven’t had the chance to play and compete the way I have.”

You’ll remember that his last shot in the competition was a pull into the water in Paris which preceded a very odd shaking of the hands with Francesco Molinari as Europe clinched the trophy.

As for those bombs there are still enough of them flying around to not make the Champions Tour a likely pit-stop now he’s of age.

“When I stop hitting bombs I’ll play the Champions Tour but I’m hitting some crazy bombs right now. I still have speed, there’s no reason I couldn’t play out here. I hit the ball every bit as far.

“Usually as guys get in their 40s they regress, I had a five, six mile an hour clubhead speed increase last year. A little bit of commitment in the gym, a little bit of work ethic and all of a sudden there’s no reason that physically I can’t do today what I did 15, 20 years ago, in fact I’m doing more.”

If Mickelson does make the Ryder Cup, he’ll become the third oldest player in the competition’s history after Jay Haas (50 years, 290 days in 2004) and Raymond Floyd (51 years, 20 days in 1993).

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Mark Townsend

Been watching and playing golf since the early 80s and generally still stuck in this period. Huge fan of all things Robert Rock, less so white belts. Handicap of 8, fragile mind and short game

Handicap: 8

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