It’s safe to say there might not have been many more popular major winners than Phil Mickelson.
In the aftermath of his brilliant two-shot victory at the 2021 PGA Championship on Sunday, there has been a groundswell of admiration for Mickelson from his fellow golfers and fans alike.
From Tiger Woods to Justin Thomas, “Lefty” – as he is affectionately nicknamed – has been the recipient of heaps of praise on social media for the skill and resilience he showed in his record-breaking win.
“This is incredible. I feel like a true golf fan watching this,” 2017 PGA Championship winner Thomas said on Twitter. “What a cool moment for the sport.”
“Golf is insane. It’s just hitting me,” Thomas added. “The golf ball has no recollection of how old you are, and players can compete at any age. You just have to work and be willing to sacrifice things others aren’t. One day it’s great, the next it’s awful. What a sport I decided to play.”
Prior to Sunday’s victory, Mickelson had been through some lean years on the PGA Tour since winning his last major in 2013.
In an effort to return to winning ways, he changed up his diet and has begun utilizing meditation a lot more to focus his mind.
And it all paid dividends at Kiawah Island’s Ocean Course, as Mickelson became the oldest winner of a major tournament, finishing six-under for the competition.
At age 50, Mickelson says the victory was particularly “special” because he was able to go against the prevailing belief that older athletes can’t crack it at the top.
“It’s special to do something of this level at this age when a lot of people don’t believe you can,” the six-time major winner said afterward.
“It’s special to have people in my life from my wife, Amy, who without her love and support, I wouldn’t be here. Or the support of my brother, Tim, and Andrew Getson and Steve Loy, who believed in me and with me that I could accomplish some of my goals even at a later age when very few others believed.
“And so I think what’s so special is doing something and accomplishing something, putting in so much work and effort and then having it happen.”
READ: How Phil Mickelson’s history-making major victory was a family affair
Experienced, but still experiencing
And even with his spectacularly vast list of experiences in golf, Mickelson was thrown into an entirely new one at the 2021 PGA Championship.
While it is customary for fans to be allowed to walk up the 18th fairway behind the final pairing on the final day so that the green is surrounded, Sunday’s final hole for Mickelson was dramatically, and somewhat frighteningly, different.
Fans actually managed to run ahead of him and Brooks Koepka, meaning they were engulfed in a throng of cheering supporters as they made their way onto the final green, such was the fervor around the prospect of a Mickelson win.
On Monday, PGA of America CEO Seth Waugh apologized to both players for the moments when fans “briefly overwhelmed security and made two players and their caddies feel vulnerable.”
Mickelson admitted the experience was daunting and uniquely memorable at the same time.
“It’s pretty special because the environment that the fans bring is unique,” he explained.
“I had an experience on 18 that I’ve never had in the game of golf, being engulfed by fans walking up 18. And although it was a bit unnerving for a moment, it was awesome. And something I’ll cherish.”
Surrounded by all that excitement and with fans chanting his name throughout Sunday’s round, it might’ve been easy for Mickelson to lose his focus.
But with some help from meditation techniques – he’s learned to extend his focus and shut out the outside influences, something he said he’s worked on after a disappointing tournament a few weeks ago – and the guiding hand of his brother Tim as his caddie, Mickelson was able to stay in the moment and concentrate on each shot appropriately.
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“I was pretty still,” Mickelson – who shot up from No. 116 to No. 32 in golf’s world rankings with his victory – said.
“I was able to kind of quiet my mind and not see all the chaos that was going on around me, but be able to see only what I wanted to do. And I think that was the biggest thing for me throughout the week.”
He might be almost 51 years old, but who’s to say that Mickelson won’t do the unthinkable at Torrey Pines next month by winning the U.S. Open to finally complete the career grand slam?