Phil Mickelson re-writes history at PGA Championship

Each week we ask our panel of writers, PGA members and golf industry experts to weigh in with their views on the hot topics of the day.

Phil Mickelson won the PGA Championship on Sunday, just a month shy of his 51st birthday, making him the oldest winner of any major. What stood out most to you about the final round?

Jim Deeks, Fairways Magazine (@jimdeeks): I’ve never seen Phil so composed or serene, which is a lesson to us all about how to approach playing the game.  Not that he was ever nervous or fidgety, but one thinks back to famous Phil screw-ups (note that I avoided the obvious alliterative close to that phrase), and how impulsiveness and false bravado overruled his common sense, and negated victory.  Watching him close the deal on the last few holes on Sunday was like seeing Caesar return to Rome from victories in Gaul.  (I know this, as I was there in Rome at the time.)  Anyway, I’ve never been a phanatical Phil phan, but this was great to see, and struck a sweet note for us old guys!

Craig Loughry, Golf Ontario, (@craigloughry): I was sure Phil’s driver would get him in the end, but he knocked and plotted around the course really well. Brooks played below average, but all the leaders were just really holding their own positions from the start of the day. Phil was composed though, lots of breathing, and did anyone else see the gum chewing? The gum chewing stuck out for me. I went and researched what its all about, looks like there is more to come about this soon (brand, and deeper explanation of the why). All he said is it helps him, who are we to argue with a 50-year-old with another Major title?

Michael Schurman, Master Professional / Master Professional / Hall of Fame Member, PGA of Canada: A few things occurred to me as I watched. First, the coverage on Thursday and Friday was horrible, from Suzy Whaley to Scott Van Pelt and every other person the PGA obviously owes favours to. The second was the lack of fans wearing masks. I know lots of people have had at least one vaccine, but this behaviour shows how little has been learned by the average American. The third is the difficulty following players in the top 10 but out of the top 5. I would have enjoyed seeing Cory Connors more frequently on Saturday and Sunday. Last, there was not one commercial during the entire event promoting the value of hiring a PGA Professional. I thought given the PGA of America is the owner of the tournament and generates about $40M/year in revenue, there might be something with a Clydesdale hopping a fence to teach Juniors.

TJ Rule, Golf Away Tours (@GolfAwayTJ): How far Phil hits the ball!  I know he’s always been a long hitter, but he’s over 50, he shouldn’t be hitting the longest drive of the day on the 16th hole on Sunday.  That was impressive, along with his entire performance over the week.  I’ve never been the biggest Phil fan, but I found myself cheering for him on Sunday, that was fun to watch.

Hal Quinn, Freelance Writer, Vancouver: The full swing bombs Phil unleashed on the closing driver holes were amazing. With everything to lose, he just let it rip and nutted those things down the heart and 350-yds plus (well, with the wind). And he was past Koepka all day when they both nailed their drives. The sand shots, the flops, the putts were just vintage Thrill. But the 50-year-old’s drives were wonderful.

Peter Mumford, Fairways Magazine (@FairwaysMag): Throughout his career, Phil has had a penchant for blowing up, making a big number at the worst time, snatching defeat from the jaws of victory. We don’t need to rehash the details. I was on the edge of my seat the whole round on Sunday waiting for the collapse, which mercifully never came. So, I think the fact that he was able to maintain his composure and refrain from doing something disastrous was the thing that stood out most. It was most un-Phil-like.

The Ocean Course at Kiawah Island more than held its own against the best field in golf, even though the wind really only got up on one day. In your opinion, how does the Ocean Course stack up against other great major venues and should the PGA of America look to bring its championship there on a regular basis?

Deeks: I thought Kiawah looked great and provided a significant challenge for all the players.  It was a nice change from the usual parkland courses that the Tour plays week-in and week-out, forcing the players to THINK about their shots versus bombing and gouging.  Yes, I would definitely love to see Kiawah included on any unofficial “rota” of courses for the PGA or the U.S. Open.  Links-type courses may not look as pretty as tree-lined venues on television, but when carefully designed, adapting variable factors such as wind and calm, they make great tournaments, especially for those of us who study the game.

