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Phil Mickelson: 2021 PGA Major Win A Stunner, But Not A Surprise

No Surprise At How Well Mickelson Has Aged

Phil Mickelson’s win in the 2021 PGA Championship is a triumph for 50-somethings around the world. But was it surprising? Not to me.

Indeed, if you had asked me to predict which pro golfers could win a major at age 50, Mickelson and Tiger Woods would be my top two picks, and only in that order due to Tiger’s damaged body. 

But how could you not pick Mickelson? He’s won 45 times on the PGA Tour. He won in 2019 at age 48. Would I be surprised to see him win again on Tour? Based on the renovated Mickelson we saw on Kiawah Island last week, I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t.

 Phil is an inspiration on how to age well, but he’s also a sign of the times.

Keeping Up With The Younger Guys

Photo by Marc Serota

Athletes are trained better these days. They know so much more about conditioning, recovery and how to optimize their performance. Mickelson showed what’s possible. Yes, he’s a naturally gifted player, but the guy we saw last week had trimmed down and gotten stronger, doing what he had to do in a field filled mostly with players considerably younger. 

Golf already was known a sport you can play your entire life, so all we’re really seeing is an increase in the number of years the elite players can remain at an elite level. If future Hall of Fame Tom Brady can win a Super Bowl at age 43 in a league where he takes hits from other grown men, why is it surprising that a golfer already in the Hall of Fame won a major tournament at age 50?

It already had happened seven times on the regular PGA Tour, and not always back in the old days. Davis Love III was the last to do it in 2015.

A Wave Of Tour Wins For Those Over 45

And while everyone has focused on Phil being 50, players in their late 40s have been winning more and more. Mickelson is only two years older than Stewart Cink, who has won on tour this season – twice. Brian Gay won in November, also at age 48.

So a player age 50 or older winning a major golf championship was inevitable. The depth of the PGA Tour is better than ever. Golfers are athletes and as they age, some of them, such as Mickelson, are able to maintain great flexibility and with it the swing speed required to play on the main tour.

Age Is Just A Number For Mickelson

Phil Mickelson
Photo by Marc Serota

If you get a chance to watch him hit a tee shot, you won’t think he’s 50. Mickelson can still get it out there. Coming down the stretch on Sunday, his drive on No. 16 was the longest hit by any player this week.

That means he’s been putting in the work and that’s the inspiration for rest of us. Mickelson’s commitment to physical fitness, to continue striving to be the best he can be, to be consistent and persistent – things that are easy to say but hard to live up to, especially the older we get. 

We can’t all play on the PGA Tour, but we can fight through adversity in pursuit of our dreams. We can all learn the value of perseverance, demonstrated by Mickelson over the past two years.

Mickelson really had not played well since his 2019 win – several missed cuts, numerous ho-hum finishes – but he kept saying he was getting close, it was all going to come together. The people who didn’t believe him, you can bet that his age had something to do with it. He was turning in a solid round here and there, but the conventional thinking was the skills of a 50-year-old couldn’t hang with the young guys for four rounds, even if that old guy is Phil Mickelson.

Now that sounds like the old way of thinking. 

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About The Author
David Meeks
David Meeks
David Meeks has never hesitated to speak truth to power. He’s uncovered shady coal mine operators in Alabama, corrupt politicians in Louisiana and supported single fathers in Florida. When New Orleans flooded after Hurricane Katrina in 2005, Meeks, then Sports Editor of The Times-Picayune, refused an evacuation order. He commandeered a newspaper truck, assembled a team of journalists and won two Pulitzer Prizes. He has worked for the Los Angeles Times, Associated Press, South Florida Sun-Sentinel and was the Managing Editor of USA Today Sports. He is Alabama-born and Michigan-raised, and today lives with his family in Washington, D.C.
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