PGA Championship memories: Lefty finds a way
Lefty had endured years of waiting before finally dispelling that ugly tag – ‘Best Player Never To Win A Major’ – at the 2004 Masters.
So it was perhaps inevitable that he’d have to show plenty of patience before his second came the following year.
Baltusrol’s Lower Course staged the year’s fourth Major for the first time and it would prove a dramatic week – one that spilled into a fifth day.
Any heroics seemed unnecessary at the start of the third round. By following an opening 67 with a 65, Mickelson surged into a three-shot lead over Jerry Kelly.
But nothing is ever that simple when the Californian is strutting his stuff on the golf course. Mickelson was the only player in the top 10 to shoot over par on moving day, his 72 dropping him back into a share of the lead with Davis Love III, who had moved alongside thanks to a third successive 68.
Employing the same cut fade that had propelled him to Augusta glory, the 35-year-old Mickelson had the engraver ready to start stencilling when four pars and a birdie once again restored his three-shot lead.
Cue the histrionics. Four bogeys in the next five holes gave the field new hope and he held a narrow shot advantage before successive delays from a couple of storms forced a Monday restart.
Play resumed shortly after 10am, the first time in 30 years the PGA had needed a fifth-day finish, but the destiny of the title was still up in the air in the early afternoon as Mickelson stood on the 72nd tee.
Tied at -3 with Thomas Bjorn and Steve Elkington, he fashioned a magnificent drive which came to rest close to the plaque marking Jack Nicklaus’s famous 1-iron in the 1967 US Open.
The Golden Bear had fired his shot to 22 feet then but Lefty was much more crooked – finishing in thick rough, short of the green. But his short game is outrageous and he fashioned a fabulous flop to less than two feet and sank a tap-in birdie to win.
“We had some pretty thick rough in our backyard, and that’s exactly what I was thinking on 18, that this is no different from what I’ve done in my backyard since I was a kid,” he said.
“I went in aggressively and the ball popped up beautifully and trickled by the hole. It was a great feeling to see it come out the way I wanted it to.”