Loughry: If I’m the PGA of America, I sign this track up every 5 to 8 years on a rotation, regardless of their new complex build in Texas. The Ocean Course as a host and venue more than proved itself, beauty, good test, world class all around. I don’t care what anyone comments about how Dye manipulated the land, building something maybe too difficult and long. It’s a good test of golf, it just proved it, and I think it deserves its place beside other great iconic venues like Pebble, Pinehurst #2, and more. I’ve had the pleasure of playing it, and its top notch and easily one of the best I’ve ever played.

Schurman: My only disappointment was the lack of wind on three of the days. Today’s players are all about technology and little about shot making. Phil was one of the few who knew how to ‘flight’ the ball. I would have enjoyed seeing a player or two ROB. (Run Out of Balls).

Rule: I think the course showed exceptionally well over the week and makes me want to return to play the course again.  Although it doesn’t play as much like a links course as it should given its location, and it’s a bit quirky in spots, it’s probably my favourite Pete Dye course.  It has provided three pretty memorable events so far in the 1991 Ryder Cup and two great PGA Championships, so it would seem like it’s as good a fit as any course to host future major competitions.

Quinn: They can’t go back until they figure out crowd control. Remember, those weren’t golf fans who respect the game and players like the throngs on the 72nd hole at The Open. These were leather-lunged “Go in the Hole” yahoos half lit (to use Phil’s term) on Bud Lite (how is it possible to drink enough of that stuff to get jacked?)  There aren’t any more classics being built (except by Coore-Crenshaw) so the US Open and PGA Championship should go to a rota of the best, and this one should be on the list.

Mumford: Kiawah is probably already fielding calls from the USGA, the PGA of America and PGA Tour for future majors, Ryder Cups and Presidents Cups. The Ocean Course was spectacular – challenging golf on the edge of disaster that makes championships highly entertaining and the outcome doubtful until the last shot. Brilliant Pete Dye layout. It should definitely be part of a regular rotation.

Phil’s ageless march to victory attracted an enormous share of media attention for four days. What was the next best storyline?

Deeks: For me, it was Louis Oosthuizen being on the leaderboard of yet another major but coming up short (humour unintended) yet again.  I love watching this little guy swing a golf club, and it drives me crazy how often he finishes in the top ten in majors, but rarely plays other PGA Tour events.  Yes, he did win The Open in 2010, but he’s finished second five other times in all four majors.  Surely if anyone was “due” for victory, more than once, it’s this fine little gentleman.

Loughry: For me, the best side story this week may have been Ricki, he made the cut and finished top 10. It’s been a long time since he’s played well at all. Or the Ocean Course itself, which helped present a compelling and fair challenge for the best players in the world without much wind for the week too.

Schurman: He is the whole storyline because he won. Had Brooks won or Louis they would have made all the news because each of them would have done something very special. I’m not much of a Phil fan because I’ve seen him off-camera but one thing I did like was his phone conversation with his wife just after he signed his card. He said “I’ll see you tonight. I love you”. What a nice ending!

Rule: The next big storyline was probably on Friday, with so many top names missing the cut.  The one thing that Kiawah didn’t provide last week was the cream rising to the top.  The Top 2 players in the world missed the weekend and not many of the top guys were near the top on Sunday.  But the next biggest storyline to emerge from the tournament was Brooks Koepka’s interview with Todd Lewis that was released on Twitter on Monday.  That was funny.

Quinn: It was the gut turning addition to the talking heads’ limited lexicon of the moronic “sandy area” to go with the nails on the blackboard “hole location.”  Sometimes a beach towel can get ‘sandy’ as can shoes and even bunker surrounds. But stretches of sand, running almost the length of some par 4s and sometimes 10 yards wide, are not “sandy.” They are sand. Period. Other than that, it was the early ESPN coverage with Van Pelt and Strange who created the impression this was a satellite event at best, definitely not a Major.

Mumford: The crowds – loud, raucous and as seen on the final hole on Sunday, out of control. Nothing signals the end of the pandemic more than crowds at a sporting event and these somewhat over-served, unmasked, not necessarily golf fans, were celebrating more than just a major championship. This was a return to normal and they were making the most of it.

The Round Table
The Round Table is a panel of golf writers, PGA members and industry experts.

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